Politics & Policy

Conveniently Missing The Truth

Al Gore's green battiness.

Meet Al Gore, scaremonger. In 2004, Gore denounced President Bush for “playing on our fears.” Today, he is at the forefront of a “green scare” about global warming intended to terrify Americans into submitting to his environmental policies.

Consider the trailer for An Inconvenient Truth, Davis Guggenheim’s documentary about Gore’s green crusade. It promises to be the most adept piece of scaremongering ever captured on film, making The Texas Chainsaw Massacre seem like Toy Story 2. The movie’s poster shows penguins walking across a desert. The trailer says, “If you love your planet … if you love your children … you have to see this movie.” In case you’re thick in the head, the producers spell it out for you: “By far, the most terrifying film you will ever see!” And: “You will soil your pants!” (O.K., I made that last one up).

Of course, Gore is not alone. A host of new environmental scare books are out or on the way. Last month, Time magazine’s cover warned, “Be Worried. Be Very Worried.” Those renowned climatologists who make up Vanity Fair’s editorial board have unveiled a “green issue” that informs us that “green is the new black” and that global warming is a “threat graver than terrorism.” It says so right there on the cover, above Julia Roberts’s hip. And she’s dressed like a forest nymph, so it’s got to be true.

Now, it’s true that Earth has gotten warmer–one degree since the 19th century–and it will probably get warmer still. And it’s probably true that human activity plays a significant part in all that. But it’s also true that we don’t have a clear picture of what’s happening now, never mind what will happen. Just ask the 60 climatologists from around the world who wrote Canada’s prime minister that “observational evidence does not support today’s computer climate models, so there is little reason to trust model predictions of the future.” But that’s all beside the point to Gore & Co., who say the time for debate is over. And if you disagree, get ready for the witch-hunt. Major news media have gone after scientists who argue there’s still time to study global warming rather than plunge into some half-baked environmental jihad that could waste possibly trillions of dollars.

As Richard Lindzen, professor of meteorology at MIT, recently lamented in the Wall Street Journal: “Scientists who dissent from the alarmism have seen their grant funds disappear, their work derided, and themselves libeled as industry stooges, scientific hacks or worse. Consequently, lies about climate change gain credence even when they fly in the face of the science that supposedly is their basis.”

In Vanity Fair, writer Mark Hertsgaard alleges that Frederick Seitz, the former president of the National Academy of Sciences and the former president of the prestigious Rockefeller University, was a shill for, of all things, the tobacco industry. A press release by the National Environmental Trust proclaims “Scientist Who Spearheaded Attacks on Global Warming Also Directed $45M Tobacco Industry Effort to Hide Health Impacts of Smoking.” Seitz, a giant in American science, says this is all “ridiculous, completely wrong.” Now 94, Seitz explains that R. J. Reynolds had given Rockefeller University $5 million a year for basic research. Seitz says he directed the money toward non-tobacco-related efforts in the study of prions (the virus-like proteins that cause mad cow disease), tuberculosis and other diseases. Prion researcher Stanley Prusiner thanked both R. J. Reynolds and Seitz in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

But Gore & Co. aren’t troubled by such details because the smears are all for a good cause. That’s why Gore saw nothing wrong in bullying dissident climate change scientists when he was a senator or waging a mean-spirited campaign to discredit the work of his old mentor, Harvard oceanographer Roger Revelle, because Revelle thought alarmism was unwarranted.

Hence the irony of the title An Inconvenient Truth. It is the green scare that has no patience for inconvenient truths. For example, Gore blames the disappearing snows of Mt. Kilimanjaro on global warming, but a study in Nature magazine identified the clear-cutting of surrounding moisture-rich forests as the culprit. In the famously fact-checked New Yorker, editor David Remnick pens a love letter to Gore in which he laments that Earth will “likely be an uninhabitable planet” if we don’t heed Gore’s jeremiads. Oh … come … on!

This is just a small taste of the millenarian battiness running through the green scare. Sure, a one- or two-degree-per-century rise in average global temperatures may have unpleasant consequences–with some pleasant ones as well–but in what study did The New Yorker’s fact-checkers verify that Earth will become uninhabitable? Moreover, the greens’ proposed solutions to global warming are even more otherworldly. Reducing global carbon-dioxide emissions to 60 percent of 1990 levels before 2050, while China, India, and (hopefully) Africa modernize, is inconceivable, ill-conceived and also immoral because it would consign generations to poverty.

But none of that seems to matter to the greens. To them, the only thing we have to fear is the lack of fear itself.

(c) 2006 Tribune Media Services

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