Notwithstanding the question in the title, I suspect that conservative columnist George Will isn’t really stupid. Yet, he writes intellectually indefensible columns about anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming (AGW). Will’s latest, published in today’s Washington Post, is a head-scratcher.
To Will’s credit, he discusses two recent histories that certainly sound impressive: William Rosen’s The Third Horseman: Climate Change and the Great Famine of the 14th Century and Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century. They both focus on naturogenic, as opposed to anthropogenic, climate crises that battered Europe, causing millions of deaths.
To Will’s discredit, the moral he derives from them is that because non-human caused climate change in the second millenium twice-imposed untold misery, we shouldn’t try to prevent a third abrupt climate disruption. Will doesn’t quite come out and deny that fossil fuel consumption is causing the recent rise in global temperature that appears to have left us hotter than we’ve been in at least four thousand years.
He does claim incorrectly, however, that “from the end of the ninth century to the beginning of the 14th, the Northern Hemisphere was warmer than at any time in the past 8,000 years.” In fact, NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center says the Northern Hemisphere is now hotter than it was during the Medieval Warm Period and hence the hottest it’s been in the common era.
That “serious people” agree human activity is heating the Earth dangerously cannot have escaped Will’s notice. Yet, he refuses even to acknowledge the consensus much less that it is correct. Instead, he absurdly suggests that because the past 800 years have seen two recent instances of relatively abrupt naturogenic cooling the recent steep upturn in global temperatures may not be human-caused.
The reason for this Will-ful obstinance is hinted when the columnist writes: “Before wagering vast wealth and curtailments of liberty on correcting the climate, two recent books should be considered.” (Emphasis supplied). If we recognize the ominous threat of global warming, Will appears to be conceding, we’ll have to forsake vast wealth and curtail liberty by which he means imposing new industry regulations and consumption taxes.
Will understands that the classical liberal political economy he favors cannot survive a serious effort to combat AGW. Government action to raise the cost of extracting and consuming fossil fuels would be a given. And, if this were to happen the limited government “free market” ideal that Will has embraced for decades would be shattered.
Facing incontrovertible evidence of global warming, George Will has a choice. 1) He can reject the ideology that he has promoted for forty years and that has made him rich and famous. 2) He can deny the facts. Sadly but predictably he has chosen the latter course.