Mooney, Jarraud Spank Will

For reasons that are obscure, George Will has a reputation for being the most intellectual of conservatives. Not for him the cheap theatrics of Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter. He's the thinking man's conservative, or so goes the CW.

On at least two recent issues, however, Will has shown himself to be just another delusional right-wing hack. In this essay he touts the standard revisionist nonsense about what a big failure the New Deal was. He bases his argument in part on the work of Amity Shlaes, whose work comes in for a well-deserved drubbing from Jonathan Chait in this excellent essay.

And on global waming Will showed himself willing to parrot some of the hoariest cliches of the anti-warming crowd in this column. Now, Will is surely aware that he does not actually know anything about climatology. Yet he is perfectly willing to ride into print on the subject, happily throwing down with the ignorance-peddlers.

Fortunatly, the Washington Post has now published this excellent reply from ScienceBlogs own Chris Mooney. Here's a sample:

In this context, finding common ground will be very difficult. Perhaps the only hope involves taking a stand for a breed of journalism and commentary that is not permitted to simply say anything; that is constrained by standards of evidence, rigor and reproducibility that are similar to the canons of modern science itself.

Consider a few of Will's claims from his Feb. 15 column, “Dark Green Doomsayers”: In a long paragraph quoting press sources from the 1970s, Will suggested that widespread scientific agreement existed at the time that the world faced potentially catastrophic cooling. Today, most climate scientists and climate journalists consider this a timeworn myth. Just last year, the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society published a peer-reviewed study examining media coverage at the time and the contemporary scientific literature. While some media accounts did hype a cooling scare, others suggested more reasons to be concerned about warming. As for the published science? Reviewing studies between 1965 and 1979, the authors found that “emphasis on greenhouse warming dominated the scientific literature even then.”

The whole column is so good it is hard to pick out just one short excerpt. Go read the whole thing!

Joining in the fun is Michael Jarraoud, President of the World Meteorological Organization. In a letter to the editor he writes:

It is a misinterpretation of the data and of scientific knowledge to point to one year as the warmest on record -- as was done in a recent Post column ["Dark Green Doomsayers," George F. Will, op-ed, Feb. 15] -- and then to extrapolate that cooler subsequent years invalidate the reality of global warming and its effects.

The difference between climate variability and climate change is critical, not just for scientists or those engaging in policy debates about warming. Just as one cold snap does not change the global warming trend, one heat wave does not reinforce it. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the global average surface temperature has risen 1.33 degrees Fahrenheit.

Evidence of global warming has been documented in widespread decreases in snow cover, sea ice and glaciers. The 11 warmest years on record occurred in the past 13 years.

Again, go read the whole thing. Good stuff.


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The bottom line is that only idiots would believe that our percentage of influence on the volume of a "trace gas" is affecting the Earths mechanisms in a measurable way.

CO2 is our friend. Do not try to vilify this bastion of our carbon based existence.

This article is, how Obama would say, like the special olympics.

By larrydalooza (not verified) on 21 Mar 2009 #permalink

What's the climate-debate term for Poe? I call it!

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 21 Mar 2009 #permalink

"The bottom line is that only idiots would believe that our percentage of influence on the volume of a "trace gas" is affecting the Earths mechanisms in a measurable way."


I used to read Will's column in Newsweek just to laugh at the big words from his thesaurus. I wrote a letter pointing out how ridiculous he sounded. He has really toned down the use of his exotic words over the years and I flatter myself thinking he actually read the letter. He "sounds" intelligent, much the way a talking parrot does. What George needs is a comment field attached to everything he writes and he needs to respond to those comments.

The bottom line is that only idiots would believe that our percentage of influence on the volume of a "trace gas" is affecting the Earths mechanisms in a measurable way.

Ah, the Monckton Defense. I whip that puppy out every time I get stopped by the police after a night at the bar.

'CO2 is our friend. Do not try to vilify this bastion of our carbon based existence.'

To paraphrase George Bush - 'I know the human being and the carbon molecule can coexist peacefully.'

Sadly No.

We've got to be united to save earth! Earth Hour is practised at large scale in all developed and developing countries but there has been more publicity and awareness this year, as well as participation from large corporations like which is a good sign - that there is still hope and that people still care!

Let's all do this, no matter where you are! Saturday, 28 March 2009. Lights off from 8.30pm to 9.30pm!

Nature Concern

I wasn't as impressed by Mooney's op-ed as many others in these parts of the blogosphere have been. Of course it's right on all sorts of facts and it corrects absurd misrepresentations and all--but the tone is one of damn near disinterested proofreading. It seems to me that one of the most important points (if not the most important) in this exchange is that George Will lied his fool ass off, and I don't think Mooney's piece makes that nearly clear enough. Yeah, if you pay very close attention and read between the lines, that's what he's saying, but geez--mendacity this bad deserved some more obvious scorn.

Now, of course Mooney might not have been able to get "obvious scorn" printed by the Washington Post. Possibly this is the best he could achieve given the limitations the editors placed on him. (I actually have some directly on-point experience to relate: I too have corrected a George Will factual error in the Post, though the lie I caught him in was far less consequential. Still, the Post's editors carefully cleansed my fact-checking Letter to the Editor of its impiety--specifically, my statement that "Will needs to do a better job of checking his facts"--before they printed it.)

Still, even in the likely event that the milquetoast tone of Mooney's piece was more the fault of the Post's editors than Mooney himself, it seems to me that it measurably hurts the message.

Read TNRTALKBACK to see more of the argument rather than blindly accepting the Chait right/Shlaes wrong claim.