Pity perhaps, but hate Al Gore? Why, I’ve never even met the man; so what is Jonathan Chait talking about ?
National Review magazine, with its popular website, is a perfect example. It has a blog dedicated to casting doubt on global warming, or solutions to global warming, or anybody who advocates a solution. Its title is “Planet Gore.” The psychology at work here is pretty clear: Your average conservative may not know anything about climate science, but conservatives do know they hate Al Gore. So, hold up Gore as a hate figure and conservatives will let that dictate their thinking on the issue.
As they say, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. My own view is very close to that of Bjorn Lomborg’s:
In written testimony for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Bjorn Lomborg, a Danish statistician and author critical of people who present environmental problems as a crisis, asserted that Mr. Gore’s portrayal of global warming as a problem, and his prescription for solving it, were deeply flawed.
Mr. Lomborg said that “global warming is real and man-made,” but that a focus on intensified energy research would be more effective and far cheaper than caps or taxes on greenhouse gas emissions or energy sources that produce them.
Where I part company with Al Gore is that I actually listen to and read scientists on the subject. For example, Al said to Congress last week that this is a “planetary emergency”. James Annan, who is indeed a climate scientist (his work has recently concentrated on climate sensitivity, how much warming will there be with a doubling of atmospheric CO2, his answer generally assumed to be correct: a lot less than some others have been saying):
The only real surprise was that any scientists would try to oppose the motion – that “global warming is not a crisis” – and it’s only to be expected that they would struggle. Of course it’s not a “crisis”, but rather a long-term problem. There is nothing special about this year, or even this decade, compared to the previous or next, other than that it happens to be the one we are currently in. In fact the entire problem centres on the fact that climate change is a long-term issue, rather than something that can come to a turning point and be resolved.
If it’s not a crisis then it’s hardly an emergency, is it, even of the planetary kind? This is the heart of my opposition to the Goracle’s message: it’s his extremism, his brushing aside of the actual science (both of climate change and economics) which makes him so dangerous. He wants to bounce all into something that we don’t actually need to be bounced into. He’s working to a political timetable, not to a scientific one.
(I should perhaps reveal an interest here. Given my day job, as part of the international scandium oligopoly, the banning of incandescent light bulbs would hugely raise my income. Scandium is used in some of the alternative technologies, but not in incandescents. Despite that, I still think it’s a damn fool idea to ban them.)