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"An Over-representation of Factual Presentations"

In a recent interview about the movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," Dave Roberts of Grist magazine, asked former Vice President Al Gore: "There's a lot of debate right now over the best way to communicate about global warming and get people motivated. Do you scare people or give them hope? What's the right mix?" Gore answered as follows:

I think the answer to that depends on where your audience's head is. In the United States of America, unfortunately we still live in a bubble of unreality. And the Category 5 denial is an enormous obstacle to any discussion of solutions. Nobody is interested in solutions if they don't think there's a problem. Given that starting point, I believe it is appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous it is, as a predicate for opening up the audience to listen to what the solutions are, and how hopeful it is that we are going to solve this crisis.

Over time that mix will change. As the country comes to more accept the reality of the crisis, there's going to be much more receptivity to a full-blown discussion of the solutions.

How should one interpret Gore's statement that it is "appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous it is." Is this a call for environmental activists to exaggerate or stretch the truth? Or merely an argument for emphasizing certain facts? I'd be curious what readers think.

UPDATE: Some commenters below speculate about my motives for this post. Contrary to the suggestion of Kieran and some of the others, this was not an effort to ridicule or disparage Gore — various selections from his book or earlier interviews would have better served that purpose. I was pointed to the quote by someone who thought that it was quite damning. Unconvinced, I was curious to see what readers of this blog made of the quote when presented in context.

For various other perspectives on the quote, see here, here, here, and here.

Sam Ventola (mail):
I'm not fan of Al Gore, but I think you have to assume that he meant that his presentation is a mix of "factual presentations on how dangerous it is" and "what the solutions are," and that for a US audience the former should predominate, so that they are "over-represented" in the mix as compared to discussion of the solutions.
5.28.2006 7:40pm
Cathy (mail) (www):
I would think more the latter. Parsing his language he still said there needed to be "factual representations" and he also talked about a "mix." What I think that means is that in a world where there are good things happening and troubling things happening, but people are only paying attention to the good ones and ignoring the bad, it may take disproportional over-emphasis of the bad things to get people to start paying attention to them. This doesn't mean make up bad things, but it does mean that if, in reality, the proportion of good and bad was, say, 50-50, and people act as though it's 99-1 in favor of the good, it might be necessary to communicate 99-1 in favor of the bad in order to shake them from that mindset, since the lesser (and actual) ratios of information don't seem to be given the appropriate level of concern.
5.28.2006 7:45pm
SMatthewStolte (mail):
An over-representation of facts seems to be a fact-heavy presentation. The Vice President seems to be reinterpreting the question. Instead of opposing fear against hope; he is opposing "the way things are" with "what we should do." The point is to convince people that the problem exists before persuading them to support the solution. As a matter of politics, this has to be a mistake. The emphasis on the problem of Global Warming without clear-headed articulation of the solutions leaves me cold, because I can only hear about the end of the world so many times before I tune out.

But, though he may be wrong, I don't see any suggestion that people should stretch the truth, or even emphasize certain facts over others. If the man wants to run for President again, he's going to have to work on communicating more plainly.
5.28.2006 7:55pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
Sounds to me like someone asked him a question and he jumbled his words a bit in replying. Give him the same benefit of the doubt an earlier post asked be given Bush or anyone in an unscripted response.

I think it's pretty obvious he wasn't advocating delibrate misrepresentation of the facts but just that people should focus on the danger until people are convinced.
5.28.2006 7:57pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
If it wasn't for Al Gore we wouldn't be having such an interesting discussion over the information superhighway.
5.28.2006 8:03pm
Bruce Wilder (www):
As a purely factual matter concerning the current state of general knowledge and public discussion, I think Gore is correct, if he thinks we are still debating >whether< Global Warming is a serious issue.

The case against Global Warming occuring is weak, scientifically, but, thanks to irresponsible and grossly overpaid executives at Exxon/Mobil and the like, it is very well-funded.

I think Gore believes that people are going to have to be told many times and in many ways that Global Warming is a very serious, long-term problem, before the vast majority will accept that this is the case. When the vast majority do accept that Global Warming is occuring, and that it must be dealt with, then we can have a political debate about what to do about it.

Personally, I think Gore is somewhat misguided, but, I have not yet seen his movie, so I may change my mind. I think some in business see "the problem" and "the solution" as fused -- business doesn't like what they see as likely candidates for "the solution" so they deny that there is a problem, and presentations from the Left, which neglect discussion of solution strategies just tend to confirm the Right in their stubborn resistance to reasonable solutions, a resistance, which is likely to continue to manifest as denial that global warming is taking place.

I actually think the politics would be significantly improved by more discussions of the kinds of "solutions" we may have to undertake. Palatable "solutions" are likely to persuade many resisters to accept as a given, that this really is a civilization-threatening problem.

