George Will: climate criminal or brave but sloppy iconoclast?

Summary:  Pundit George Will published a sloppily researched and composed column about global warming in the Washington Post.  The response was a deafening call for his execution (i.e., of his career).  Through a stroke of luck so great it must be intervention of the Blue Fairy,  he may have accidentally stated the situation correctly.  This episode, esp the reaction of his critics, illustrates important aspects of decision-making in 21 century America.

The subtitle for this post:  Tonight’s prayer is “let me be so lucky as George Will.”


  1. About “Dark Green Doomsayers“, George F. Will, Washington Post, 15 February 2009
  2. “Off with his head” scream the green defenders of the faith
  3. The Blue Fairy intervenes, and the National Snow and Ice Data Center confesses
  4. About Will’s other errors
  5. What have we learned from this?
  6. Updates

This post is a follow-up to The media doing what it does best these days, feeding us disinformation (18 February), about Michael Asher’s article which kicked off this debate.

(1)  George Will, the sloppy pundit

The critics focused on this paragraph in About “Dark Green Doomsayers“, George F. Will, op-ed in the Washington Post, 15 February 2009:

As global levels of sea ice declined last year, many experts said this was evidence of man-made global warming. Since September, however, the increase in sea ice has been the fastest change, either up or down, since 1979, when satellite record-keeping began. According to the University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979.

There are several things wrong with this text.  First and worst, he is using without attribution the work of another:  “Sea Ice Ends Year at Same Level as 1979“, Michael Asher, Daily Tech, 9 January 2009 (per the WaPo ombudsman here).  Second, Will inaccurately repeats Asher’s conclusion.

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The media doing what it does best these days, feeding us disinformation

Summary:   At some point during the 1970’s a large part of the mainstream media decided to abandon journalism to become the Ministry of Truth.  Advocacy journalism, instructing the peons and elevating their consciousness.  The slo-mo but accelerating business disaster that resulted followed — loss of audience, fading profits, layoffs — should not detract from their considerable success at mastering the techniques of propaganda.  This post does a post-mortum on one example.  For more information see the links to related articles at the end.


The original FM articles about climate change discussed the selling of global warming.  These were greeted with cries of the “science is settled.”  After 44 points describing the debate among scientists (see my posts here, literature citations here) we return to the original theme — with an example of skilled agitprop.  Professionals at work, keeping America misinformed.

This post discusses three articles:

  1. Sea Ice Ends Year at Same Level as 1979“, Michael Asher, Daily Tech, 1 January 2009
  2. Statement related to Daily Tech article of January 1, 2009“, published at The Cryosphere Today
  3. Is the Cryosphere Crying Wolf?“, Nina Shen Rastogi, Slate, 10 February 2009 — Disinformation about the 1st two.

Also note the follow-up to this post:  George Will: climate criminal or brave but sloppy iconoclast? 23 February).

As usual, we will examine each in sequence.

(1)  The Daily Tech article:  polar sea ice unchanged since 1979

Sea Ice Ends Year at Same Level as 1979“, Michael Asher, Daily Tech, 9 January 2009 — “Rapid growth spurt leaves amount of ice at levels seen 29 years ago.”  Excerpt:

Thanks to a rapid rebound in recent months, global sea ice levels now equal those seen 29 years ago, when the year 1979 also drew to a close.

Ice levels had been tracking lower throughout much of 2008, but rapidly recovered in the last quarter. In fact, the rate of increase from September onward is the fastest rate of change on record, either upwards or downwards.   The data is being reported by the University of Illinois’s Arctic Climate Research Center, and is derived from satellite observations of the Northern and Southern hemisphere polar regions.

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Climate science articles which you might enjoy reading!

Your weekly climate science reading recommendations.  This week the FM site provides good news for those worried about the melting polar ice caps and rising sea levels.

(1)  “Defying Predictions, Sea Level Rise Begins to Slow“, Michael Asher, DailyTech, 15 December 2009 

(2)  “Sea Ice Ends Year at Same Level as 1979“, Michael Asher, DailyTech, 1 January 2009 — See the following article (#3) for more about this.

(3)  This was confirmed by a note in The Cryosphere Today, published by the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois (here), although they disagree about the longer-term climatic impact of ice changes at two poles.

(4)  This question is on the edge of what we know about climate dynamics. For a detailed discussion of one theory (south polar ice more important) see “Polar Sea Ice Changes are Having a Net Cooling Effect on the Climate“, Steven Goddard, Watts Up with That, 10 January 2009.  A clear explanation of one of the many complexities that make cartoon-like explanations of Earth’s climate so absurd. 

The following is not an article about climate science, but about the laypeople who have built a religion upon aspects of it — an 21st century American version of cargo cults.

(5)  “‘The end’ as a weapon“, Tom Krattenmaker, op-ed in USA Today, 15 December 2008 — “Some environmentalists have their own fixation with the apocalypse – just not the biblical one. This involves the wrath of nature and the ecological end times. But fear is an ineffective tool for any cause.” An excerpt appears below.


(5)   “‘The end’ as a weapon“, Tom Krattenmaker, op-ed in USA Today, 15 December 2008 — Excerpt:

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