Following the flurry of protests over George Will's climate-change-denial column, in which the Washington Post conservative scribe misused data and distorted statements made by climate experts in order to suggest that human-caused global warming is not occurring, the Pittsburg Post-Gazette, which carries Will's column, printed the following letter-to-the-editor today:
George Will's factual meltdown
I regularly read George F. Will's columns even though he often refuses to let a few facts spoil his right-wing opinions. In a recent column published by the PG on Feb. 16 ("Hypothetical Calamity") he claimed that global sea ice levels are as extensive as in 1979 as supported by the University of Illinois' Arctic Climate Research Center.
Unfortunately, those pesky facts are getting in Mr. Will's way. The center posted this on its Web site in response to Mr. Will's allegation:
"In an opinion piece by George Will published on February 15, 2009, in The Washington Post, George Will states 'According to the University of Illinois' Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979.'
"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."
When will the conservative icon issue his correction?
What about you? Have you taken action?
As numerous progressive and science bloggers have noted, Washington Post columnist George Will misused data and distorted statements made by climate experts in order to suggest that human-caused global warming is not occurring. Moreover, in his reported response to criticism of Will's column, Post ombudsman Andy Alexander falsely suggested that a statement by the Arctic Climate Research Center supports Will's claims about sea ice levels when, in fact, the ACRC statement rebuts the very argument Will was making.
the problem is not just the Post's relationship with George Will, but the Post's utter failure to hold their columnists to any reasonable standard in terms of evidence when it comes to climate change and energy pieces.
the Post has a lousy tradition when it comes to correcting egregious errors in their editorial pages. Or, should we say, failure to correct them in a responsible and forthright fashion.
Check out Siegel's post for details and examples of global warming misinformation in the Post's news pages, as well as on its Op-Ed page.
when you, on behalf of what used to be a respected newspaper, endorse his dishonesty, there's something seriously, seriously wrong. There are still honest and competent reporters writing for the Post, but if any article in the paper is to be believed it will now have to be on the basis of the reporter's known integrity and skill, not on the fact of its publication in a newspaper that not only publishes palpable falsehood but then justifies doing so.
This started as a problem for Will, his direct supervisors, and the Post's ombudsman. But now that the Post as a paper is standing behind Will's deceptions, I think it's a problem for all the other people who work at the Post. Some of those people do bad work, which is too bad. And some of those people do good work. And unfortunately, that's worse. It means that when good work appears in the Post it bolsters the reputation of the Post as an institution. And the Post, as an institution, has taken a stand that says it's okay to claim that up is down. It's okay to claim that day is night. It's okay to claim that hot is cold. It's okay to claim that a consensus existed when it didn't. It's okay to claim that George Will is a better source of authority on interpreting the ACRC's scientific research than is the ACRC. Everyone who works at the Post, has, I think, a serious problem.
As Media Matters noted on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that Heartland Institute publisher Dan Williams "said Heartland is skeptical about the crisis that people are proclaiming in global warming" and that former Sen. Harrison Schmitt "said he's heartened that the upcoming [Heartland] conference is made up of scientists who haven't been manipulated by politics." But at no point in the article did the AP note that Heartland receives funding from the fossil fuels industry. Moreover, the AP uncritically reported that Schmitt "said ... the rise in carbon dioxide is because of the temperature rise," echoing a claim widely disputed by scientists.
Well, yesterday the Austin American Statesman came out with a story making reference to Heartland and what did they do? Emphasis added:
He is "regarded with reverence," said Dan Miller, a publisher at the Heartland Institute, which puts out a newsletter asserting no scientific consensus on global warming and gets money from energy corporations. "He has been in this battle, in the trenches for a long time. He's a warrior of epic proportions on this issue."
Climate scientists, however, hold that carbon dioxide emissions have a significant effect on a changing climate.
A 2007 climate change study by an international group of scientists found that "warming of the climate system is unequivocal" and said with "very high confidence" that the net impact of "human activities since 1750 has been one of warming."
Atmospheric and climate scientists at UT and Texas A&M University have said that temperatures will rise in Texas, coastal communities are at risk from rising sea levels in the Gulf, and weather conditions are likely to include more severe droughts and flooding.