The more difficult angle is the fusion between "global warming" and "peak oil". These really are two aspects of the same problem, but I don't see the politics as anywhere near a recognition of that reality as a whole.
5.28.2006 8:12pm
Hank:
Even if he believed it appropriate, Gore would not be stupid enough to openly call for environmental activitists to exaggerate or stretch the truth. And we have no reason, other than this inartfully worded statement, to think that he believes it appropriate for them to do so.
5.28.2006 8:17pm
David Sucher (mail) (www):
I hope I am not outside the bounds of civility for this wonderful blog but this question -- as opposed to Professor Eugene's appropriate questions about Bushisms, where I fully agreed -- does not strike me as a sincere and serious attempt to create a useful public conversation on a major issue.

I guess my question would be why are you asking a question which has such an obvious answer? Gore's language was a bit pompous but clear. Are you desiring to add 'noise' to the discussion. No?

Let me phrase it this way:

Do you think a Professor steeped in the English language and its interpretation (i.e. a law professor) truly has a difficult time understanding phrases like "...an over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous it is, as a predicate for opening up the audience to listen to what the solutions are..." Is the Professor's cliam that he is 'curious' to hear what readers think to be taken at face-value? Or is he actually asking a leading question aiming to elicit responses which denigrate Gore?

I'd be curious to hear comments.
5.28.2006 8:26pm
Bpbatista (mail):
"Fake but accurate" comes to mind.
5.28.2006 8:27pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Now if the president or Cheney said this, I would obviously conclude they meant to lie and make things up considering their proven track record of distorting facts, ignoring facts that contradicted their preconceived notions, and yes, I will say it, just outright lying to the American people. However, I think it is obvious that Gore means that he feels that he has to overemphasize the factual basis because the naysayers use the tactics I attribute to the administration.
5.28.2006 8:34pm
DoubleDownRob:
I don't think Al Gore has any friends... except ManBearPig.

seriously though, i think you have to question a movement that has, in the past (and possibly still now), included so called "eco-terrorists" in its mix. If global warming is a problem, then a discussion should be had, but Mr. Gore should be careful to include only scientists and advocates who are credible. I'm not a fan of Mr. Gore, but I'll listen if he presents a credible and convincing case.
5.28.2006 8:48pm
dick thompson (mail):
Is it the same scientists who told us all about the global ice age a few years ago. That is the same group who is now telling us all about a global warming now. When they base their whole argument on the past 100 years and the climate change as opposed to the climate change over the past 500 years in which the global warming is normal activity for the world.

What Gore is doing is giving us the Chicken Little argument here and trying to make it scientifically absolute. Instead there have been as many arguments against global warming as there are arguments for global warming. Neither is absolute. So we should take his POV as the definite way to go based on bad science or science that has not been proven one way or the other and totally wreck the economy of the world and then when we find his science was wrong, what are we to do then? Can I hear a big OOPS?????
5.28.2006 8:48pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
As CO2 output is partly a function of body mass, Al Gore is producing nearly 50% more CO2 than the average american, and I won't even venture a guess at his methane production.
5.28.2006 8:54pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Is it the same scientists who told us all about the global ice age a few years ago. That is the same group who is now telling us all about a global warming now.

I am tired of hearing this. The ice age theory was poorly supported and not widely accepted but picked up by the MSM because it sounded good. Global Warming is well-supported and widely accepted. The scientists who told us all about the global ice age are more akin to the global warming deniers.
5.28.2006 8:56pm
PersonFromPorlock:
I think we need to consider the possibility that in any statement by a politician, there may be no controlling semantic authority.
5.28.2006 8:58pm
Paddy O. (mail):
Does he mean something like, "If people aren't listening, then it's perfectly fine to yell"?

Anti-war folks have done this quite well. And it does seem to be the same for environmental causes. I think of California's oft considered draconian laws for gas economy and pollution. The auto makers fumed about the emission standards, yet now, with gas prices as high, what California did provoked good practices and those ahead of the game on that are reaping the benefits.

It does seem to be he's admitting the excesses of his movie, while saying using such excess is worth it.

One could say Bush over-represented the facts in going into Iraq.

I like Bush and I dislike Gore. Both use the technique for different causes. It works for doing what needs to be done. Isn't this what advocates are supposed to do?
5.28.2006 9:13pm
Kieran (mail):
The two lame efforts at trollage from Frank Drackmann so far are closest to the motivating spirit of Jonathan's original post, I think.
5.28.2006 9:14pm
Gil (mail) (www):
I guess the question is what is meant by "over-representation".

Compared to what?

Compared to a scenario in which everyone already agrees with Gore's premises about the problem, and the bulk of the discussion can focus on solutions?

