Chilly Willy

Everyone is, quite rightly, upset about George Will’s recent column on global cooling. It’s the kind of thing that should be hugely embarrassing, to Will and to every last person who works at the Post. I like to think that if I worked for a publication that unapologetically put out such bilgewater and refused to make corrections when called on it, that I’d threaten to quit. But of course, that’s not how it works. This is just one of those times when it’s understood that papers sometimes work to make their readers less informed, because, well, I don’t know why. That’s just what happens.

Yglesias writes:

The point of giving columns to Will and Charles Krauthammer and now hiring Bill Kristol is to show that Fred Hiatt and The Washington Post believe that whatever random crap the conservative movement wants to make up on any given day will get a hearing in The Washington Post. They’re not interested in informing their audience, they’re interested in showing that they’ll bend over backwards to be fair to the right wing. Publishing error-free articles by movement icons serves that purpose, but publishing sloppy error-filled ones serves that purpose even better.

I don’t know why the Post would want to do this, but assuming that their goals was to show they’d bend over backwards for conservatives, publishing any old laughably false column is a good way to achieve that purpose. My question is why conservatives think it advances their purpose to continue this demonstrably wrong adherence to climate change denialism. This isn’t like, say, evolution. Scientific evidence of evolution is quite strong and will only continue to get stronger, but that growing evidence won’t be ever more obvious to the layperson. Birds, for instance, won’t start evolving faster and faster until it’s frighteningly clear that evolution is real and all those deniers were, in fact, cranks.

But the planet is getting warmer, and people are going to notice. Will can talk about global cooling all he wants, but arctic ice is actually disappearing. Snowpacks are shrinking. Droughts are intensifying. Sea-levels are rising. And this isn’t going to stop.

Climate change denialism is like arguing at three that in two hours it won’t be five. However convincing you think you are, you will ultimately be revealed as a fool and a charlatan. Even though I disagree with Jim Manzi’s outlook on climate change policy (and incidentally, Jim, if you’re reading — do stories like this affect your assessment of the need for significant action?) it has the notable advantage of not dooming him, with complete certainty, to laughingstock-hood.


  1. Doug says:

    It’s kind of a weird fetish. If you can find someone to take the other side of a question, then the question is two-sided and two-sided makes it fifty-fifty. We’ll play the odds. Liberals assert a lot of stupid crap as true “We should not be subsidizing banks that hire foreigners while they’re laying off Americans.” But the left at least has the awaremess to demagogue things insensibly rather than counter-factually.

    I think the solution is: We of the conservative bent may be more misanthropic than liberals and prefer our fellow travelers to be despicable rather than just casual.

  2. Gabriel says:

    I don’t understand. How can you link to Megan McArdle and still complain about the Washington Post?

  3. I think you need a picture of Chilly Willy.

  4. Tom says:

    “I like to think that if I worked for a publication that unapologetically put out such bilgewater and refused to make corrections when called on it, that I’d threaten to quit. ”

    Yet, you keep plugging along.

  5. Anon says:

    Well lemme think why one would have a problem with the GW conversation to date? And how does this differ from Darwinism?

    1. The initial study from the committee organized by the UN was passed from the scientists to the bureaucrats and fundamentally changed in it’s conclusions by a bureaucrat unattributed – i.e. nameless. This single action has done more to pollute rational conversation than any other.

    2. The accusations of cherry picked data were never addressed in any way the scientific community would recognize. This hasn’t helped.

    3. The political tenor of all discussion since has resulted in the purging and vilifying of any scientist who didn’t toe the line. This has truly resulted in funding shifts and career ending actions. Truth goes out the window when politics climbs out of the toilet. Informally and off the record, Jet Propulsion Labs thinks it has more to do with solar activity, but you will NEVER get them to say so out loud in this climate.

    4. Every *green* solution in search of a problem crawled back into the headlines attached to GW, whether it had anything to do with GW or not.

    5. The *science* of *solving* this problem we do not understand is being fought in the headlines, not the research halls. By politicians whose staffers are looking at *alignments* rather than science to fundamentally change our society, our fiscal relationships, and our lives. Based on the headlines.

    6. No one yet has anything like a *solution* and are not talking about one. We are instead fighting over whether there is a problem. One of the criteria for changing anything so monumentally fundamental as our entire society should be based on the cost-benefit analysis of the solution. There isn’t one on the table to discuss. There is no magic number for *ideal* greenhouse effect on the atmosphere. Some is necessary, but how much? Ideal for what? Agriculture? Human life? Polar bears? So we have one group running toward change based on *shoulds* that have been repeated since the ’70s, while another is vilified for asking what this is going to cost and what it gets us. Well so far what it gets us the fulfillment of an age old agenda – with no KNOWN impact on GW. I resent that as much as I resent any agenda being stuffed down my throat because the political *might* is available.

    7. The entire issue has been so politicized today, that if the underlying cause of GW turned out to be jawbreaker candy, we couldn’t do anything about it because the answer is unacceptable politically. And to date all anyone is talking about is carbon emission, despite the FACT that this is but one contributor to the greenhouse effect and may or may not be the biggest/most fundamental/best one to change. The Butterfly effect may apply here, we do not know. We may never know, because today if you want funding you better apply to study carbon emissions on the atmosphere and you know in advance what your results better conclude.

    8. If Darwinism is fundamentally flawed it will not make a single fundamental difference in how you go about your daily life. Not true with the environmentalist / GW agenda – which will fundamentally change *everything* about your daily life.

    9. Perhaps a better comparison than Darwin should be examples with an equal level of politicization, and equally clear consequences and impacts like abortion or gun control. Despite numerous reputable studies that clearly show negative emotional and psychological effects on those who would use abortion as birth control, clearly a misuse; I will fundamentally oppose any limits on availability of birth control.
    Because I fear.
    I know this is an arena highly politicized with groups with strong agendas.
    Just like gun control. Wherein perfectly reasonable legislation is opposed because of fear that it is but the nose of the camel of a group with a very strong agenda.
    I fear.
    I fear mostly because the political process that used to find middle ground in these issues is fundamentally broken, the parties are pursuing power at any cost, the individual politician is busy running for his next campaign based on fund raising, not his constituents opinion of him. And the actual power to make these changes has shifted to people who do not answer to me. Who are not elected, and who have no interest in middle-ground solutions. They are paid to be extremists.
    And so I fear the changing of my life and the world’s economy by power groups I cannot control, that fixes a problem we only vaguely understand, going toward a goal not set, with benefits undefined; and bankrupting my children’s future in the process by establishing an economic model that may not work.
    All in a climate wherein stating any part of these fears or concerns in public has ALREADY labeled me a *troll* and *denier* unworthy of participating in any conversation.

    Maybe the first climate change we need to address is the climate of public discourse, since I am even afraid to post my name. After all, I am job hunting.