Defending the indefensible on global warming

by Ogi Overman

Well, Ol’ George W. missed another one. But it’s not the one you think it is, because, unlike the other George W., this one occasionally gets one right. In fact, if he would stick to baseball instead of dabbling in politics he would be a hero of mine.

The one in question is syndicated columnist George Will, a towering intellect, no doubt, and, along with William F. Buckley, one of the most eloquent spokesmen for the right-wing agenda. They are the conservative elite (yes, that’s right, conservative elite), but, sadly, are exemplars of what happens when ideology trumps intellect. And a recent column by Will is proof that even the big dogs phone one in occasionally.

Case in point: For some odd reason Will has taken it upon himself to defend global warming. It’s as though he thinks his powers of sophistry – and they are considerable – can swing the debate toward his contention that this hoopla over global warming is a big hype job by the “media-entertainment-environmental complex” (his words). But, uncharacteristically, his evidence to back up his claim is specious at best, laughable at worst.

In his April 13 column, one of his sources is Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, who states that compliance with the Kyoto treaty would reduce global warming by an amount too small to measure. What Will fails to mention is that Lomborg, an obscure Danish political scientist (that’s political scientist) has been almost universally dismissed by the real scientific community for misrepresenting and selectively cherry-picking data. In the interest of space, just Google the guy and find out for yourself.

Here we have proof that you can find someone in this world who will disagree with anything, regardless of the facts. Put these folks in the same box as those who deny the Holocaust, who believe the world was created in six days, who think OJ is innocent. There are such unfortunates.

Then Will throws in a strange paragraph about nature designing us as carnivores that I’ve read a dozen times and still can’t figure out where he’s going with it. He says that the world’s meat industry produces 18 percent of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions, more than transportation produces; that the warming effect of the nitrous oxide in manure is 296 times greater than that of carbon; and that the methane in animal flatulence is 23 times greater. From that are we supposed to gather that it’s really us meat-eaters who are responsible for global warming? Or is it cows? Thanks for clearing that up, George.

But then he goes into some territory that gets downright bizarre, making the argument that it is environmentally responsible to buy a Hummer and squash a Toyota Prius hybrid with it. He cites a source that says in “dollars per lifetime mile” a Prius costs $3.25, compared to $1.95 for a Hummer. The data is based on a Prius lasting 109,000 miles and a Hummer 207,000.

Ironically, the day before I read this I’d been out shopping for a Toyota Prius. My trade-in is a 1992 Toyota Camry that is chugging along with 233,000 miles on it. I guess Toyota decided to start building cars that wouldn’t last as long, huh, that sales were just too darn good? So what if the Prius has been voted Car of the Year in Europe, Japan and the US numerous times and that it gets 60 mpg in town and 51 on the road. Those are EPA numbers, by the way, not just Toyota’s. So, according to George, getting 8 mpg in town is better for the environment than getting 60. His evidence is that mining for the zinc in the car’s second motor is harming the environment, zinc being such a precious metal and all. Yep, gotta watch out for those zinc miners. Mr. Peabody’s zinc train has hauled it away, you know.

The only thing I can figure about why Will would write such drivel is that his mind was somewhere else. Since Opening Day was right around the time he had to file this column, I swear I think he phoned it in from Wrigley Field.

So why didn’t he write something credible on a subject about which he is both knowledgeable and passionate? Dunno. If you want to talk about whether Lou Piniella can turn the Cubbies around, I’m there with you, George. Can Dice-K bring the Bosox a pennant? I’m all ears. Should Barry Bonds retire with dignity before breaking Hank’s record? Clue me in, George.

But please, please, please stay away from trying to debunk global warming. You’re trying to defend the indefensible, and even you aren’t that good.

Ogi may be reached at, heard Tuesdays 9:30-10 a.m. on “The Dusty Dunn Show” on WGOS 1070 AM, and seen Fridays 6:30-7 a.m. on ABC45 and Sundays 10-10:30 p.m. on MVY48 on “Triad Today” hosted by Jim Longworth.