Looks like Fred Barnes isn’t the only high-profile conservative columnist still arguing that climate change doesn’t really exist.
Over the weekend, the Washington Post‘s George Will, got in on the act. And it took us about ten minutes — longer, it appears, than the Post‘s editors spent — to figure out that Will, like Barnes, was essentially making stuff up.
Both of Will’s major “data points” fall apart after a moment’s scrutiny.
Here’s the first:
According to the University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979.
But within hours of Will’s column appearing, the ACRC had posted the following statement on its website:
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.
It is disturbing that the Washington Post would publish such information without first checking the facts.
So, nevermind then.
As for Will’s second claim, he writes:
[A]ccording to the World Meteorological Organization, there has been no recorded global warming for more than a decade.
This one is a little more complicated. But only a little.
Will’s claim appears to come from a BBC News article from way back in April 2008, whose first version reported:
Global temperatures will drop slightly this year as a result of the cooling effect of the La Nina current in the Pacific, UN meteorologists have said.
The World Meteorological Organization’s secretary-general, Michel Jarraud, told the BBC it was likely that La Nina would continue into the summer.
This would mean global temperatures have not risen since 1998, prompting some to question climate change theory.
It’s true that temperatures haven’t risen since 1998, because that year was a particularly hot one. But as anyone with a high-school level grasp of statistics understands, you need to look at data over a broad period to get a realistic assessment of what’s going on. In fact, the WMO itself made that very point in an “information note” that confirmed that the organization believes global warming is continuing, and pointed out that the last decade has been the warmest on record.
The WMO wrote:
The long-term upward trend of global warming, mostly driven by greenhouse gas emissions, is continuing. Global temperatures in 2008 are expected to be above the long-term average. The decade from 1998 to 2007 has been the warmest on record, and the global average surface temperature has risen by 0.74C since the beginning of the 20th Century. [...] “For detecting climate change you should not look at any particular year, but instead examine the trends over a sufficiently long period of time. The current trend of temperature globally is very much indicative of warming,” World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General, Mr Michel Jarraud said in response to media inquiries on current temperature “anomalies”.
Indeed, the BBC soon changed the third paragraph of its report to read:
But this year’s temperatures would still be way above the average – and we would soon exceed the record year of 1998 because of global warming induced by greenhouse gases.
That changed prompted climate change deniers to see a nefarious conspiracy to hide the truth. But given that additional information from the WMO, it’s pretty clear that the revised version better reflects reality.
Will, of course, doesn’t appear to have been interested in any of this. He saw (perhaps via Rush Limbaugh?) a report that appeared to confirm what he believes … and straight into the Washington Post it went. Neither did Will’s editors at thePost seem to care enough about not misinforming their readers to take ten minutes to delve into any of this.
An assistant for Will said the columnist might be able to return TPMmuckraker’s call about the column this afternoon. Fred Hiatt, the Post‘s editorial page editor told TPMmuckraker he’d try to respond to questions about the editing process later today. We’ll update this post if we hear back.
Thanks to reader C.P. for the catch.
The European Union’s new figurehead believes that climate change is a dangerous myth and has compared the union to a Communist state.
The views of President Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic, 67, have left the government of Mirek Topolanek, his bitter opponent, determined to keep him as far away as possible from the EU presidency, which it took over from France yesterday.
The Czech president, who caused a diplomatic incident by dining with opponents of the EU’s Lisbon treaty on a recent visit to Ireland, has a largely ceremonial role.
But there are already fears that, after the dynamic EU presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy – including his hyper-active attempts at international diplomacy over the credit crisis and Georgia as well as an historic agreement to cut greenhouse gases – the Czech effort will be mired in infighting and overshadowed by the platform it will give to Mr Klaus and his controversial views.
Czech diplomats in Brussels insist that Mr Klaus is not a big part of their plans and are trying to limit him to one speech to the European Parliament in February and chairing one international summit, either the EU-Canada or EU-Russia meeting.
They are pinning their hopes on a lunch between Mr Klaus and Mr Topolanek on January 5, which they hope will see both parties agree a truce after the President’s unsuccessful attempt to unseat his rival as Prime Minister at a party conference last month.
“What is sure is that there will be at least a little choir of voices coming from Prague that will not be singing the same song,” said Piotr Kaczynski, of the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels.
“It will probably not impact the way the Czechs will manage the work of the EU presidency. It will however have some negative impact on the political leverage of the Czech presidency,” he added.
Tensions recently erupted between Mr Klaus and Brussels when a private meeting with senior MEPs descended into a slanging match after they presented him with an EU flag and said that they were not interested in his Eurosceptic views.
Mr Klaus responded: “No one has spoken to me in this style and tone in my six years here. I thought these methods ended for us 18 years ago. I see I was wrong.”
This led to a counter-attack from Mr Sarkozy in the European Parliament. He told MEPs: “The president of the European Parliament should not be treated like this and Europe’s symbols should not be treated like this, whatever people’s political engagement.”
Mr Klaus returned to the row over Christmas in a Czech television interview. “I dare say that these people represent the height of anti-Europeanism. They have absolutely no right to wave Europe in front of our face,” he said.
There has been further sniping, not least from the French, that the Czechs do not have the clout or the capability to lead the EU as it faces the key challenge of the financial crisis. Mr Sarkozy has threatened to convene meetings of the 16 member states of the Euro during the Czech presidency because the Czechs do not have the single currency.
Nor does Mr Sarkozy believe Prague has the ability to deal with an increasingly restive Russia, which is threatening an arms race over US plans for missile defence radar in the Czech Republic.
The Czechs are also one of just three EU states not to have passed the controversial Lisbon treaty, which has enraged Mr Sarkozy after his drive to revive the document. Mr Klaus continues to lead Czech opposition to a treaty he likens to Communist centralism.
He is undeniably popular with Czech voters, having been Prime Minister from 1992-97, overseeing the harmonious break-up with Slovakia, and president since 2003. An economist who spent much of his working life at the Czechoslovak State Bank during the Iron Curtain years, he became active in politics as a champion of free market economics after 1989 and is said to keep a photo of Lady Thatcher, who he greatly admires, on his desk.
“The fact that Klaus holds these views makes it difficult to run the presidency,” said Robin Shepherd, senior fellow for Europe at the Chatham House think-tank.
“Klaus is not the head of government…but he is the public face of the Czech Republic.”