It gets scarier and scarier. Wait til you see how the Senate is attacking the scientific community and risking our future. But let’s ease into it this way:
Kathi Derevan: ‘We finally went to see An Inconvenient Truth last night. Now, may I say, I was going more out of duty than desire. I just couldn’t imagine it was going to be more than a lecture, and maybe a dry one at that. Wow. I am going to try to get everyone I know and everyone they know to see it. Amazing.’
And now let’s ratchet it up:
Roger in Calgary: ‘The scientific community is NOT of one mind as you insist. Please go here or here. The movie is rife with distortions and falsehoods. I consider you to be fair-minded but on this issue, you are completely closed-minded.’
☞ First off, can we avoid use of words like ‘distortion’ and ‘falsehood’? Unless you think Gore and the rest of the scientific community are on some sort of evil mission to save civilization, shouldn’t you use words like ‘unsupported conclusions and inaccuracies’ to describe what you think the film is guilty of?
But see, here’s the thing: It’s not like the space shuttle, where every last detail needs to be perfect or you shouldn’t launch. Even if there are scientists who question some of this – as until recently there were scientists who questioned any causal connection between smoking and cancer – do we really need every single scientist in the world to agree with every single word of the movie before we see the bigger picture and take action?
That question holds even if there are truly independent scientists who have reached the same conclusions as those that Exxon, et al, have funded (in the grand scientific tradition of the Tobacco Institute before them).
Here’s what the Associated Press found when it surveyed climatologists:
The nation’s top climate scientists are giving “An Inconvenient Truth,” Al Gore’s documentary on global warming, five stars for accuracy.
The former vice president’s movie – replete with the prospect of a flooded New York City, an inundated Florida, more and nastier hurricanes, worsening droughts, retreating glaciers and disappearing ice sheets – mostly got the science right, said all 19 climate scientists who had seen the movie or read the book and answered questions from The Associated Press.
The tiny errors scientists found weren’t a big deal, “far, far fewer and less significant than the shortcoming in speeches by the typical politician explaining an issue,” said Michael MacCracken, who used to be in charge of the nation’s global warming effects program and is now chief scientist at the Climate Institute in Washington.
But now here’s where it gets really scary:
The Republican Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works has vehemently attacked the AP for this report, demanding, for example, that AP list all 19 scientists it talked to, not just the five it quoted.
I don’t suppose AP would mind doing this, and may already have done so. (Would that we could say the same for the secret list of participants in Dick Cheney’s secret 2001 energy task force – the list that even a GAO lawsuit could not pry loose for public inspection.)
But what an astonishing position for the Republican Majority on this committee to take!
The headline of their press release: AP INCORRECTLY CLAIMS SCIENTISTS PRAISE GORE’S MOVIE.
Doesn’t that suggest to the casual reader that scientists don’t praise his movie?
Yet they all but unanimously do.
(Bear in mind, the oil industry controls the executive branch of our government – run by two former oil men – and wields huge influence on the Republican Congress. Hence it’s just possible the AP is more objective about this than the Republican Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works.)
So how does the Committee justify its headline?
- They have a professor from James Cook University in Australia calling Gore’s arguments “so weak they are pathetic.” Which I guess should put the lie to the notion that 6.5 billion humans burning hundreds of billions of gallons of gasoline and lord knows how much coal into the air each year could have any effect.
- And they have this wonderful disclosure:
Gore’s film … cites a review of scientific literature by the journal Science which claimed 100% consensus on global warming, but [MIT Professor Richard] Lindzenpointed out the study was flat out incorrect.
“A study in the journal Science by the social scientist Nancy Oreskes claimed that a search of the ISI Web of Knowledge Database for the years 1993 to 2003 under the key words “global climate change” produced 928 articles, all of whose abstracts supported what she referred to as the consensus view. A British social scientist, Benny Peiser, checked her procedure and found that only 913 of the 928 articles had abstracts at all, and that only 13 of the remaining 913 explicitly endorsed the so-called consensus view. Several actually opposed it,” Lindzen wrote in an op-ed in the June 26, 2006 Wall Street Journal.
See? Gore cites an article in Science that said 928 peer-reviewed articles had abstracts when only 913 did – barely 98.3% of them!
Worse, according to this, “several” of those 913 (four? six?) actually disagreed with the consensus view.
So Gore claimed her study found that “none” of the 928 peer-reviewed articles disagreed with the consensus (which it did) when really, if Lindzen has this right (he gets Naomi Oreskes’s name wrong; it is Naomi, not Nancy), her study should have said “almost none.”
If none of the 928 disagrees, maybe it’s worth taking seriously. But if almost none disagrees, well, then, that’s enough doubt for the Wall Street Journal . . . for Exxon . . . for the Republican majority on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee . . . and for our President – who has shown no more interest in seeing this film than he showed in the explicit CIA warning he received at Blair House on January 7, 2001, shortly before taking office, of a “tremendous,” “immediate” threat from Osama Bin Laden. He ignored both, each time focusing on Iraq instead.
Folks: the human ecosphere is in serious trouble. And the guys running the show are straight from the mold of the Tobacco Institute. Only more powerful.
There is an idiot who reads this web site who is convinced I am “ashamed to tell the truth” and will not post the link to that Senate Republican Majority Report. (Sportsmanship inhibits me from publishing even his first name; but he knows who he is.)
And there is a very bright guy named Gennady, who has read the Wall Street Journal column quoted in the Senate press release and writes to say that he won’t, therefore, go see the movie. Tobacco guys see no link between smoking and cancer? That’s good enough for him.
And I tell you: Go see this movie! Read Naomi (not Nancy) Oreskes’s article in Science!
And if having done that you remain certain the world need not take action, so be it. But my guess is that you will decide that the Republicans working so hard to debunk this movie are doing you and your kids grave harm.
Tomorrow: The Good News – and Your Thoughts on Flag Burning
Quote of the Day
In 1800, 75% of [an American's] working man's expenditures went for food alone. By 1850, that had dropped to 50%. Today it is a little more than 11%.~The Wall Street Journal, September 20, 1996
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