Those in my profession like to argue that the due diligence associated with journalism’s formalisms is what sets our work apart, gives it its credibility and substance. Which is why I reserve special outrage for what George Will did this week.
In a column published Thursday, Will repeated a theme he has touched on before – the allegation that scientists in the 1970s were predicting global cooling, and that therefore one should approach their current assertions about global warming with caution. Here is what he said:
Because of restrictions on hunting, polar bears might be more numerous today than ever and might be twice as numerous as they were three decades ago — when the media were fanning frenzy about global cooling. (Science magazine, March 1975, reported “the approach of a full-blown 10,000-year ice age.”)
If you Google the phrase, you’ll find that same alleged “Science magazine quote” repeated frequently, but at first I had a hard time tracking it down. A look through Science’s archives yielded nothing. That, it turns out, is because it did not appear in Science magazine. It appeared in Science News. But that’s as maybe, as my British friends might say. It may be evidence that Will didn’t really do his homework, and hadn’t read the original piece. But Science News is a reputable news source, right?
But if Will had done his journalistic due diligence and actually tracked down the original source, he would have found that it contained a very different message than the one he was pitching in Thursday’s column.
The article is entitled “Climate Change: Chilling Possibilities,” by John H. Douglas, in the March 1, 1975 issue of Science News. I can’t find a free copy on line, but it took me about half an hour and a helpful family member with university library privileges to obtain a copy. (One assumes the Post’s librarians could have done the same for Will had he asked.)
What we find is a nice overview of the state of climate science at the time, building on a 1975 report of the National Academy of Science. For those like Will who would cherry-pick quotes to support the argument that scientists at the time were predicting cooling, there is this:
The cooling trend observed since 1940 is real enough, he (C.C. Wallen, WMO) says, but not enough is known about the underlying causes to justify any sort of extrapolation.
Douglas then goes on to discuss a number of possible climate scenarios, arguing that more study is needed to distinguish which future our climate might hold. One such scenario (the source of the cherry-picked quote) involves a “full-blown 10,000-year ice age”. Another involves the offsetting influence of increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere:
Stephen H. Schneider of the National Center for Atmospheric Research says that by the turn of the century, enough carbon dioxide will have been put into the atmosphere to raise the temperature of earth half a degree.
Douglas’s bottom line: not enough was known at the time to make any predictions whatsoever. More study was needed. That’s a far cry from the implication of Will’s egregiously cherry-picked quote.
Not only is it the wrong reference, wrongly interpreted, it is the exact same mistake he made one the last times he wrote about climate change: i.e. in Dec 2004:
ohhh its too bad when someone unveils the inconvienant truth to the masses of sheep, that global warming is a falsehood and manmade! propoagated by the facists leftists such as AlGore, it’s great to see the bahh bahh of the sheep who beleive it.
Wake up people, I have reason to believe you are educated and intelligent, check out the facts for yourself (no, not NYTimes articles, blogs or liberal think tanks, real scientists…..yes real scientists). Global warming aint nothin mo than the big old Sun doing what the sun does and mother earth doing what mother earth does, He and She will be around long after we are, warming and cooling the earth as is the natural cycle of things!
pls dont be sheep, the facist liberals just want you in-line so they can control you….and make you SS Democrat soldiers in the war to hold poor people down and grow govt control until we have no choice but to submit to the supreme ruler. Stand up and fight, think for yourself, dont believe the hype and become what you have always been, as a human with freedom and love, a conservative!
I have never been a big fan of New York City and its crowded 7-8 million people until I came to realize the very imporatant function NYC serves the environment.
It keeps those 7-8 million people from building homes and condo canyons in the Pocono Mountains; of which I am a super fan.
Now, regarding the comment of Common Sense above, I havea come to a similar conclusion about conservatives. By having a camp of selfish narcicists joining and labeling themselves conservatives we can so easily identify them and possibly dismiss their views on life and American politics.
I don’t want them to be anything but conservatives because they can be easily rounded up by herding together those with their hair on fire.