In a Washington Post Opinion article on December 22, 2004, commentator George Will applauds Michael Crichton’s new book, State of Fear. We have already pointed out some of the more egregious scientific errors in Crichton’s novel (see Michael Crichton’s State of Confusion ). Mr. Will compounds those errors and fails his own standards by making statements that are truly “innocent of information but overflowing with certitudes”.
Will commits one of the most basic mistakes in examining climate change — using evidence of cooling from one location to question whether the earth as a whole is warming. (If Mr Will finds that one stock in his portfolio has declined, does this lead him to conclude that his entire portfolio is losing money? For his sake, we hope he takes a more global perspective on his financial affairs than he does on the subject of climate change.)
Remarkably – considering he
is frequently writes as an historian – Will also repeats the historically inaccurate claim that “30 years ago the fashionable panic was about global cooling” . We provide a more detailed response to this and other errors in another post. Here, we merely point out that there is abundant scientific evidence that global warming is real, that global warming has resulted in a rise in global sea-level, and that global warming has led to recession of glaciers in virtually all corners of the world. These issues have been carefully examined by several national and international scientific organizations, and it would have been easy for Will to read this literature, rather than simply taking the words of characters in Crichton’s novel at face value. In addition to the scientific assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (essentially a comprehensive review of the literature on the subject) we refer the reader to statements by the American Geophysical Union, the US National Academy of Sciences, and the American Meteorological Society:
“Scientific evidence strongly indicates that natural influences cannot explain the rapid increase in global near-surface temperatures observed during the second half of the 20th century.” (AGU position statement on human impacts on climate, EOS,Vol. 84, No. 51, 23 December 2003)
“Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth’s atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise…The IPCC’s conclusion that most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations accurately reflects the current thinking of the scientific community on this issue.” (Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions, National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 2001)
“Because greenhouse gases continue to increase, we are, in effect, conducting a global climate experiment, neither planned nor controlled, the results of which may present unprecedented challenges to our wisdom and foresight as well as have significant impacts on our natural and societal systems.” (American Meteorological Society Statement on Climate Change Research, February 9, 2003).