washington post climate change

Washington Post Blogger: "Will Misleads Readers on Climate Science - Again"

On the lastest Climate Misinformation screed by columnist George Will, Washington Post blogger Andrew Freedman writes today on The Capital Weather Gang site that:

“Will’s climate change columns are a case study in how one can cherry pick scientific data to fit their own agenda. Take his most recent climate change column, for example, which ran in the Post last week. It contained the statement:

‘Reducing carbon emissions supposedly will reverse warming, which is allegedly occurring even though, according to statistics published by the World Meteorological Organization, there has not been a warmer year on record than 1998.’

Will appears to have borrowed this nugget from climate change skeptic web sites, which have elevated the argument that global warming has stopped or reversed to the status of an Internet ‘meme.’ However, it has been debunked time and again

About time someone at the WaPo laid the smackdown on this unresearched garbage coming from George Will.

Ethical Limbo at the Washington Post

How low can they go? The ethical limbo dance at the Washington Post sank to impressive new depths this weekend with a column from the newspaper’s ombudsman Andrew Alexander.

He finally weighed in on the George Will debacle and took a decidedly tepid approach to this raging scandal - essentially recounting what had happened and promising no fundamental change.

The Post’s star columnist was caught in a series of egregious errors about his understanding of climate science (or lack thereof).

Specifically, Mr. Will led his readers to believe historical sea ice data indicated that climate change was all a big mistake – that ice coverage was about the same as 1979. In fact the researchers at that National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado said exactly the opposite: that vanishing arctic ice was strong evidence not just of global warming, but that we are edging into dangerous feedbacks involving melting permafrost.

Not only did George Will get it wrong once, he printed a second column reiterating his erroneous claims about the most important issue on Earth. Talk about chutzpah.

Alexander ’s explanation of this mess states Will’s piece was fact-checked by no less than four different individuals – none of whom ever contacted the research center that produced the data Will based his baseless claims on.

It wasn’t till nine days later that the center finally got an email from anyone at the Post – long after the proverbial horse had strolled out the barn and trotted down the road. In the meantime, researchers at the National Snow and Ice Data Center issued their own blunt clarification:

We do not know where George Will is getting his information, but our data shows that on February 15, 1979, global sea ice area was 16.79 million sq. km and on February 15, 2009, global sea ice area was 15.45 million sq. km. Therefore, global sea ice levels are 1.34 million sq. km less in February 2009 than in February 1979. This decrease in sea ice area is roughly equal to the area of Texas, California, and Oklahoma combined.”

More disturbing perhaps is how little the Post has apparently learned from their credibility meltdown. Take this bland response from Post editor Fred Hiatt:

It may well be that Will is drawing inferences from data that most scientists reject — so, you know, fine, I welcome anyone to make that point. But don’t make it by suggesting that George Will shouldn’t be allowed to make the contrary point. Debate him.”

Ombudsman Alexander chimed in a similar sentiment at the end of his piece: “the Post can present a mix of respected and informed viewpoints”.

What does that mean? That political pundits will continue to hold forth on scientific matters they know nothing about under the guise of “debate”?

To be clear, this is not just about one or two badly researched, or flat out wrong, articles. This is a fundamental issue of ethics and media that has been going on for decades.

George Will and Journalistic Malpractice

Caught in a series of factual errors, or what many are calling outright lies about climate science, Washington Post columnist George Will has upped the ante for himself and his employer with his latest column on global warming.

Rather than issue a retraction and simply move on, today he reiterated his baseless claims that sea ice coverage is similar to 1979. His source? An electronics gadget blog that has a very dubious record on climate science.

Actual researchers have pointed out exactly the opposite: that arctic ice is disappearing at a frightening rate. “The pace of change is starting to outstrip our ability to keep up with it,” said Mark Serreze, senior scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado - a co-author of a recent Arctic amplification study.

Describing the phenomenon as clear proof that global climate change in underway, the centre says on its website that “analysts at the Canadian Ice Service and the U.S. National Ice Center confirm that the Northwest passage is almost completely clear and that the region is more open than it has ever been since the advent of routine monitoring in 1972.”

“It’s not getting better; it’s continuing to show strong signs of warming and amplification,” added NASA ice scientist Jay Zwally. “There’s no reversal taking place.”

You get the idea.

Perhaps more interesting than refuting baseless claims that global warming all a big mistake, the reaction from George Will’s boss gets much more to the root of the problem.

George Will's Big Climate Change Adventure

This week Andrew Revkin of the New York Times lumped Al Gore in with George Will in an article on the dangers of climate change hyperbole.

Fair enough, if it were true.

Instead his article seems yet another example of how those trying to educate the public about global warming are held to a different standard in the media than so called “skeptics” – who often regurgitate long-discredited myths about climate science with apparent impunity.

Mr. Will’s article is an excellent case in point, containing a smorgasbord of the usual climate falsehoods that seem to crop up in the mainstream media like mushrooms. George Monbiot slams the claims in Will’s piece, pointing out the myths about global cooling, sea ice and global temperatures are not only at odds with the latest science, they are so ludicrous they almost deserve a laugh track.

Yet Mr. Will, like many so called “skeptics”, does not typically have to defend his claims. His job as a columnist is to be “provocative”. The individual errors can be discredited but like mushrooms, they can crop up again in the media for years to come.

Gore on the other hand, has devoted his life of late to raising awareness of climate change and arguably knows his material as well as many researchers. He also knows that his famous powerpoint presentation is constantly examined under a microscope for potential inaccuracies by the climate denial industry.

How these two reacted to the latest criticism is also telling. Gore pulled the slide in question linking extreme weather events to climate change and instead substituted data from the insurance industry - which seems utterly convinced of the link between climate change and expensive weather disasters.

George Will was not so responsive. According to the prestigious journal Nature, the Washington Post “repeatedly swatted away calls to issue a correction” on the many errors in Mr. Will’s piece.

Must be nice to never have to say you’re sorry.

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