Or, compared to a presentation intended to leave a smart and skeptical audience with a fair idea of the best theories available?

I, personally, have little doubt that Gore is willing to deceive people to further his agenda.

But, I don't think that one can fairly reach such a conclusion from this answer alone.
5.28.2006 9:17pm
tefta (mail):
Freder, you keep forgetting to add s/on -- s/off to your comments. Oh! You're serious. Sorry.
5.28.2006 9:26pm
Tom952 (mail):
Of course, it depends on what he actually means by "Factual Presentations"...I mean like, what I consider to be Factual Presentations may seem to someone else...
5.28.2006 9:26pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
Human CO2 production is aproximately 3ml/kg/min (at rest). The average adult American male weighs 80kg, the female 59kg. Al Gore appears to be a bit above the average, hence his greater than average contribution to the depletion of the ozone layer. And thats not even figuring in the methane output.
5.28.2006 9:35pm
Fishbane (mail):
Does the plain, textual meaning of the words confuse Jonathan? I think he's too smart for that.

If not, then we can only conclude that he either disagrees with them, or wishes to cast doubt on them.

Since I don't think he disagrees with them, I have to lean towards the latter.

The question then becomes why he's attempting to discount the word of a person with whom he actually mostly agrees.
5.28.2006 9:43pm
Jacob (mail):
DoubleDownRoby said:

seriously though, i think you have to question a movement that has, in the past (and possibly still now), included so called "eco-terrorists" in its mix. If global warming is a problem, then a discussion should be had, but Mr. Gore should be careful to include only scientists and advocates who are credible. I'm not a fan of Mr. Gore, but I'll listen if he presents a credible and convincing case.

I'd like to keep eco-(and all varieties of)terrorists out of important discussions too, but you seem to imply that they've had a big impact on Gore in the past. I'm curious as to how you measure the connection between the "terrorist fringe" to the mainstream peaceful elements and spokespeople of a movement? Is it like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon? If a former veep was at a rally with someone who was at a rally with someone who once attacked a fishing boat, is that the same as a sitting senator giving a commencement speech at a school where a faculty member was in a congregation with an abortion clinic-bomber?* What do people who care about global warming have to do to convince others they're not out to hurt anybody or gain the legitimacy of other movements? Is a "We're not PETA" disclaimer-per-day enough? What types of standards do you see other groups meeting that environmentalists just aren't?



*obviously complete speculation on my part
5.28.2006 10:15pm
Fishbane (mail):
After seeing the update, I apologize for questioning Johnathan's motives. It just seemed to me to be such a straightforward strategy statement that I had trouble reading the question without seeing secondary motives. (If you can read duplicity into a statement about hammering on facts, then what do you make of Overton's Window?)

Like him or not, Gore has a strong claim on the title of most wrongly abused pol in recent memory. Not that that should cut him any slack, but it does rightly influence how people look at commentary on him.

In any case, I apologize for my misreading.
5.28.2006 10:27pm
Michael B (mail):
"... the motivating spirit ..." Kieran

"The question then becomes ..." Fishbane

Good grief, tough crowd. I suspect the most nefarious ruse, the most devious trickery of all: sincerity - on the part of both JA and Al (internet and lockbox) Gore.
5.28.2006 10:29pm
Charles Iragui:
Exaggeration has always been a useful and often benign rhetorical device. Especially in democracy, where politicians are speaking to quite diverse audiences, hyperbolic arguments, representing reasonable positions, are normal. Often politicians need to make the case simplistic and emotional in order to stimulate public enthusiasm. See: free trade (supporters never acknowledge the costs), Social Security reform (not going broke any time soon), terror threat resistance (quite likely Al Quaeda had little capacity after Afghanistan invasion). All of these are nevertheless sensible policies.

Tony Blair is hated in Britain for stretching intelligence regarding the threat of WMD. Probably true, but the case for invading Iraq was/is very strong... and difficult to make to the public.

What happens when something needs to get done but strict adherence to prudent language makes the case unpersuasive?
5.28.2006 10:54pm
frankcross (mail):
I think the ill worded response is subject to both interpretations.

The conspirators have asked that commenters not impugn their motives, and it would be best if they extend this grace to others.
5.28.2006 10:59pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
Isn't it obvious that Gore is saying that his movie is focused on making the case for the existence of global warming, rather than solutions to the problem, because our political and economic systems are completely biased against it? The president of the U.S. doesn't even believe it is occurring!

When X is believed by an audience, and yet Y is reality, a film making assertions based on Y with inadequate explanation would be too easily dismissed. Thus, facts are over-represented in the film, as opposed to speculative solutions. When global warming is finally understood by everyone, Gore seems to be saying, then we can try to solve it.

