In December 2006, Jeff Jacoby was perhaps feeling a bit lazy, and he wrote one of a series of uninspired, weakly-grounded anti-global-warming-alarmism columns. He had apparently just gotten hold of a ridiculous "report" put out seven months earlier by right-wing hucksters at the Business & Media Institute, which is part of the Media Research Center; the report documented how the "media" had hyped crazy, incorrect climate change stories in the past, and ergo must be doing so again now.
Today, George F. Will writes the same basic column, using -- as far as I can tell -- material from that same BMI report, although he doesn't mention it.
I gently mocked Jacoby for the column at the time. So, if it was worth gentle mockery then, what does it merit more than two years later? Sigh, I suppose I'll have to do the right thing, and rip George apart.
Will trots out the BMI-report's examples of supposed media global-cooling obsession from the 1970s, as a response to Energy Secretary Steven Chu's recent dire warnings about the potential devastating effects of climate change on California's agriculture, in a worst-case scenario, looking forward about a century.
As far as I know, Chu's claim is pretty uncontroversial, scientifically speaking. The only debate I've noticed over his statements, since he made them two weeks ago, has been not over the legitimacy of the claim, but over the PR strategy of using it. Chu makes clear that he thinks it's necessary to issue these worst-case warnings, so that "American people will wake up" to the need for action; some others fear that it is counterproductive, causing people to tune it out as science-fiction.
This is where Will steps in, to demonstrate the latter point. Ignoring mountainous reams of scientific evidence and information, Will is able to focus laser-like on Chu's one single remark, setting it up as the essence of climate-change kookery, so as to knock it down and show the whole enterprise to be bunk.
Of course, he can't actually knock it down; Will offers not a single person, fact, or argument against Chu's claim. However, Will does provide those handy-dandy reminders that we've been warned of such weirdness before, and the predictions (at least, these carefully selected ones) have always been wrong. And thus, surely, must all predictions be met with fingers in ears and shouting of NAHNAHNAHNAHICANTHEARYOUDOCTORCHU!
Will's column does not stop there, however. Will next presumes to debunk climate-change theory with the single datum that global sea ice levels are the same as they were in 1979 -- which, as it is a falsehood, strikes me as a particularly unconvincing bit of debunkery.
But Will is not done; he then ventures forth into territory that I usually encounter only on rabidly conservative blog sites. To wit: that only an "eco-pessimist," to use Will's term, would be so vain as to think of our current environmental conditions -- ie, the ones that support human life -- as "optimal," and worth going to a lot of trouble to preserve.
Since he started squarely on Chu's California example, I take it that Will is saying that, even if Chu is right, only freakos would prefer the current, fertile California. It is "weirdly optimistic," Will writes, to think that "[t]hese optimal conditions must and can be preserved or restored."
Speak for yourself, Georgie. But George assures us that he speaks for the masses, pointing out that polls show the American public super-concerned about the "real" economic crisis, and uninterested in the "hypothetical" climate crisis. I think that Chu would argue that such polling -- as well as fatuous articles like Will's -- only proves his point about the need to wake America up to the problem.