Will can’t leave well enough alone

WILL CAN’T LEAVE WELL ENOUGH ALONE…. Every time Washington Post columnist George Will decides to write about the environment, he ends up looking pretty foolish. It’s tempting to think he’d just steer clear of the subject altogether — it’s not a subject he understands well, and just about every time Will presents his conservative take on issues like global warming, he ends up publishing claims that fall apart under scrutiny.

And yet, he can’t help himself. Here’s yesterday’s piece:

In this headline on a New York Times story about the difficulties confronting people alarmed about global warming, note the word “plateau.” It dismisses the unpleasant — to some people — fact that global warming is maddeningly (to the same people) slow to vindicate their apocalyptic warnings about it.

The “difficulty” — the “intricate challenge,” the Times says — is “building momentum” for carbon reduction “when global temperatures have been relatively stable for a decade and may even drop in the next few years.” That was in the Times’s first paragraph.

Matt Yglesias went to the same NYT story and finds the third paragraph that Will neglected to mention: “Scientists say the pattern of the last decade — after a precipitous rise in average global temperatures in the 1990s — is a result of cyclical variations in ocean conditions and has no bearing on the long-term warming effects of greenhouse gases building up in the atmosphere.”

Will ignored it, because it didn’t suit his agenda. And his editors ignored Will’s habit of playing fast and loose with the facts, because he’s George Will.

Given Will’s recent work on the subject, and his casual disregard for reality, I’d assumed his editors would take a closer look at Will’s columns on environmental policy. After all, if he’s already demonstrated a willingness to mislead readers, Will’s work on the subject should probably be subjected to at least some fact-checking. But that’s not happening.

Joe Romm’s takedown of Will’s column is quite thorough and worth reading, but in the bigger picture, there’s just no excuse for a major news outlet continuing to run misleading column after misleading column from the same writer on the same subject.