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George Will Uses Washington Post Column to Lie about Global Warming

Posted Feb. 25, 2009 / Posted by: NBerning

George Will Photo

Conservative writer George Will provoked a firestorm after he deliberately sowed confusion over climate science in an erroneous February 15, 2009 Washington Post column. The column was riddled with factual inaccuracies but Will and his editors refused to issue a correction.

George Will is entitled to his misguided opinion, but he is not entitled to his own facts. As the Center for American Progress Action Fund and Media Matters have documented, Will's column contained numerous errors:

  • Will claimed that "according the U.N. World Meteorological Organization, there has been no recorded global warming for more than a decade." This is false. In fact, the WMO recently stated that "global warming, mostly driven by greenhouse gas emissions, is continuing."
  • Will misleadingly conflated Arctic and global sea ice levels to leave readers with the false impression that global warming isn't real. After Will's column was published, the University of Illinois' Arctic Climate Research Center took issue with his use of their sea ice data, writing: "It is disturbing that the Washington Post would publish such information without first checking the facts."
  • Will repeats science deniers' discredited assertion that a scientific consensus about a global "cooling" crisis existed in the 1970s.

There is an overwhelming scientific consensus that global warming is real and caused by humans. But while the climate crisis continues to worsen, willfully ignorant conservative elites continue to peddle lies. It's one thing to hear such dishonesty from the likes of Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly, but it's something else to see it perpetuated by a respected journalistic institution like the Washington Post.

Unfortunately, as blogs such as Get Energy Smart NOW! have demonstrated, the Washington Post has a pattern of giving prominence to science deniers. Post editors' refusal to stand up for the truth strengthens the hand of polluting industries that are causing irreparable harm to our planet and its people.

Will Doubles Down on Dishonesty

Over the week of February 22, the uproar over Will's column continued to intensify. On the 24th, a New York Times news analysis said Will's column had been inaccurate, and on the 26th, the prestigious Columbia Journalism Review called Will out for using "a number of misleading arguments" and said he "misrepresented scientific evidence."

On February 27, Will responded to the brouhaha with another column that included even more falsehoods. And the Post's editorial page editor, Fred Hiatt, decided that instead of correcting Will, he would attack Post readers who asked the paper to tell the truth (see Hiatt's comments in the Columbia Journalism Review article). Will's second column has been thoroughly debunked by Climate Progress, Media Matters, The Intersection, and Get Energy Smart NOW!, as well as New York Times reporter Andy Revkin on his Dot Earth blog.

Friends of the Earth Responds

Friends of the Earth moved quickly to counter George Will's dishonesty.

More than 5,000 activists responded to a Friends of the Earth e-mail alert and sent messages to the Post's ombudsman, calling for corrections.

Our president, Brent Blackwelder, also joined the heads of the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters and Media Matters in sending a letter to the ombudsman.

You can read our news release about the incident here.

If you want to let the Washington Post know what you think, it isn't too late. Click here to send a message now.

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