George Will

WASHINGTON -- Few phenomena generate as much heat as disputes about current orthodoxies concerning global warming. This column recently reported and commented on some developments pertinent to the debate about whether global warming is occurring and what can and should be done. That column, which expressed skepticism about some emphatic proclamations by the alarmed, took a stroll down memory lane, through the debris of 1970s predictions about the near certainty of calamitous global cooling.

Concerning those predictions, The New York Times was -- as it is today in a contrary crusade -- a megaphone for the alarmed, as when (May 21, 1975) it reported that "a major cooling of the climate" was "widely considered inevitable" because it was "well established" that the Northern Hemisphere's climate "has been getting cooler since about 1950." Now the Times, a trumpet that never sounds retreat in today's war against warming, has afforded this column an opportunity to revisit another facet of this subject -- meretricious journalism in the service of dubious certitudes.

On Wednesday, the Times carried a "news analysis" -- a story in the paper's news section, but one that was not just reporting news -- accusing Al Gore and this columnist of inaccuracies. Gore can speak for himself. So can this columnist.

Reporter Andrew Revkin's story was headlined: "In Debate on Climate Change, Exaggeration Is a Common Pitfall." Regarding exaggeration, the Times knows whereof it speaks, especially when it revisits, if it ever does, its reporting on the global cooling scare of the 1970s, and its reporting and editorializing -- sometimes a distinction without a difference -- concerning today's climate controversies.

Which returns us to Revkin. In a story ostensibly about journalism, he simply asserts -- how does he know this? -- that the last decade, which passed without warming, was just "a pause in warming." His attempt to contact this writer was an e-mail sent at 5:47 p.m., a few hours before the Times began printing his story, which was not so time-sensitive -- it concerned controversies already many days running -- that it had to appear the next day. But Revkin reported that "experts said" this columnist's intervention in the climate debate was "riddled with" inaccuracies. Revkin's supposed experts might exist and might have expertise but they do not have names that Revkin wished to divulge.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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