In a column last Thursday, George Will once again ignored one of the most basic facts established this century about climate change.
I'm not talking about his claims that global warming has reached a "plateau" in which it is likely to remain. That canard has already been shot down by a dozen or so reputable analysts, including his fellow Wa-Po writer Ezra Klein.
No, I want to focus on a simpler claim from Will, which in this case requires no science whatsoever. He writes:
America needs a national commission appointed to assess the evidence
about climate change. Alarmists will fight this because the first
casualty would be the carefully cultivated and media-reinforced myth of
consensus — the bald assertion that no reputable scientist doubts the
gravity of the crisis, doubts being conclusive evidence of disreputable
motives or intellectual qualifications.
Will goes on to say that the president should appoint such a commission. But in fact the last President, also named George, did appoint such a commission, by our nation's most highly regarded scientific body, the National Academy of Sciences. The commission, whose members included well-known global warming doubter Richard Lindzen of MIT, began its 2001 report with this:
Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth's
atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air
temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise. Temperatures
are, in fact, rising. The changes observed over the last several
decades are likely mostly due to human activities, but we cannot rule
out that some significant part of these changes is also a reflection of
natural variability. Human-induced warming and associated sea level
rises are expected to continue through the 21st century. Secondary
effects are suggested by computer model simulations and basic physical
reasoning. These include increases in rainfall rates and increased
susceptibility of semi-arid regions to drought. The impacts of these
changes will be critically dependent on the magnitude of the warming
and the rate with which it occurs.
The mid-range model estimate of human induced
global warming by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
is based on the premise that the growth rate of climate forcing
agents such as carbon dioxide will accelerate. The predicted
warming of 3°C (5.4°F) by the end of the 21st century is consistent
with the assumptions about how clouds and atmospheric relative humidity
will react to global warming.
Will ignores this inconvenient fact, just as he ignores the long-term warming trend.