WaPo tries to redeem itself: Palin's new nemesis is...

Alan I. Leshner, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and executive publisher of the journal Science. In an op-ed published in today's Washington Post, he excoriates Sarah Palin for her illterate essay, published earlier this week, on the topic of climate change.

While former Alaska governor Sarah Palin wrote in her Dec. 9 op-ed that she did not deny the "reality of some changes in climate," she distorted the clear scientific evidence that Earth's climate is changing, largely as a result of human behaviors. She also badly confused the concepts of daily weather changes and long-term climate trends when she wrote that "while we recognize the occurrence of these natural, cyclical environmental trends, we can't say with assurance that man's activities cause weather changes." Her statement inaccurately suggests that short-term weather fluctuations must be consistent with long-term climate patterns. And it is the long-term patterns that are a cause for concern.

And so on. Of course, when an accomplished scientist tears apart Sarah's Palin's pseudo-scientific musing, the phrase "shooting fish in a barrel comes to mind." The problem remains, however. Why is it that the Washington Post, once one of the great American bastions of journalism, the slayer of Nixon, sees fit to publish an essay on a scientific subject, ghost-written or not, by one of the country's least qualified commentators on matters scientific?

Why is that people like Leshner should be compelled to respond to people like Palin, when the latter is clearly not in a position to offer informed observations?

The failure of the paper's highest profile columnist, George WIll, to admit he has grossly misrepresented the science of climate change poses some real challenges to the owners of the Post, I suppose, given Will's stature in the business. But why seek out or accept essays written by Palin on a scientific subject?

Many of us have been asking this question for months now. The answer, some say, is that the Post is desperate to sell papers. If the distribution department can demonstrate that essays by Palin significantly boost sales -- something I doubt -- then there would be nothing more to say.

I will make one criticism of Leshner's piece, though. He uses the term "doubters" to describe those who refuse to accept the science of climate change. I would prefer the term "deniers" because doubt implies skepticism, and there is no genuine skepticism, in the scientific sense, evident in the attitude of those deny the conclusion that every intellectually honest appraisal has produced. I tend to use the term "pseudoskeptic" because it implies a level of dishonesty or delusion, but denier is probably a more acceptable and less esoteric term for a paper like the Post.

UPDATE: For some reason, the Guardian saw fit to republish Palin's piece. At least the comments there are more fun.


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I will make one criticism of Leshner's piece, though. He uses the term "doubters" to describe those who refuse to accept the science of climate change. The better term , would be, the term "deniers" because doubt comes in mind . there in not much scope for doubts in the scientific sense.

Shooting fish in a barrel? More like dynamiting fish in a can...

On the other hand... I would expect the CEO of AAAS to know what the word 'consistent' means. Palin is surely wrong if she thinks short-term cooling is incompatible with longer-term warming. However, there's nothing inaccurate about the idea that "short-term weather fluctuations must be consistent with long-term climate patterns." So, if the shoe fits, etc, etc.

By bob koepp (not verified) on 10 Dec 2009 #permalink

You do know that Palinites consider shooting fish in a barrel to be a legitimate sport right?

Next up at the Post: Tiger Woods on fuel-efficient vehicles!

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 10 Dec 2009 #permalink

I prefer the term 'member of the flat-earth society' to 'denier'.

I prefer the term 'member of the flat-earth society' to 'denier'.
But what would Sarah Palin know about the climate conference anyway - you can't see Denmark from Alaska

Of course the Post only published this response online, and not in the print edition.


DECEMBER 11, 2009CONTACT: PRESS OFFICE (202) 224-8277

Cantwell, Collins Propose Carbon Auction: Bill Reduces Emissions, Returns Revenue to Consumers
Bipartisan climate bill uses simple system to reduce global warming pollution and spur clean-energy job growth

WASHINGTON â Today, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced bipartisan legislation to reduce global warming pollution, spur job growth in clean energy technology, and return money directly to consumers. The Cantwell-Collins Carbon Limits and Energy for American Renewal (CLEAR) Act would set up a mechanism for selling âcarbon sharesâ to fuel producers and would return most of the resulting revenue in checks to every American. The legislation will achieve a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 20 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050.