I'm not saying the Statesman piece is perfect but they do two important things in this story. (1) When they go to the Heartland Institute for comment, they let their readers know where Heartland gets its money -- the energy industry. (2) They counter Heartland's bogus claims with facts based on science from scientists. They show the scientific consensus that exists over global climate change and the impace humans are having.
In an article discussing whether the Environmental Protection Agency would begin to regulate carbon dioxide emissions under the Clean Air Act, The New York Times quoted Jeffrey Holmstead warning that such efforts are "[p]otentially ... a huge mess." While the article mentioned that Holmstead is the "director of environmental strategies at the law firm Bracewell & Giuliani," it did not note that Holmstead lobbies on behalf of energy companies and that -- as the Times previously reported -- Bracewell & Giuliani is an energy lobbying firm.
The AP reported that Heartland Institute publisher Dan Williams "said Heartland is skeptical about the crisis that people are proclaiming in global warming" and that former Sen. Harrison Schmitt "said he's heartened that the upcoming [Heartland] conference is made up of scientists who haven't been manipulated by politics." But at no point in the article did the AP note that Heartland receives funding from the fossil fuels industry. Moreover, the AP uncritically reported that Schmitt "said ... the rise in carbon dioxide is because of the temperature rise," echoing a claim widely disputed by scientists.
Zachary Roth at TPMMuckraker's on the case, contacting both Will and his WashPost boss, Fed Hiatt, editor of the Post's Op-Ed page, trying to find out if and when the Post is going to correct central factual errors found in Will's most recent anti-global warming column.
Will's assistant told us that Will might get back to us later in the day to talk about the column. And Hiatt said he was too busy to talk about it just then, but that he'd try to respond to emailed questions. So we emailed him yesterday's post, with several questions about the editing process, then followed up with another email late yesterday afternoon.
But still nothing from either of them, over twenty-four hours after the first contact was made. Nor has the online version of Will's column been updated, even to reflect the fact that the ACRC has utterly disavowed the claim Will attributes to it.
We're hearing that the Post's editing process for opinion pieces is virtually non-existent. Maybe that makes sense in some cases -- it certainly seems reasonable to give most columnists a freer hand than straight news reporters get. But it's difficult to know for sure when the Post won't talk about it. And that approach sure didn't serve the paper well here.
Check out this amazing piece over at TheWonkRoom which identifies the cast of characters used by Marc Marano, communications director to Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), to push climate change skepticism.
Marc Morano, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK)'s environmental aide, sits at the center of the right-wing global warming denier propaganda machine — of fifty-two people. Conservative columnist Fred Barnes recently refused to tell TPM Muckraker who's informed him "the case for global warming" is falling apart, but all signs point to Marc Morano. Morano's "entire job," Gristmill's David Roberts explains, "is to aggregate every misleading factoid, every attack on climate science or scientists, every crank skeptical statement from anyone in the world and send it all out periodically in email blasts" to the right-wing echo chamber. The Wonk Room has acquired Morano's email list, and we can now reveal the pack of climate skeptics, conservative bloggers, and corporate hacks who feed the misinformation machine.
Promoted on the Drudge Report and Fox News, Morano's moronic misinformation enters mainstream discourse through columns by Barnes, George Will, Robert Samuelson, and others. Many in the Morano gang are funded by right-wing think tanks, though a few are committed activists, conspiracy theorists who believe their homebrew interpretations of climate data. Others are aging scientists with strong conservative beliefs, motivating them to challenge action on global warming not because they disbelieve its existence, but because they are ideologically opposed to regulation of pollution.
Check out Marano's full list here.
You may recall our recent posts on Fred Barnes' super-secret climate change source and George Will's refusal to correct his recent wacky climate change denial column.
The conservative columnist's stab at becoming a global warming denier has attracted lots of attention and ridicule this week. But perhaps more important than the guffaws is the question, where's the WashPost correction regarding the sizable factual error at the center of its writer's column?
As blogger Dan Kennedy noted:
Syndicated columnist George Will presents only one piece of evidence in his Sunday piece denying global warming — and he gets it wrong...What does it take for Will and/or the Washington Post to append a correction? As of 6:30 p.m., there was still nothing. Is it because his entire commentary looks ridiculous if he retracts the sole relevant factual nugget he included in his diatribe?
