George Will Still Doesn’t Get the ’70s

No, not the cultural side of the '70s (though judging by that haircut and those glasses, I doubt he was loving the disco era). I'm talking about the decade's temperatures.

You see, George Will has been a relentless pusher of the myth that the '70s were the heyday not of hotpants but of global cooling.

There was never anything close to a scientific consensus around a cooling trend. But when you look at the temperature charts of the time, you can see why a few news articles popped up referencing a temporary halt to the temperature spike of the first half of the century:


It's clear that brief cooling trend was a combination of natural fluctuations (including higher volcanic activity) and manmade activity (more aerosol pollution). In the time since, our carbon emissions have shot up, volcanic activity has decreased, and aerosol pollution has been brought under control.

And look what's happened to global temperatures:


In Sunday's column, Will repeats his favorite myth. He also adds a new global warming denier talking point, saying temperatures have declined since 1998.

This attempt to mislead is the equivalent of a backflip with a 180 twist. It combines gerrymandering the time frame with cherry-picking the data. First, Will picks the El Nino-fueled 1998 as the starting point of his time frame. Then he carefully selects his data from the Climactic Research Unit in Britain, which has 1998 as warmer than 2005 (NASA puts 2005 slightly ahead). And of course, he ignores the inconvenient truth that annual temperatures are already up a full degree in just three decades.

Even if you bought all of Will's above misinformation, George is still hoping you'll ignore page A3 of the same Washington Post that ran his column. The headline there read "Scientists: Pace of Climate Change Exceeds Estimates."

To learn how to spot and refute global warming denial, visit Grist's How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic.

Published: February 16, 2009