George Will has written one of the most poorly reasoned pieces I’ve ever read: “Climate change’s instructive past.” If my introductory college students had written this essay I would have responded: “This is so poorly reasoned, please don’t expect to receive credit.” Or “I recommend an introductory logic class before you write another essay.” Or “Please don’t turn in such nonsense again.”
Will was an intelligent man at one time. I don’t know what happened to him. Our brains do shrink as we age, still it’s just hard to believe that he believes what he writes. I suppose a non-scientist like Will, writing about a topic on which the experts are in virtual unanimous agreement, might be correct. Perhaps he’s a genius. But not likely.
In defense of his anti-science position, Will cites two books by historians who note that past climate change wasn’t caused by human activity. From this he concludes that present climate change isn’t caused by human activity. Really? That’s like saying that in the past people died from natural causes so today no one can be murdered. The argument is ridiculous. Here it is in syllogistic form:
In the past there have been warming periods not caused by human activity.
Therefore today’s warming period is (probably) not caused by human activity.
Logic teachers shake their heads. And I can just see the climate scientists discussing the column. “Hey Joe, did you know that some climate change in the past wasn’t attributable to human activity?” “Oh my God Bob, I never thought of that! I don’t think anybody who has devoted their life to studying the climate knew this! All of our evidence and the scientific consensus go out the window! I’m so glad George Will taught us about climate history! We had forgotten to include that in our calculations!”
Of course every climatologist knows that the climate has changed in the past from natural causes.That’s one of the things they study. But that doesn’t refute the overwhelming evidence for human caused climate change.
I wish Mr. Will wouldn’t insult our intelligence; I wish he’d retire, but he won’t. Perhaps he’s just a shill for the oil companies. Perhaps he’s just an old curmudgeon. Or perhaps he’s just arrogant, so in love with his own intellect that he doesn’t know there are real scientists who really understand science. They go to their laboratories every day trying to tease a bit of truth out of nature. They don’t just pontificate about science from their office chairs or studies and then write op-eds.
Addendum – Of the nearly 14,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers published between 1991 – 2012 exactly 0.17% either reject warming or attribute it primarily to causes other than CO2 and other greenhouse gases.