Here's George Will, the Republicans' version of an intellectual, in the "liberal" Washington Post:
According to the University of Illinois' Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979.
Ok, good. That's a simple, factual claim. Quite easy to check. The Washington Post's fact-checkers don't need to measure global sea ice levels -- they just need to check that the Arctic Climate Research Center says what Will says they say. And because everybody knows the Washington Post is liberal (that's sarcasm, folks) they obviously would have rushed to prove him wrong.
They don't. The ACRC:
We do not know where George Will is getting his information, but our data shows that on February 15, 1979, global sea ice area was 16.79 million sq. km and on February 15, 2009, global sea ice area was 15.45 million sq. km. Therefore, global sea ice levels are 1.34 million sq. km less in February 2009 than in February 1979. This decrease in sea ice area is roughly equal to the area of Texas, California, and Oklahoma combined.
It is disturbing that the Washington Post would publish such information without first checking the facts.
Okay, so that's just a straight-up lie. No problem, it's easy to debunk lies. But disingenuous implications are harder. Will again:
[A]ccording to the World Meteorological Organization, there has been no recorded global warming for more than a decade.
He cites his source again. Good! We can check.
Oops. The WMO:
The long-term upward trend of global warming, mostly driven by greenhouse gas emissions, is continuing. Global temperatures in 2008 are expected to be above the long-term average. The decade from 1998 to 2007 has been the warmest on record, and the global average surface temperature has risen by 0.74C since the beginning of the 20th Century. [...] "For detecting climate change you should not look at any particular year, but instead examine the trends over a sufficiently long period of time. The current trend of temperature globally is very much indicative of warming," World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General, Mr Michel Jarraud said in response to media inquiries on current temperature "anomalies".
Yes, George, if you choose the hottest year in recent memory as your baseline, most years since then will be cooler. That doesn't mean warming stopped. The decade beginning with the year you chose as your baseline has been the warmest on record.
It's hilarious listening to Republicans on climate change. When they're not outright lying, it's just total amateur hour. They'll start talking about sunspots and Martian temperatures and how that one measuring station is totally right next to a heating vent. But they don't know what they're talking about. They're just like creationists who go on and on about this fossil or that footprint and how obviously the eye is too complex to have evolved.
(It's always "obvious," too. It's not just that the majority of scientists are wrong, it's that they're OBVIOUSLY wrong. Most of the smartest and most expert people on Earth are wrong, but Joe the Plumber's got the truth. Right.)
Now there are of course some scientists who don't believe in climate change just as there are some who don't believe in evolution. It's just that they're vastly outnumbered. (Yes, Einstein was outnumbered at first. Science isn't a democracy, and sometimes the minority is right. But when they're right they can generally prove it, and win over the majority. That's what makes it science rather than, say, religion.)
Republicans love to list all the scientists they can find who don't believe in global warming. Now an honest person would then compare that number to the list of all the scientists they could find that do believe in global warming. But they don't do that. They're not interested in honesty. Their arguments are one-sided.
Project Steve is a great parody of that tactic as used by creationists. You may have seen the lists of scientists who don't believe in evolution, numbering in the hundreds. Here's one (.pdf) from The Discovery Institute. (See kids, even scientists don't believe in evolution!) Project Steve decided that they would create a list just of scientists named Steve (or variants thereof) to highlight the ridiculousness of that technique. A couple of days ago they reached a thousand. There are more scientists named Steve who believe in evolution than scientists with all names who don't. Ouch. I'm sure the folks at The Discovery Institute will change their minds based on this new evidence.
Finally, George Will again trots out the lie that the scientific community believed in global cooling just a few decades ago. Ezra Klein puts it best:
There needs to be some sort of Godwin's Law variant for conservatives who try to argue against global warming because they remember that Newsweek dipped into pop-science in the mid-70s and touted "global cooling." Call it Will's Law, after George Will, the supposedly cerebral conservative who brings this up every time he doesn't have a better column idea.
For a good summary on the global cooling myth -- an idea that took root in the popular press but never in the scientific literature -- go sit in on the free lecture provided by the folks at Real Climate. Will makes a lot of the 1975 Newsweek cover on the subject, but the more telling document is a National Academy of Sciences report from the same year. The report argued that climate change is the product of many potential forces and the state of the science wasn't yet advanced enough to discern which would prove decisive. To put it in the NAS's own words, "we do not have a good quantitative understanding of our climate machine and what determines its course. Without the fundamental understanding, it does not seem possible to predict climate." As such, they recommended "a major new program of research designed to increase our understanding of climatic change and to lay the foundation for its prediction."