Breaking from the NYT: Al Gore not actually a scientist

Written by adam


In an article carefully designed to cause David Roberts’ head to explode, the New York Times today accuses Al Gore of alarmism.

The article is bad. In fact, it’s very bad. A brief catalog of some of its badness:

  • Implying some form of equivalence between Al Gore and, say, the Competitive Enterprise Institute by lumping together “the extremism of both skeptics and zealots.” Remember when we used to think of Gore as earnest and wooden? Turns out he’s earnest and wooden like a zealot!
  • Conceding that “the concern is not over the existence of climate change, or the idea that the human production of heat-trapping gases is partly or largely to blame for the globe’s recent warming,” before launching into a series of well-known and largely discredited nitpicks.
  • Relying on the same three people quoted in every single article that goes looking for scientific controversy over climate change. Perennial critic Roger A. Pielke Jr. definitely gets some points for irony, though, when he criticizes Gore for being a target of criticism: “Very quickly, these discussions turn from the issue to the person.” Yeah, no kidding.
  • Making the old new again. For some reason, Richard Lindzen’s ancient op-ed in the Wall Street Journal gets a fresh look. Apparently it still accuses Gore of “shrill alarmism.”
  • Somehow using the latest IPCC report, which makes the strongest statement yet about the link between anthropogenic emissions and climate change, as evidence against Gore’s argument. In one of its more subtle but egregious inaccuracies, the article repeats the untruth that the most recent IPCC report lowers the estimate for sea level rise due to global warming. In fact, the lowered range specifically excludes the effects of melting ice sheets, because these effects are more uncertain and almost certainly worse than previously realized.
  • Citing “a report last June by the National Academies [that] seemed to contradict Mr. Gore’s portrayal of recent temperatures as the highest in the past millennium.” From the report itself: “the committee finds it plausible that the Northern Hemisphere
    was warmer during the last few decades of the 20th century than during any
    comparable period over the preceding millennium.”

The article does highlight some areas of legitimate scientific uncertainty: the relationship between global warming and hurricanes; the link between global warming and the spread of malaria; etc. But why frame these legitimate — and frankly somewhat esoteric — debates as a hit piece on Gore?

Update: David Roberts’ predicted cranial explosion available here. It’s a lot like this post, except angrier and with even more debunkery. Real Climate chimes in with a less angry but more science-y takedown of the piece.

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