How many here have actually seen his film? I saw it on Wednesday; not a great movie by any means (the very staged "That lobbyist was in charge of what at the White House?!" scene was particularly painful, and too much was focused on his biography), but the science was extremely persuasive. And the film goes back much further than a hundred years, or even 500, to make its case, Dick Thompson--it uses the glacial record from 650,000 years ago, in fact.
5.28.2006 11:02pm
Thomasly (mail):
Well, Kieran's post is much closer to trolling than all but 2 of the posts so far. So apparently Kieran has misunderstood the point of the post, and has engaged in a bit of projection. Perhaps his site is more prone to the thing he accuses Jonathan of.

Jonathan, as they like to say on the leftwing sites, DFTT. Ignore Kieran and he may go away.
5.28.2006 11:35pm
byomtov (mail):
It's quite clear that Gore is saying that there are two aspects to global warming discussions - presenting the facts of the problem and proposing solutions - and that for now presenting the facts is more important. Later, as the quote says, that mix will change.

To claim Gore is advocating misrepresentation is simply dishonest.
5.28.2006 11:35pm
therut:
Reminds me of snake oil sellers of past. History will show Global Warming as a nutty idea of the 21st century. He will make his name in history as someone who was WRONG.Good Grief save us from persons who think they can know what the weather on the earth is going to be like a century from now. Wish I could live long enough to see how history will write the whole idea off as a superstition. I can see it now. Look what some humans thought in old days. Boy were they living in the dark ages. Watch out for that BLACK CAT!!!!!!!!!!!!
5.28.2006 11:36pm
Seth Edenbaum (mail) (www):
"over-representation of factual presentations."
How does this not mean to "hit people over the head" with facts?

The author of the post is either a disingenuous idiot, or merely an idiot.
Does it matter which?
5.29.2006 12:06am
Frank Drackmann (mail):
How did Al Gore get to Cannes anyway? Probably in a multiengine jet spewing tons of hydrocarbon full jet(and not a full airline jet either, where at least the number of passengers makes the energy expenditure a little more efficient) exhaust into the troposphere, where its also closer to the vital ozone(O3) layer. He could have set an example by traveling by wind powered means, either sailboat or baloon.
5.29.2006 12:08am
SPR:
Hey, he's super serial. Manbearpig is could mean the end to the human race as we know it. Thank you Al Gore, you're superawesome.
5.29.2006 12:15am
Tom952 (mail):
If you believe Global Warming is an indisputable fact, then look at this: Fort Scott or this Leavenworth or Danville and Fort Dodge

And tell me why the data doesn't illustrate global warming?

The data I see shows 1) there is more CO2 in the atmosphere recently, 2) urban areas are significantly hotter lately, but 3) many non-urban temperature records show no obvious or consistent pattern. Some up, some down, some the same.
5.29.2006 12:35am
Fishbane (mail):
The data I see shows 1) there is more CO2 in the atmosphere recently, 2) urban areas are significantly hotter lately, but 3) many non-urban temperature records show no obvious or consistent pattern. Some up, some down, some the same.

And you find that a compelling argument against the notion that humans are, via an explosion of energy exploitation over the last century, having an impact on the global temperature, why, exactly?
5.29.2006 12:47am
plunge (mail):
I'd say that the quote pretty clearly is not endorsing lying.

Which means that the people you link to are lying. Should that suprise us?
5.29.2006 12:51am
Medis:
Here we go again.

I gather from the "update" that we are not supposed to blame Adler for this hack job. It is Mr. X, the guy who first pointed Adler to the quote, who we are supposed to blame instead. Adler is just kindly passing the smear along for our consideration.

Why, thanks! How considerate of Adler.

Incidentally, this is a nice touch: "Contrary to the suggestion of Kieran and some of the others, this was not an effort to ridicule or disparage Gore — various selections from his book or earlier interviews would have better served that purpose."

I guess the idea is that we shouldn't even bother asking Adler to go ahead and ridicule Gore--we should just assume that Adler is capable of doing so at will, and conclude that Gore really is just too ridiculous to bother with.

Here we go again.
5.29.2006 1:00am
Fishbane (mail):
As a card carrying member of "some of the others", I should note that, contra Medis, I take Johnathan at his word. I suspected silly ad-hominem Gore bashing, but I don't think that is what was actually going on here. We can of course look forward to future comments, and judge from those, but for the time being it is too soon to call him out as a partisan hack.
5.29.2006 1:16am
Lev:

Nobody is interested in solutions if they don't think there's a problem. Given that starting point, I believe it is appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous it is, as a predicate for opening up the audience to listen to what the solutions are, and how hopeful it is that we are going to solve this crisis.


If it were just a matter of having factual presentations of "the danger" as opposed to mixed presentations that combine factual presentations of "the danger" and possible solutions to it, the comment would be unexceptional.

