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Monday, April 03, 2006
Let Wiser Heads Prevail
George Will writes a profoundly silly column in today's Washington Post, Let Cooler Heads Prevail - in which he argues that Americans have been reluctant to take global warming seriously because journalists have been telling them that they should take it seriously. Since the journalists are merely reporting on the actual results of scientific investigation, Will's argument boils down to an appeal to ignore the science. Sound familiar?

Being skeptical about scientific findings is crucial to science itself, of course, so we should always welcome a strong, detailed critique of any set of findings. But not only does Will not offer any such critique, he can't point to any scientists who question the findings either.

He makes the valid, but trivial point, that none of us can feel the one degree increase in global temperature that has occurred in the past century, although he ignores the fact that we can see the effects in the icepacks, and in the distribution of temperature-sensitive species.

He asks us to consider that one degree may be within the margin of error of global temperature data, but it isn't. Two minutes on Google will find explanations of the climate models that describe the accuracy of the measurements to one one-hundredth of a degree.

Will imagines that measuring global temperature must be very difficult because of the "molten core" on which the tectonic plates ride - they don't of course, ride on the core, as any high-school textbook could show. And he doesn't explain why the existence of any molten material under the plates would make air, sea or land temperatures difficult to measure.

Finally he asks whether we can be certain that dramatic climate change would be a bad thing - "remember, a thick sheet of ice once covered the Midwest" (yes George, and it wasn't all that hospitable to life back then).

And he asks if we can be certain that slowing economic growth and spending trillions will yield proportionate benefits. But this is, of course, a wholly separate issue. What exactly we should do in the face of global warming can only be seriously argued once the participants in the debate agree to accept the reality of the temperature data. It is pretty clear that Will's strategy is to pretend that this first step is in dispute, so that the further debate over what to do about it never happens. I wonder what the motivation behind that is.
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1 Comments on "Let Wiser Heads Prevail"
He is guilty of many fallacies in his attempt to sway people. Of note is his paragraph where he claims science in the 70s predicted global cooling.

As I pointed out in my post on Will, this is simply untrue, and he has stacked the deck.

Blogger Theo @ Mon Apr 03, 10:10:00 AM EDT  
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