The WaPo's High Horse

Its new ombudsman homes in on the critical factual issue in the George Will column:

The editors who checked the Arctic Research Climate Center Web site believe it did not, on balance, run counter to Will's assertion that global sea ice levels "now equal those of 1979." I reviewed the same Web citation and reached a different conclusion.

It said that while global sea ice areas are "near or slightly lower than those observed in late 1979," sea ice area in the Northern Hemisphere is "almost one million sq. km below" the levels of late 1979. That's roughly the size of Texas and California combined. In my mind, it should have triggered a call for clarification to the center.

No such clarification occurred. But surely the deeper point is that 1979 is not a solid data point, and that the sources Will used clearly support the theory of global warming and do not see an increase in ice in the Antarctic as in some way disproving this. Au contraire:

In the context of climate change, GLOBAL sea ice area may not be the most relevant indicator. Almost all global climate models project a decrease in the Northern Hemisphere sea ice area over the next several decades under increasing greenhouse gas scenarios. But, the same model responses of the Southern Hemisphere sea ice are less certain. In fact, there have been some recent studies suggesting the amount of sea ice in the Southern Hemisphere may initially increase as a response to atmospheric warming through increased evaporation and subsequent snowfall onto the sea ice.

This seems to me the key point. You can't use scientific evidence whose source believes it points to global warming to argue that it points against it - without some clarification, at least.

But more interesting: if you define MSM reponse to factual errors by, say, ten days (let's call the measurement a Wieseltier), then the WaPo took 0.9 of Wieseltier to respond to an obvious error. The blogosphere responded at light speed. And the WaPo then had to pretend that it somehow exists in another more acceptable zone of media - and undertook its investigation and correction process independently of the vulgar - but factually accurate - blogs.

Memo to WaPo: your days of thinking like this are over. If you don't want to go the way of the Rocky Mountain News, wake up and smell the competition.

2006-2011 archives for The Daily Dish, featuring Andrew Sullivan

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