The question is, do the "factual presentations of the danger" in fact present actual facts. Or, do they present hyped extremist scare talk - and is that what Gore is actually referring to.

For example, a clip from his Oscar Winning "Documentary" (as seen on TV - Ebert &Roper, those notorious right wing extremists) has Gore pointing to a visual in his presentation that shows NYC being inundated up to 30 feet above sea level, while Gore proclaims that if the Greenland ice cap melts sea level would rise by 30 feet.

While it is a fact that if the Greenland ice cap melted sea level would rise 30 feet, what climatologist of any reputation is predicting the Greenland ice cap will melt as a result of human caused global warming?

Yet, Gore's presentation is supposedly one of the fact based presentations he is referring to.
5.29.2006 1:36am
Medis:
Fishbane,

I might have bought it if Adler had stopped at the hyphen. The phrase after the hyphen, however, is hard to explain away.

That said, I'm not saying Adler actually is a hack through and through. But here he is at least an accomplice to hackery, and I see no reason not to call him on it.
5.29.2006 1:39am
SJK (mail):
The statement reminds me of when The Day After Tomorrow came out and print papers were dedicating the story to the dangers of global warming and one quote from an actual scientist saying what happened in the movie could never happen.
5.29.2006 2:08am
Bob Loblaw (www):
Hack.
5.29.2006 2:26am
Harry Eagar (mail):
If Gore were advocating extremism in the defense of anthropogenic global warming, he wouldn't have been the first. Stephen Schnieder has been trying to live that down for a decade now.

But I don't read the quotation as doing that.

However, numerous critics have shown that what Gore presents as facts are, often, wild exaggerations.

So the concept 'over-representation of the facts' should be attached to Gore as an ideal to which he might aspire but has not come close to achieving himself.
5.29.2006 3:10am
Steve:
It's obviously absurd to think that Gore sat there and matter-of-factly told an interviewer that he think it's ok to lie for the cause, and of course, the actual meaning of the words he used is nothing of the sort. When will people finally tire of watching the Gore-haters tell lies about Gore over and over and over again?

Even if you can't stand the guy, my God, that doesn't excuse you from debating honestly. If Gore is really as prone to exaggeration as his critics would have it, I'm sure there is lots and lots of debunking one can do on the merits. Conversely, one could assume from the sheer volume of ad hominem attacks launched against Gore that there is really very little to say against the merits of his case.
5.29.2006 3:35am
Elliot123 (mail):
Bruce wilder,

What we do about global warming is obvious. We adapt to it as we have in the past. It is far easier to demonstrate global warming than it is to demonstrate that humans are responsible for it. The globe has warmed and cooled repeatedly in the past with no help from humanity.

The danger lies in the notion that we have control over the temperature, and that control can be exercised by national legislatures enacting various provisions.
5.29.2006 4:08am
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
For example, a clip from his Oscar Winning "Documentary" (as seen on TV - Ebert &Roper, those notorious right wing extremists) has Gore pointing to a visual in his presentation that shows NYC being inundated up to 30 feet above sea level, while Gore proclaims that if the Greenland ice cap melts sea level would rise by 30 feet.

While it is a fact that if the Greenland ice cap melted sea level would rise 30 feet, what climatologist of any reputation is predicting the Greenland ice cap will melt as a result of human caused global warming?


It's actually not Oscar-winning; the film just opened on Wednesday, and the Oscars for films released this year will be handed out in 2007. At any rate, Gregg Easterbrook had a problem with this section of the film in his Slate review, too, but it is a result of a lack of context more than anything in the film.

Just before the discussion of the sea level rising high enough to engulf the World Trade Center site in Manhattan (not all of NYC would get inundated; Gore specifically uses the WTC site as an example of what would be underwater should the sea level rise by twenty feet, not thirty), Gore describes how rivers have formed through the ice in Antarctica, contrary to scientists' previous predictions, causing large chunks to melt and fall into the ocean. Read more here. The point is not that all of Greenland will melt; rather, Greenland's natural summer warming (predicted to be higher than it ever has been this summer) will disrupt Antarctic ice.

To specifically answer your question, Chris Rapley of the British Antarctic Survey and Jim Hansen of NASA. I'm sure we will hear a lot more about how Gore says definitively that New York will be underwater by the end of the century or somesuch.
5.29.2006 4:57am
Tim Lambert (mail) (www):
Lev asks "what climatologist of any reputation is predicting the Greenland ice cap will melt as a result of human caused global warming?"

It was a recent paper in Science. Realclimate has a nice summary.
5.29.2006 5:00am
jb (mail):
This "Over-representation of facts" sounds like a trial or debate where one side gets X time to present its case, and the opposing side gets Y time, and X is significantly greater than Y.

