I'm adding some additional images to break up the text as well as the two that accompanied the article (one of which is the annual and 5-year mean of global annual surface temperature anomalies relative to the 1951 - 1980 mean).
Also, the NASA link and chart that Chait provides is to a report from Jan. 2008 for 2007. More up-to-date NASA info is available here.
George Will, Anti-Climate-Science Loon, Strikes Again
By Jonathan Chait
"George F. Will, in the midst of a discursive, Larry-King-style-if-Larry-King-were-a-Tea-Partier Sunday column that rambles through such topics as Richard Cordray, sequestration, Obamacare, gun control, a new chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, the Internet sales tax, and the failure of one electric car firm, uses the last occasion to share his favorite statistic: There has been no global warming for fifteen years!
Will has been making this point enthusiastically for four years now. It has appeared in such columns as "Dark Green Doomsayers," "Climate Change's Dim Bulbs," "Climate Fixers' Hard Sell," "Cooling Down the Cassandras," "Climate Science Tantrums," among others.
The original, circa-2009 version of this talking point was that "there has been no recorded global warming for more than a decade." What Will meant by this was not exactly what you might think. He meant that the hottest year on record was 1998, and no year has exceeded that one, and so there has been no global warming.
Recently, Will has subtly altered his formulation, the most recent version of which is "global warming, of which there has been essentially none for 15 years."
That "essentially" has been added because 2010 was clearly hotter than 1998.
In any case, even if that weren't true, and 1998 were still the hottest year on record, would Will be correct in asserting there has been no global warming for fifteen years? No, of course not. 1998 was a freakishly hot year due to El Niño. But there's just a basic concept in statistics called a trend. Here’s the trend in global temperature, per NASA:
NOTE: Here is an updated chart through 2012:
Any remotely honest person would look at that data and recognize that the trend has been rising. Now, it's true that it hasn't risen in a completely straight line, because that's not how most data works. Will’s old method was to pluck that spike you see in 1998 and make that a starting point, insisting there's been no climate change. For this claim to make sense, you'd have to believe that the world experienced a huge, sudden, and permanent spike in temperature in 1998, and hasn’t changed since. Of course, since Will's favorite meaningless fact stopped being true, he's just started inserting weasel words that allow him to pretend his unimportant-if-it-were-true fact is still true.
Will's enthusiastic disdain for climate science, which appears to date back to his enthusiastic 2004 reading of Michael Crichton's State of Fear, a really weird anti-climate science polemical novel, tells us a lot about the state of conservative movement thought. You can find examples of non-conservatives embracing fringe anti-scientific beliefs, like vaccine rejection, but you don't find this happening among prestigious, mainstream liberal intellectuals.
George Will is as intellectually prestigious a conservative thinker as you’ll find. Before David Brooks came along, he was the conservative liberals liked to cite when they wanted to hold up a conservatives they could respect. And he’s crazy as a loon!"
There is a lot that I and others could add here. It's too much to go into now. But I'll just make a few points:
The good news is that people like Will have less influence than ever in terms of shaping any policy debates or popular opinion outside of the bubble of the right-wing media/entertainment complex of Fox News and talk radio. He may still get the "Washington Consensus" circle jerk crowd all tingly but that "Gang of 500" is actually less relevant than ever.
I also think that the dreadful and worthless WaHoPo editorial page "Uncle" Fred Hiatt bears some responsibility for this.
For decades now, he has constantly publishing Will's crap on any topic with no fact-checking, which typically for punditry doesn't matter but in the case of climate science, it is simply disseminating lies.
Of course, Hiatt just reflects what the billionaire Graham family wants.
As it is, in the late 1990s, it would not have been possible to have a piece such as Chait's published so quickly and disseminated widely to counter Will crap. Thankfully, it's not 1998 when the Great and Mysterious Martha "M.J." McAteer acted as the WaHoPo letters editor "gatekeeper" to make sure that only establishment-approved and/or right-wing "voices" were heard.
Here she is: The Great and Mysterious M.J. McAteer.
Or rather, any stupid print edition letter that appeared 5 days after the fact would not be from an articulate scientist but rather some milquetoast wussy that would say something like, "While I think Will makes excellent points, I would respectfully point out that it might help if we gathered more evidence, but I'll defer to him and Newt Gingrich on that point ..."
But more likely, it would have been a "correction" about how someone was misquoted in saying "real hot" when they actually said "really hot" -- and the WaHoPo would be all self-satisfied. And this would have followed a Benjamin Wittes written editorial and 17 op-eds by the whole stable about Monica's Dress.
As for Will, I think I liked him better when -- after he cheated on his wife -- she tossed all his things out onto the front yard.
Needless to say, Will was part of the GOP morality squad during the Clinton Wars of the 1990s that culminated in the impeachment sideshow which so wonderfully backfired, giving everyone at Sally Quinn's dinner party agita.