George Will: Blinded by Science of Climate Change
When we were kids, we used to spin ’round and ’round until, when we stopped, the horizon would appear to keep spinning. That is how I felt after I read George Will’s article “Blinded by science on climate change” (1). He thinks scientists are bad guys, selling cars is more important than clean air, polluters are good guys, and global warming is a religion. The Washington Post once had an ombudsman to handle complaints from scientists about George Will’s cherry-picking, misconstruance of data, spinning of facts, and ignorance of science. The opinion of most scientists is that George Will is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts.
Mr. Will does not get quotes right, either. He claims that Phil Jones, in his BBC interview, admits there has been no statistically significant global warming in the last 15 years. However, what Jones said was “I also calculated the trend for the period 1995 to 2009. This trend (0.12C per decade) is positive, but not significant at the 95% significance level.” Jones also presented data to show that from 1975-2009 ( the last 15 years) the Earth warmed by a statistically significant +0.16 0C per decade and said “most of the warming since the 1950s is due to human activity. “(2) Mr. Will apparently misquoted Jones in an attempt to back up one of his mistaken and much criticized claims. He keeps saying that there has been no global warming since 1998 even though a number of scientists, the author included, have written him to tell him he is misconstruing the data. (3)
Mr. Will started his good guys are bad guys diatribe by criticizing Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the International Panel on Climate Change, for denouncing those who deny the effects of climate change on the planet. Dr. Pachauri earns very substantial consulting fees by advising governments on environmental issues but he takes only a $49,000 salary and donates the rest to those less fortunate. Does he sound like a bad guy? For his work, Dr. Pachauri shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, a great honor- except to George Will who, by comparison, has been nominated for a Newsvine Environmental Hall of Shame award. Mr. Will also criticizes California’s Arnold Schwarzenegger for participating in the Western Climate Initiative and “trying to fix the planet on his own”. The WCI is made up of seven Western states and four Canadian provinces and their goal is to curb greenhouse gas emissions by 2012.
Not to be inconsistent, Mr. Will then praises Arizona’s Governor Jan Brewer for suspending participation in the WCI agreement because “she is afraid that strict emission rules may raise the cost of new cars”. It apparently is more important to sell cars than it is to have clean air and water. He also thinks it’s great that the Utah State Legislature, who wishes to exempt Utah from Federal emission standards, is considering a similar action. Mr. Will also praises BP America, Conoco/Phillips, and Caterpillar for withdrawing from the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a coalition of companies and environmental groups. Mr. Will claims they withdrew because the cap-and-trade legislation is stalled and they are no longer worried about restrictions. Oops, wrong again. Those companies helped draw up the blueprint for Congresses’ cap-and-trade legislation and they still support the original cap-and-trade legislation. They withdrew because they felt the amendments added to the bill would unfairly penalize the petroleum industry. (4) Perhaps they object to the huge financial incentives added to the bill for the coal industry to develop the oxymoronic “clean coal”.
Mr. Will also ignores qualifiers. In his BBC interview, Phil Jones said that the Medieval Warm Period (circa 800 to 1300 A.D.) “may” have been warmer than today. Mr. Will apparently ignored the word “may” in Jones’ response as he claims Jones admitted to the MWP and went on that the MWP “complicates the task of indicting contemporary civilization for today’s supposedly unprecedented temperatures”. Jones said “may” as there is anecdotal evidence of a MWP in Europe but there is little evidence in the proxy data that it was worldwide. It is recorded that the Nile froze over in 1010 A.D., right in the middle of the MWP.(5) Mr. Will wants to save the MWP as he thinks he has a potent argument, but even if the MWP existed, his argument is mostly irrelevant to the documented environmental changes that have occurred in the last century.
Finally, Mr. Will claims (half seriously, he says) that Tom Stern, America’s Special Envoy on Climate Change, has violated the First Amendment which forbids the government from undertaking the establishment of religion. Mr. Will can say that because he claims, “a religion is what the faith in catastrophic man-made global warming has become.” Perhaps Mr. Will is unaware that there is a Christian environmental movement, sponsored by the National Council of Churches and made up of practicing Protestants and Catholics, that promotes good stewardship and respect for the Earth.
(5) Lamb, H. H. (1977) Climate: Present, Past and Future: Climatic History and the Future. Vol 2, Methuen and Co. Ltd