George Will is wrong on climate change

I would like to first state that George Will is an intelligent man. Will is a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist known for his conservative views. His column is syndicated across the nation and he has taught at Harvard University. He has more awards than I care to list here. Like I said, he is a very smart man. However, he is also wrong.

Will recently wrote this article in which he claims global climate change isn't real. To make his point, Will fills his article with logical fallacy after logical fallacy and with all the same denialist claims that have been debunked years ago. His column is really no more that the global warming deniers talking points regurgitated back up and wrapped with a bow. It is really sad that this came from a Pulitzer Prize winner; he could have done such a better job.

George Will is an ideologue. He has a particular world view and he refuses to change it, even if it is clashing against reality. He is afraid that carbon credits or cap-and-trade will raise energy prices and tax and will hurt the economy. He may or may not be right, I don't know. But instead of finding an alternative to those policies, he simply denies the science. If global warming is real, then we will have to spend money to deal with it. He doesn't want to do that, so therefore, global warming can't be real. Will, however, is mistaken on the nature of reality. As science fiction author Philip K. Dick once wrote, "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away."

In his column, Will uses ad hominem attacks against climate scientists. He quotes Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, ranting against deniers. Pachauri said:

"They are the same people who deny the link between smoking and cancer. They are people who say that asbestos is as good as talcum powder — and I hope they put it on their faces every day."

While Pachauri wasn't tactful at all, you can clearly see his frustration with the deniers. Pachauri probably shouldn't have said that. He let his emotions get the better of him. But George Will fails to separate the man from the science. He sees a flawed man, so everything Pachauri said must be wrong.

Will also claims that there has been no warming for the last 15 years, that the Medieval Warm Period was warmer than today, and implies that the current harsh winter disproves global warming. You can read the debunking of those claims here, here, and here. In fact, this site throughly debunks ALL the deniers arguments. I suggest that everyone gives it a read.

My main contention with George Will's piece, is his comparison of science to religion.

George Will:

A religion is what the faith in catastrophic man-made global warming has become. It is now a tissue of assertions impervious to evidence, assertions that everything, including a historic blizzard, supposedly confirms and nothing, not even the absence of warming, can falsify.

In this case, George Will is an idiot. Either that, or he is willfully ignorant, and I don't know which is worse. Science is a process. Science doesn't care about the results, the theories, or the scientists. It is simply a process so that we can try to understand the truths of the universe. Many people would prefer that the world wasn't warming; I'm one of them. However, there are dozens of independent lines of evidence that says otherwise. Any one line of evidence by itself would be intriguing, but all of them together is overwhelming.

Scientists are just as human as the rest of us. No one is denying that politics, bickering, and infighting doesn't take place in science. But this doesn't mean that there is a grand conspiracy, in fact, it is just the opposite. If a scientist can prove the conventional wisdom wrong, and has the evidence to back it up, that would make that scientist's career for life. There will be those trying to disprove him, but if he has the facts to back his theories, science will come around, and his ideas will become mainstream. There are thousands of people working on climate change. If someone could prove that global warming wasn't real, he would win the Nobel Prize. But that hasn't happened, because the evidence doesn't support that.

While I don't agree with many conservative view points, there are some valid ones that George Will could have made. He could have said that the cost of stopping climate change is too high and would wreck the economy and that the money would be better spent adapting our infrastructure to a changing planet. He could have said that money would be better spent building levies around our coastal cities to protect them from rising seas, or developing drought resistant crops to feed the population is the mid-west dries out. He could have said that saving the polar bears wasn't worth sacrificing the potential riches of oil and gas deposits in the Arctic Ocean. I wouldn't have agreed with those points, but at least they would be a valid argument. Denying that reality exists on the other hand, is beyond a lazy or ignorant argument, it is dangerous.

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