Good question. Is anybody at the Post listening?
Over at Grist, David Roberts takes TPM's bait revealing who The Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes may be using as his super-secret climate change source.
To bring you up to speed...TPM noted Monday afternoon:
Check out this passage from Barnes' latest column for the Weekly Standard:
"Democrats couldn't hide their self-consciousness about the excesses of their own bill. Supporters made few TV appearances to defend it and rarely talked about specific spending items. Obama sounded like Al Gore on global warming. The more the case for man-made warming falls apart, the more hysterical Gore gets about an imminent catastrophe. The more public support his bill loses, the more Obama embraces fear-mongering. (our itals.)"
We hadn't heard anything lately about the case for man-made global warming falling apart. In fact, just the opposite. So we called Barnes and asked him what he was referring to.
At first, he cited the fact that it's been cold lately. Perhaps sensing this was less than convincing, Barnes then asserted that there had been a "cooling spell" in recent years. "Haven't you noticed?" he asked.
Asked for firmer evidence of such cooling, Barnes demurred, telling TPMmuckraker he was too busy to track it down.
We pressed Barnes again: surely he could tell us where he had found this vital new information, which could upend the current debate over how to address global warming.
In response, Barnes said only that he knew where he had found it, but would not tell us, apparently as a matter of principle. "I'm not going to do your research for you," he eventually said, before hurriedly ending the call.
So, who is the super-secret-science-source behind Barnes' ridiculousness? Grist does an admirable job jumping down the rabbit hole:
I'm seeing a lot of people passing around a link to this story on TPM, which mocks Weekly Standard editor Fred Barnes for saying that the case for man-made warming is "falling apart" but refusing to divulge any of his sources for that seemingly significant piece of info.
At first I just laughed about it, but it occurred to me later that maybe people really don't know the answer to this question -- maybe people really don't know where Barnes is getting his info. The answer is an open secret:
Barnes gets his information on climate change the same place everyone in the right-wing media world gets it: from Marc Morano, the in-house blogger/agitator for Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.).
Morano's entire job is to aggregate every misleading factoid, every attack on climate science or scientists, every crank skeptical statement from anyone in the world and send it all out periodically in email blasts that get echoed throughout the right-wing blog world and eventually find their way into places like Fox News and the Weekly Standard. From there they go, via columnists like George Will and Charles Krauthammer, into mainstream outlets like Newsweek and the Washington Post.
That's where Barnes gets it. That's where Glenn Beck gets it, and Lou Dobbs, and Will, and Krauthammer, and all the rest of them. This is something everyone involved in climate- or energy-related media knows.
This should come as no surprise. Sen. Inhofe is a greatly respected, neutral arbiter when it comes to the science behind global climate change – if by respected you mean, the oil and gas industry, climate change deniers, and clueless conservative media hacks just love him.
In a Washington Post column, Warren Brown claimed that "there has been no gasoline saved in response to ... the various iterations of federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy [CAFE] rules." However, a 2007 Government Accountability Office report stated: "According to estimates by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and other experts we consulted, the CAFE program has helped save billions of barrels of oil and could continue to do so in the future."
MSNBC's David Shuster allowed columnist Deroy Murdock to repeat the claim -- first made by climate change skeptic Martin Hertzberg -- that global warming is not occurring because "the Earth temperature has gone down 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit since 1997." Rather than challenge that claim, Shuster named Murdock "our Muckraker of the Day" and "congratulat[ed]" Murdock for "stirring the pot." But climate scientists warn against cherry-picking yearly temperature averages as purported evidence that global warming is not occurring, especially from years in which El Niño and La Niña events occurred, as Murdock and Hertzberg did.
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Glenn Beck mocked the economic recovery package for including "$2.4 billion for carbon capture demonstration projects," adding, "I don't even know what the hell that is." Had Beck attempted to determine "what the hell" carbon capture is before ridiculing it, he would have learned that the provision funds the development of technology that he has previously criticized "liberals in Congress" for "block[ing]."