There is little doubt that there is "Global Warming" going on. There is a lot of doubt that human activity is primarily responsible, and even more doubt that even if we are responsible, the cost/benefit analysis is in favor of going back to 1900s levels of CO2 emissions.
5.29.2006 7:51am
Bottomfish (mail):
Somehow I feel there is a lot of hot air in this series of postings. Here is how a skeptical scientist replied to Al Gore:

Dear Mr. Gore:

I have just seen your new movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," about the threat that global warming presents to humanity. I think you did a very good job of explaining global warming theory, and your presentation was effective. Please convey my compliments to your good friend, Laurie David, for a job well done.
As a climate scientist myself -- you might remember me...I'm the one you mistook for your "good friend," UK scientist Phil Jones during my congressional testimony some years back -- I have a few questions that occurred to me while watching the movie.
1) Why did you make it look like hurricanes, tornadoes,
wildfires, floods, droughts, and ice calving off of glaciers and falling into the ocean, are only recent phenomena associated with global warming? You surely know that hurricane experts have been warning congress for many years that the natural cycle in hurricanes would return some day, and that our built-up coastlines were ripe for a disaster (like Katrina, which you highlighted in the movie). And as long as snow continues to fall on glaciers, they will continue to flow downhill toward the sea. Yet you made it look like these things wouldn't happen if it weren't for global warming. Also, since there are virtually no measures of severe weather showing a recent increase, I assume those graphs you showed
actually represented damage increases, which are well known to be simply due to greater population and wealth. Is that right?

2) Why did you make it sound like all scientists agree that climate change is manmade and not natural? You mentioned a recent literature review study that supposedly found no peer-reviewed articles that attributed climate change to natural causes (a non-repeatable study which has since been refuted....I have a number of such articles in my office!) You also mentioned how important it is to listen to scientists when they warn us, yet surely you know that almost all past scientific predictions of gloom and doom have been wrong. How can we trust scientists' predictions now?

3) I know you still must feel bad about the last presidential election being stolen from you, but why did you have to make fun of Republican presidents (Reagan; both Bushes) for their views on global warming? The points you made in the movie might have had wider appeal if you did not alienate so many moviegoers in this manner.

4) Your presentation showing the past 650,000 years of
atmospheric temperature and carbon dioxide reconstructions from ice cores was very effective. But I assume you know that some scientists view the CO2 increases as the result of, rather than the cause of, past temperature increases. It seems unlikely that CO2 variations have been the dominant cause of climate change for hundreds of thousands of years. And now that there is a new source of carbon ions (people), those old relationships are probably not valid anymore. Why did you give no hint of these alternative views?

5) When you recounted your 6-year-old son's tragic accident that nearly killed him, I thought that you were going to make the point that, if you had lived in a poor country like China or India, your son would have probably died. But then you later held up these countries as model examples for their low greenhouse gas emissions, without mentioning that the only reason their emissions were so low was because people in those countries are so poor. I'm confused...do you really want us to live like the poor people in India and China?

6) There seems to be a lot of recent concern that more polar bears are drowning these days because of disappearing sea ice. I assume you know that polar bears have always migrated to land in late summer when sea ice naturally melts back, and then return to the ice when it re-freezes. Also, if this was really happening, why did the movie have to use a computer generated animation of the poor polar bear swimming around looking for ice? Haven't there been any actual observations of this happening? Also, temperature measurements in the arctic
suggest that it was just as warm there in the 1930's, before most greenhouse gas emissions. Don't you ever wonder whether sea ice concentrations back then were low, too?

7) Why did you make it sound like simply signing on to the Kyoto Protocol to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions would be such a big step forward, when we already know it will have no measurable effect on global temperatures anyway? And even though it represents such a small emission reduction, the economic pain Kyoto causes means that almost no developed country will be meeting its emission reductions commitments under that treaty, as we are now witnessing in Europe.

8) At the end of the movie, you made it sound like we can
mostly fix the global warming problem by conserving energy... you even claimed we can reduce our carbon emissions to zero. But I'm sure you know that this will only be possible with major technological advancements, including a probable return to nuclear power as an energy source. Why did you not mention this need for technological advancement and nuclear power? It is because that would support the current (Republican)
Administration's view?

Mr. Gore, I think we can both agree that if it was relatively easy for mankind to stop emitting so much carbon dioxide, that we should do so. You are a very smart person, so I can't understand why you left so many important points unmentioned, and you made it sound so easy.

I wish you well in these efforts, and I hope that humanity will make the right choices based upon all of the information we have on the subject of global warming. I agree with you that global warming is indeed a "moral issue," and if we are to avoid doing more harm than good with misguided governmental policies, we will need more politicians to be educated on the issue.

