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George Will’s Climate Deception

Published 17th November 2010 - 0 comments - 781 views -

George Will has popularized the mistaken, but often quoted, idea that the Earth's temperature has not gone up since 1998. Here is how he arrived at that deception and how he has tried to use it to influence politics.


During the last U.S. Presidential Election,  John McCain proposed a pragmatic national energy policy based upon good stewardship, good science, and reasonableness. George Will attacked the proposal in his “Questions for McCain”  in Newsweek (5/19/08).  As a preface to the question, George Will states  that “the World Meteorological Organization says global temperatures have not risen in a decade”. However, that quote cannot be found anywhere in the World Meteorological Organization’s reports. The Organization’s 2007 Summary Report for Policy Makers says that the Earth’s mean temperature is rising, that it is causing changes in the environment, and that it is the result of man’s activities. That is just the opposite of George Will’s premise.

When I contacted  George Will for an explanation, he said that the hottest year on record was 1998 and no year since has been hotter; therefore, global temperatures have not risen in a decade. However, the World Meteorological Organization says that eleven of the last twelve years (1995–2006) rank among the twelve warmest years in the instrumental record of global surface temperature (since 1850).  The graph on page six of the report shows a very clear upward trend in the global average temperature from 1997 to 2007. George Will’s clever statement was a misconstruance of the data and an attempt to mislead. NASA’s data shows that 2005 was the hottest year on record so George Will is clearly wrong. (See graph below.)

                    NASA Data

                                            Credit: NASA/JPL/MSSS


 Next, George Will asked McCain about the potential high cost of measures proposed to reduce global warming – which George Will claimed were too great. However, he does not consider that the measures would also alleviate some of our pressing energy problems or that economic growth would certainly occur in sectors of the economy producing energy efficient products. He also does not mention the principles of good stewardship or personal responsibility involved.  Is it responsible to let other countries address the issue while the U.S. pretends it does not exist? Should we expect future generations to pay to clean up the pollution we are creating?

 Finally, George Will’s asks McCain  “… what is the Earth’s proper temperature, and how do you know? “ It was a trick  question – a reasonable answer to that question has been known for decades. The graph in the World Meteorological Organization report shows the Earth’s mean temperature was reasonably stable from 1850 to 1925 which is a  proper baseline to measure global temperature increases. More importantly, the proper temperature of the Earth is one at which we can live comfortably. We know that is true now, but will that be true for our children and grandchildren?

The global mean temperature has  now increased 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit in the last century and it is increasing each year. Is that a crisis? That depends on how long you plan to live and whether you value your descendants.  Every major scientific organization in the world has endorsed a statement that global warming is occurring and that it is caused by man’s activities.  John McCain was right, then, but he has now backed off that position. Still, the U.S. is in critical need of a pragmatic national energy policy based upon good stewardship, good science, and cooperation with other countries. We all share the same atmosphere.

(c) 2010  J.C. Moore

Category: Climate Reporting, | Tags:


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