Fair enough, but background, expertise, and reputation were certainly close enough to the heart of the piece to merit consideration. And even with such context, the choice of frame still seems questionable. Revkin’s main point, that we must not overplay or underplay the impacts climate change is incredibly important, but using Gore and Will to illustrate that point seems to be a case of needlessly politicizing climate issues in order to get space in the newspaper, which Revkin has deplored many times. Again, a backgrounder might have helped, but the result—a lot of heat and no light, as they say—might have been the same regardless.

Along that line, Revkin quoted American University communications professor Matthew Nisbet, who argues that the wave of criticism of Will “only serves to draw attention to his claims while reinforcing a larger false narrative that liberals and the mainstream press are seeking to censor rival scientific evidence and views.”

There is some truth to that. Indeed, because of the hullaballoo, Will is now writing about climate change for the second time this month. On the other hand, this whole affair raises a number of important questions about how the press, particularly columnists, cover climate change. The most important seems to be: can inference rise to the level of such absurdity that it becomes subject to the same rigors as evidence?

Curtis Brainard is the editor of The Observatory, CJR's online critique of science and environment reporting. Follow him on Twitter @cbrainard.