Sunday, April 02, 2006

George Will Misreading Science

I have grown an increasing mistrust of "conservative" pundits over the last several years. Mostly because it's pretty easy to find blatant lies and misleading distortions in what they write. So I was a little curious about George Will's recent column. I was particularly interested in his reference to a 1976 paper in Science Magazine:
"Science magazine (Dec. 10, 1976) warned of "extensive Northern Hemisphere glaciation."
Since Science magazine is archived by JSTOR I figured I could quickly find the article in question without having to make the trip to an actual library. (You can follow the JSTOR links from Stanford IPs, not sure otherwise.)

The particular volume that Will was referring to was Vol. 194, No. 4270, from Dec. 10, 1976. On page 1121 there is an article entitled, "Variations in the Earth's Orbit: Pacemaker of the Ice Ages". Surely someone as "venerable" as George Will would not take a something from a paper describing the effects of the earth's orbit in reference to the current debate about global warming. But since I don't really trust him, I decided to look.

If you look at the second to last page of this article, p.1131, you'll find the phrase "extensive Northern Hemisphere glaciation." What is the context? I cut out the relevant piece
The authors of the paper note two specific qualifications on their predictions. The first, and relevant one, states in explicit terms, "they apply only to the natural component of future climatic trends--and not to such anthropogenic effects as those due to the burning of fossil fuels." Their second qualification is that the predictions "describe only the long-term trends, because they are linked to orbital variations with periods of 20,000 years and longer."

Their predictions aren't considering climate change due to human intervention (e.g. fossil fuel consumption) and are not particularly relevant to the current debate on global warming. Nor do the authors seem to put much urgency to their prediction, as George Will suggests.

Update: Thinkprogress picks up the story and expands. Check out the Science article.

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At April 02, 2006 8:02 PM, Blogger Eric Z said...

Impressive work. Kinda dissappointing though....I expected more from a conservative as at least moderately credible as Will.

 
At April 03, 2006 10:40 AM, Blogger Theo said...

So not only was he Stacking the Deck he was lying outright (False Attribution).

The lesson is, never believe the "science" (or anything for that matter) of a columnist.

 
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"Surely someone as "venerable" as George Will would not take a something from a paper describing the effects of the earth's orbit in reference to the current debate about global warming."

100:1 george has never seen the article he cites. He's just distributing talking points passed on to him.

 
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