Your "Good Friend,"
Dr. Roy W. Spencer
(aka 'Phil Jones')


©2000-2006 TCS Daily

Please note that for Spencer the issue is how facts are interpreted, not what facts are over-represented.
5.29.2006 8:45am
Richard Vail (mail):
Frank D., of course Al INVENTED the internet...and mary poppins too!
5.29.2006 10:19am
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
Also, if this was really happening, why did the movie have to use a computer generated animation of the poor polar bear swimming around looking for ice? Haven't there been any actual observations of this happening?

I agree with a lot of the assessments of Gore's film in this letter (except for the equation of technological advancement with nuclear power--unless he means that we'd need a lot of new technology to control the resultant tons of nuclear waste), but this was simply an absurd question.

Over the last twenty years, the ice cap has receded 200 miles, and dead polar bears have been found 60 miles out at sea:


The new study, carried out in part of the Beaufort Sea, shows that between 1986 and 2005 just 4% of the bears spotted off the north coast of Alaska were swimming in open waters. Not a single drowning had been documented in the area.

However, last September, when the ice cap had retreated a record 160 miles north of Alaska, 51 bears were spotted, of which 20% were seen in the open sea, swimming as far as 60 miles off shore.

The researchers returned to the vicinity a few days later after a fierce storm and found four dead bears floating in the water. “We estimate that of the order of 40 bears may have been swimming and that many of those probably drowned as a result of rough seas caused by high winds,” said the report.


Aside from this, I think that the choice was made in Gore's film was to connect it in the audience's mind to the computer-generated Coke polar bear.
5.29.2006 10:45am
Frank Drackmann (mail):
Personally, if I lived in Greenland, I'd want the Icecap to melt. I'd be happy with fewer polar bears also.
5.29.2006 11:14am
Frank Drackmann (mail):
High temperature today in Thule Greenland is 30F,so how is anything melting?
5.29.2006 11:18am
Anderson (mail) (www):
Sam Ventola gave the only rational reading in the very first comment. Sure, you can omit the context and deconstruct Gore's remark until it could mean whatever you want ... but why would anyone want to do that ...?

Oh, and as to Steve's comment--
Conversely, one could assume from the sheer volume of ad hominem attacks launched against Gore that there is really very little to say against the merits of his case.
--never underestimate the motivating power of sheer laziness.

Research into global warming and its causes? Bor-ing.

Ad hominem attacks on Al Gore? Child's play--most of the work was done during the 2000 campaign.
5.29.2006 11:33am
plunge (mail):
So, now I'm questioning your motives for not further correcting your post.
5.29.2006 11:33am
johnt (mail):
To over represent is to skewer, to skewer is not to discuss and weight the facts but rather offer an argument, that having been edited, is perforce dishonest.
Of all people do we have to split hairs with "Screaming" Al Gore? Quick, to the dictionary, look up euphemism.
On the other hand, don't. Let yourself wallow in hearing what you want to be told. Comfortable but dangerous.
5.29.2006 12:05pm
Steve:
I'm confused...do you really want us to live like the poor people in India and China?

I don't recall anywhere in the movie where Gore holds up India and China as model societies. He does make reference to the relatively high fuel economy standards in China, pointing out that this means cars manufactured to US standards can't be sold in the emerging Chinese markets. He also uses this fact to make the point that a proposed increase in US standards over the next decade would still leave us well short of China, as a means of suggesting that the proposal isn't so onerous.

A major lesson of the film, in fact, is that any political solution to global warming needs to take India and China into account in a major way, given the population of these countries and how fast they are developing. One point Gore likes to make is that subsidizing the creation of cleaner alternate fuel technologies is not just a good idea for environmental reasons; there is also a huge, huge market in Asia for American technologies along these lines.

I take Spencer's "letter" to be nothing more than a snarky collection of cheap shots, cleverly phrased as questions so that he can't be accused of factual inaccuracy. After all, of course Gore didn't say he wants us to live like the poor people in China and India... so let's ask it in the form of a question instead, to get the thought out there.
5.29.2006 12:20pm
David Sucher (mail) (www):
"I was pointed to the quote by someone who thought that it was quite damning. Unconvinced, I was curious to see what readers of this blog made of the quote when presented in context."

How convenient. The "someone else" foil.

"He put the gun in my hand and made me pull the trigger."

And "I only read Playboy for the interviews."
5.29.2006 12:30pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
It's only OK when Colin Powell does it.
5.29.2006 1:43pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Steve, which was it?

Did Gore praise the fuel policy of China or didn't he?

If he did, and you said it, not me, then he ought to be ridden out of politics on a rail.

China does not have high fuel economy standards. It doesn't have any standards at all.

