Washington Post Again Embarasses George Will Over Climate Statements


Photo via Washington Post

In what can only be described as a stunning editorial, the Washington Post yesterday called attention to the worrying rates of Arctic Sea ice melting while simultaneously embarrassing perhaps its most famous columnist--George Will. This is the third time in a week that Post employees have distanced themselves from George Will's misstatements on Arctic ice.The editorial begins:

MAKE NO mistake, Arctic Sea ice is melting. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the maximum extent of the winter sea ice cover for 2008-09 was the fifth-lowest on record. Underscoring their point, the agencies added, “The six lowest maximum events since satellite monitoring began in 1979 have all occurred in the past six years (2004-09).

As I wrote last week, Will got in trouble for saying nearly the opposite in a February column:

"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."

Not to repeat myself, but what's misleading about this is that the scientific community has known for some time that that on a warming planet, sea ice in the global North (Arctic) is expected to melt while sea ice in the global South is expected to remain constant or even sightly grow. Post reporters Juliet Eilperin and Mary Beth Sheridan called out Will by name last week in an article, writing:

The new evidence—including satellite data showing that the average multiyear wintertime sea ice cover in the Arctic in 2005 and 2006 was nine feet thick, a significant decline from the 1980s—contradicts data cited in widely circulated reports by Washington Post columnist George F. Will that sea ice in the Arctic has not significantly declined since 1979.

Eilperin and Sheridan's article comes after another Post writer, Andrew Freedman, wrote a long blog on Will's wrong conclusions. Blogger Joe Romm points out what should be obvious to Will:

The true debate is not between those who say global warming is a serious problem that deserves strong action and those who say it isn’t. The debate is now between those who say global warming is a serious problem that deserves strong action and those who say global warming is the gravest threat to human civilization in history that demands we bear any burden, pay and price, to prevent.

Stay tuned to see if the Post's editorial page, like its hard news side, continues to distance itself from Mr. Will. It will also be interesting to see just how deeply Will digs in his heels.

More on the media and climate change:
Both Scientists and Media To Blame For Climate Change Miscommunication: Elizabeth Kolbert
Article Argues for Press Freedom to Stop Climate Change

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