âEnergy is a six-trillion dollar market opportunity, and green jobs can transform the U.S. economy,â Senator Cantwell said. âBut we need a signal on carbon so that this can happen. This bill provides a simple approach to getting off of carbon and on to clean energy alternatives. The CLEAR Act provides businesses and investors with a simple, predictable mechanism that will open the way to clean energy expansion while achieving Americaâs goals of reducing carbon emission.â

Along with the legislation, Cantwell issued a report today detailing the positive economic impact of the dividends to be returned directly to consumers. According to the report, a typical family of four would receive tax-free monthly checks from the government averaging $1,100 per year, or $21,000 between 2012 and 2030.

Senator Collins said: âThis bill addresses the most significant energy and environmental challenges facing our country. It would help reduce our dependence on foreign oil, promote alternative energy and energy conservation, and advance the goal of energy independence for our nation. Climate change legislation must protect consumers and industries that could be hit with higher energy prices. Such legislation also must provide predictability so that businesses can plan, invest, and create jobs. Finally, climate change legislation should encourage adoption of energy efficiency measures and the further development of renewable energy, which would spur our economy and job creation. The CLEAR Act achieves all of these goals.â

Cantwell and Collins highlighted the findings of a recent report by the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University School of Law that concluded: âcarbon pricing is the only signal that can cut through the noise and direct diverse economic actors towards smart, green investments â investments that will create jobs, encourage technological development, and maximize returns.â

By establishing a predictable price on the carbon associated with fossil fuels, the bill provides the business incentive needed to develop and deploy clean energy technology. The International Atomic Energy Agency estimates that over the next half-century, the investment needed to meet global energy needs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions will reach $45 trillion.

Producers would bid in monthly auctions for âcarbon shares.â The resulting revenue generated by the auctions is used for two vital functions:

â¢75 percent would be refunded to every individual residing legally in the United States. This dividend would more than compensate for the increase in carbon-based fuel that producers would pass on to consumers.

â¢The remaining 25 percent would be used exclusively toward clean energy research and development, regionally-specific assistance for communities and workers transitioning to a clean energy economy, energy efficiency programs, and reductions in non-CO2 greenhouse gases.

âThe President has taken our shared emission-reduction goals to the Copenhagen conference and the response there underscores global interest tackling the problem. It also shows that there will be a highly competitive international business environment for leadership in clean-energy technology,â Cantwell said.

Cantwell and Collins said they look forward to working with other colleagues, especially Senators Boxer, Kerry, Lieberman, and McCain, as the Senate tackles the carbon emission problem.

By enviroblogger (not verified) on 11 Dec 2009 #permalink

Speaking of shooting fish in a barrel, check out this Palin quote on whether she'd debate global warming with Al Gore:

"Oh my goodness. You know, it depends on what the venue would be, what the forum. Because Laura, as you know, if it would be some kind of conventional, traditional debate with his friends setting it up or being the commentators Iâll get clobbered because, you know, they donât want to listen to the facts. They donât want to listen to some reasonable voices in this. And that was proven with the publication of this op-ed, where they kind of got all we-weed up about it and wanted to call me and others deniers of changing weather patterns and climate conditions. Trying to make the issue into something that it is not."


WaPo tries to redeem itself ...

Nonsense. This is no different from when WaPo published op-eds by people who explained how grieviously wrong George Will was (and still is). It's all an effort to attract everyone interested in the manufactured controversy - those who accept global warming as real, dangerous, and caused by humans, and those who think the realists are evil communists bent on taking away their freedoms. WaPo does not give a hoot about trying to redeem themselves. They want to attract eyeballs, and you'll see them reuse this same sleazy tactic again, and again, and again.

And please talk to the technical people about getting preview fixed. It works on nearly every other science blog.