February 23, 2009

andy_alexander_f6160.jpg Lucky Andy Alexander. Even before he introduced himself as the new Washington Post Ombudsman, replacing the embattled Deborah Howell, he has already stepped into a rather steaming pile of dung. Sadly, instead of discerning the truth for the readers of Washington Post, Alexander opted to compound the error:

As numerous progressive and science bloggers have pointed out, Washington Post columnist George Will misused data and distorted statements made by climate experts in order to suggest that human-caused global warming is not occurring. Moreover, in his reported response to criticism of Will's column, Post ombudsman Andy Alexander falsely suggested that a statement by the Arctic Climate Research Center (ACRC) supports Will's claims about sea ice levels when, in fact, the ACRC statement rebuts the very argument Will was making. Indeed, contrary to Will's suggestion that ACRC data on global sea ice levels undermine the overwhelming scientific consensus that humans are causing global warming, the ACRC document Alexander cites actually states that the sea ice data are consistent with the outcomes projected by climate-change models and studies.

In his February 15 column, Will suggested that ACRC data undermine the case for the existence of "man-made global warming":

As global levels of sea ice declined last year, many experts said this was evidence of man-made global warming. Since September, however, the increase in sea ice has been the fastest change, either up or down, since 1979, when satellite record-keeping began. According to the University of Illinois' Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979.

In response, the ACRC reportedly stated:

We do not know where George Will is getting his information, but our data shows that on February 15, 1979, global sea ice area was 16.79 million sq. km and on February 15, 2009, global sea ice area was 15.45 million sq. km. Therefore, global sea ice levels are 1.34 million sq. km less in February 2009 than in February 1979. This decrease in sea ice area is roughly equal to the area of Texas, California, and Oklahoma combined.

It is disturbing that the Washington Post would publish such information without first checking the facts.

Responding to criticism of Will's column and of the Post's refusal thus far to correct it, Alexander reportedly suggested in an email to The Wonk Room's Brad Johnson that Will's "conclusion" is supported by a January ACRC document.

Not a very auspicious start for Alexander. Wonder if he'll start referring to readers with as much snide disdain as Howell did.

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