Free [George F.] Willy!

Now, I know the Fox News experts have no intent ever to better understand the phenomenon of anthropogenic global warming, but I would expect that some of the world’s truly accomplished journalists would at least try to get it right once in a while.


I am talking about George F. Will, and his latest bungled attempt to prove he is smarter than everyone else in January 25th’s Washington Post [“Recipe for a Conservative Revival”].  Mr. Will pretends to be talking about ill-founded ideals and challenges mentioned by President Obama in his inauguration address, but skids dangerously into science, cherry-picking facts about forest fires and global warming that once again (Will has a habit of doing this) fail to tell the whole story – a very different story.

What’s up, George? Are you a propagandist masquerading as a fact-bound journalist?

My issue is that despite his clearly conservative viewpoint, Will is generally respected, so his transgressions are not questioned by a large reading base that may (even secretly) admit the Fox-folks are off their rockers.

Let’s look at two items in his missive and decode them:

1. Will doubts Obama’s assertions of climate change impacts:

“He says that “the threat of climate change” is apparent in “raging fires,” “crippling drought” and “more powerful storms.”  Are fires raging now more than ever? (There were third fewer wildfires in 2012 than in 2006.)”

Colorado Springs wildfire

Yes, George, there WERE a third fewer fires in 2012 than in 2006.  2006 was a record-breaking year with 96 thousand individual fires torching 9.87 million acres – a real outlier – but a quick look at some real statistics show that since the 1990s, the number of acres burnt per fire has been extraordinarily high compared with the last half of the 20th century.

Global warming doesn’t mean each year gets hotter and hotter or that the fires grow in number from the past year.

Rather than allow real science to speak, Will cuts the debate at its knees so as not to have to acknowledge the possibility that warming really can affect us.  This is a tired, impoverished play at journalistic authoritarianism:  “Listen to me! I am a writer, and I know the politicians are lying to you!”

2. Will says temperature data shows warming isn’t really happening, so we can ignore Obama anyway:

“Obama’s vow to adjust Earth’s thermostat followed the report that 2012 was the hottest year on record in the contiguous 48 states. But the Wall Street Journal’s Holman Jenkins … has noted that although 2012 was 2.13 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than 2011, “2008, in the contiguous U.S., was two degrees cooler than 2006.”

(I should note that Mr. Jenkins, of the Wall Street Journal editorial board, is not trained in atmospheric physics, meteorology, or radiative transfer.)

Will continues, noting that other years of the new millennium were not as hot as 1998 (Correct again, George! 1998 was a screamer of an El Nino year and stands out as a strong outlier in the 1990s) and concludes with this idiotic tag:

“Such is the rigor of many who preen as devotees of science that they declared the 2012 temperatures in the contiguous states (1.58 percent of the Earth’s surface) proof of catastrophic global warming”.

There you go again, George.

By casually putting words into the mouths of climate scientists Will helps his conservative adherents keep their heads firmly planted in the sand.

He ignores the real story which is that global temperatures confirm the recent decades of warming – not just the temperatures of those steamy lower-48 states of the US of A.

Will seems convinced that the fallacy of warming is allowing Obama and the American liberal thought police to take us down the road towards hell and stupidity – though George doesn’t tell us which is worse.

Let’s offer to liberate him.

I am calling on real climate scientists to visit Mr. Will in DC before the baseball season begins (he gets rather occupied then…) and help him escape the bonds of convenient adherence to his comfortable position as know-it-all.