Last summer, I was chatting with an American economist who had just returned from lecturing in China. He was telling how exciting his departure had been: the runway in a city of 8 million (I don't know which one) was in the middle of the city, next to the power plant, which burned soft coal with NO emission controls, and although the flight departed in full daylight, the runway was totally obscured with black smoke.
5.29.2006 1:53pm
Bob Violence (mail):
Harry Eagar,

How is your anecdote about a coal plant proof that China doesn't have high fuel economy standards for motor vehicles?
5.29.2006 3:41pm
John Anderson:
I don't think Gory was actually advocating lying.

That said, I think he swallowed the "It's all our [either the US or humanity as a whole] fault, and what we have to do is cut back our consumption and population levels and technology to the late sixteenth century" meme years ago and has not thought about it since. Yes, Warming is almost certainly happening. And I suppose it is possible that our relatively (compared to that mother, Nature) puny output of CO2, CFC's, etc. may be exacerbating - or ameliorating - the problem. But causing the warming? I've been waiting a couple of years now for someone to explain how my driving over 45mph is warming Mars, Saturn, and at least some of the Jovian moons.
5.29.2006 3:58pm
Colin (mail):
"I think he swallowed the "It's all our [either the US or humanity as a whole] fault, and what we have to do is cut back our consumption and population levels and technology to the late sixteenth century" meme years ago and has not thought about it since."

How low has the bar for honest criticism sunk when commenters are accusing Al Gore of trying to roll populations and technology back to the Sixteenth Century? Between this and the "a Dixie Chick married an Arab, so they must be paid off" comments on that thread, the Conspiracy has been a bit disappointing this weekend.
5.29.2006 4:38pm
tefta (mail):
Colin get your conspiracy right. Dixie Chicks are rich little girls and don't need to worry about their bottom line. Married to an Arab and the daughter of a Persian doctor, it's reasonable to assume they might have an agenda and you might want to read Gore's book, "Earth in the Balance" before you decide whether he has any credibility as a spokesman for anything even tangentially scientific.
5.29.2006 7:00pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
So what, Bob? China uses more fuel in central plants than in its few autos. Steve is the one who said what Gore said, not me.

But if Gore is blandly cherrypicking factoids and ignoring the genuine issue -- which is how I interpret Steve's post -- then I'm changing my mind.

At the start of this thread, I did not think the quotation indicated that Gore was advocating dishonesty. On its face, it still doesn't.

As has happened in the past, Gore's friends are more dangerous to his image than his enemies.
5.29.2006 7:44pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
When Al Gore rides a rickshaw or bicycle to work I'll consider it, until then I'm sticking to jets and gas guzzling cars, and I'll circle the walmart parking lot endlessly so I don't have to walk the 100 yards from the back. I also dump my used motor oil on the ground, its where it came from in the first place.
5.29.2006 8:54pm
Prestigious Law School Grad (mail):
It's true that it isn't the clearest phrasing possible, but any damning interpretation of the quote is one contrived in order to attack Gore. He's simply saying that you need to give a presentation that is heavy on facts. There's nothing to suggest he intends to spin or mislead.
5.29.2006 10:43pm
Francis:
Frank: please post the city you live in. that way, when your local water company needs to invest significant sums of money to remove hydrocarbons from the drinking water, we'll know who it needs to pursue.
5.29.2006 10:45pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
I've probably dumped used oil in almost all of the contiguous states at some point in my career as a big rig operator, your oil ends up in the same place, you just use jiffy lube as a middle man so you don't feel guilty.
5.29.2006 11:44pm
Tim Lambert (mail) (www):
5.30.2006 1:19am
Alfalfa Male:
I don't know whether Gore's statement indicates that it is okay to fib about global warming, but are some quotes by others.

NASA's James Hansen, sometimes called the "father of global warming", wrote in Natural Science, "Emphasis on extreme scenarios may have been appropriate at one time, when the public and decision-makers were relatively unaware of the global warming issue."

Stanford professor Stephen Schneider has said that attracting public attention necessitates "getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have."

In 1998, Canada's Environment Minister, Christine Stewart, said, "No matter if the science is all phony, there are collateral environmental benefits . . . Climate change [provides] the greatest chance to bring about justice and equality in the world."
5.30.2006 12:52pm
Colin (mail):
Thank you, Tim Lambert.
5.30.2006 1:00pm
Lev:
Speaking of Al Gore, we are facing..."the end of civilization as we know it..."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/wales/5028470.stm
5.30.2006 2:19pm
Prestigious Law School Grad (mail):
Let's not forget the Republican position with regard to honesty in the global warming discussion.

"A compelling story, even if factually inaccurate, can be more emotionally compelling than a dry recitation of the truth." - Republican strategist Frank Luntz
http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,12271,906978,00.html
5.30.2006 10:36pm
Ken B:
Not damning at all alas. I'd love to nail Gore but it is really unfair to take this quote as anything but a justification for making a lot of noise.
5.31.2006 4:27pm