Sunday, February 28, 2010

Answers to Al Gore

 'We can't wish away climate change': an op-ed by Al Gore in the Sunday New York Times. This is definitively a political op-ed based on the authority of (climate) science and the weight of a Nobel Prize:
As usual, Al Gore argues morally: we all will be guilty in case we don't act now. This is not about small arguments, but about the big stuff. We need clarity. I think this is a wonderful opportunity for warmists, doubters and others to comment upon a) the scientific basis and b) the political agenda of Al Gore's text. The answers should be free of irony, scorn or insider talk. Whatever you think about Al Gore: this is a clear statement that deserves a clear answer. As a concerned citizen and as an anthropologist, I would appreciate your short statements very much!


itisi69 said...

Short statement?

Stronger hurricanes due to AGW: FAIL
Links to tobacco industry: FAIL
Cap-n-Trade: FAIL
Post Normal Science: FAIL

AL Bore ends with a Churchill quote, I end with a FDR quote: “Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself”

There's much more, but it's bed time.

Henk Hak said...

Dear Mr Gore,

What will YOUR grandchildren be thinking of you when they learn that you have lived in a huge mansion, used a private jet for travel, and used the lame excuse of carbon offsets to excuse your behaviour? If you are not willing to make significant personal sacrifices how can you castigate the "deniers"?
( All of this assuming that CAGW is going to happen.It might)

P Gosselin said...

I've seen Gore as a politician, activist and climate science peddler. I've watched and analyzed his AIT movie twice. There is only one conclusion that can be reached about Mr. Gore. His claims and reality could not be more opposed.

As usual, there is the strong religious element that many find appealing. Some people simply cannot cope with life unless they feel they are righteously, noblely and unselfishly doing their part in averting the certain Catastrophe. It allows believers to feel morally superior to non-believers, and thus have moral authority. It amazes me that Gore could even be discussed in any type of scientific forum. Why not discuss Jim Jones?
People are waking up from his "morphium for the masses". They are rejecting his Kool Aid.

P Gosselin said...

At least the NYT included in the footnote:
"As a businessman, he is an investor in alternative energy companies."
Gore is getting seriously rich from the scenarios, which he is falsely peddling as truth.

Anonymous said...

Right at the start Gore points to attacks on the science - there have been no attacks - the science has unravelled because the true nature of how the scientific process has been corrupted has come to light.
Daily revelations about the cowboy behaviour of the IPCC in producing a policy defining document based upon rumours and activist claims, and their failure to deal with known issues, have destroyed any faith in that organisation.
Then we have Prof Jones explaining that there has been no exceptional warming or any unprecedented increases in temperature.
The truth is every aspect of AGW is showing as inaccurate and alarmist guesswork.
The science carried out in the last 20 years is now seen to be inadequate at best and criminally negligent and corrupt at worst.
Mr. Gore, where is the science you claim is being attacked?
There is no science. It is make believe.
Nothing else Gore has to say has any relevance in the light of the above.

fuming jim said...

Further to what Henk Hak said i.e. "What will YOUR grandchildren be thinking of you when they learn that you have lived in a huge mansion, used a private jet for travel, and used the lame excuse..."
If CAGW does prove to be real (which I sincerely doubt), what will future generations think of the "champions" of the CAGW cause? By being either so incredibly and unashamedly hypocritical (Gore), or so cynically sleazy, dishonest, and condesending (CRU, Mann, Romm et al), made it all but inevitable that many good citizens would assume that the whole story was bogus by association.

Hans von Storch said...

ibjc/3 - "The science carried out in the last 20 years is now seen to be inadequate at best and criminally negligent and corrupt at worst." - this is a rather sweeping statement. What is "the science carried out in the last 20 years"? Phil Jones has certainly not explained "that there has been no exceptional warming or any unprecedented increases in temperature". What do you mean with "every aspect of AGW"?

May I remind you - no ranting. Treat your opponents respectfully. And try to be accurate in your assertions. Seriously. Our you are out here at this blog.

Bernhard Meyer said...

I like the article's first two paragraphs.

Anonymous said...

It's important to note that the climate change investment firm which Al Gore runs - Generation Investment Management LLP - is headed 16 of 20 partners who are from Goldman Sachs.

Hans von Storch said...

anonymous/9 - please explain why this is important. Allow the readers of this blog to understand your message.
Also, is there something missing in this sentence? "LLP - is headed 16 of 20 partners who are from Goldman Sachs"?
If possible use your name or an alias, please.

Mathis Hampel said...

We are in the year 2265. Al Gore, character in our history text books/files, is presented in a box example as populist who unknowingly 'contributed' to the reformation of science in westernised society. Whether this reformation has been successful or not will be explained a few lines below using the example of the (hopefully) restructured IPCC.
conclusion: we can hardly judge Al Gore's role at this time of history so lets get back to business;)

Eli said...

The money line:

"From the standpoint of governance, what is at stake is our ability to use the rule of law as an instrument of human redemption."-Al Gore

The religion of AGW revealed by the high priest himself.

_Flin_ said...

When the arch nemesis is speaking, the comments in every blog seem to decay in quality from the denier's side.

Itisi69 doesn't understand the text. Noone says there that the PR campaign against AGW has anything to do with the tobacco industry.
Stronger Hurricanes... well, funny that Al Gore should ask Kerry Emanuel from MIT or Tom Knutson and Chris Landsea from NOAA (and many others), and read their "Tropical cyclones and climate change" paper in Nature Geoscience, when he just had to ask Itisi69. Dear Itisi69, why do you think your opinion is more relevant than the scientific work of 10 professional meteorological scientists from 5 countries? To me this looks hubris.

P Gosselin gets onto his religious theme again.
And then it is topped of with an ad hominem against Al Gore.

ibjc cannot distinguish between "no warming" and "no statistically significant warming", telling us about "every aspect of AGW is showing as inaccurate and alarmist guesswork". Which is really hard to believe and to follow intellectually, since the AGW side of the discussion is a mountain of facts carefully strutured, documented, measured, proved against other measurements etc. Just take a look at this page, where (except for the first and the last paragraph) AGW is summed up in a nutshell, with links to scientific studies.

Henk Hak goes ad hominem, fuming Jim fumes, some anonymous person says something that noone grasps except himself.

My dear not-warmists. Is this all that can be mustered on the other side of the argument?

What a pity.

On the Op-Ed: I think it is very important to show that the whole energy complex is not just about global warming, but additionally about competitiveness in clean energy technology and efficiency (as a side note WalMart just safed 200 mio. USD in 2009 due to their fuel efficiency program) as well as National Security due to energy dependence. Because it is not about tree hugging at all, but about jobs, income and future prosperity.

Werner Krauss said...

As much as I know Al Gore is right that 'recent attacks on the science of global warming' did not change the overall IPCC consensus. Climategate and Himalaya glaciers etc did NOT reveal that there is no man-made global warming. This important fact tends to be forgotten in the recent heated debate.

I am not a scientist, but from recent discussions I learned that 'the last ten years were the hottest' is a questionable statement. Is it? Has it ever been as hot in the past thousand years? Why don't I know the answer?

I guess his explanation that the strong winter is also a result from global warming is too far fetched, right? It is even a stupid argument, because it weakens his just argument against those politicians in Washington who took the cold winter as an argument against global warming (and Al Gore personally). It is a pity that he does not make this point. Just listen to those FOX TV and tea-party guys, and you really hope that Al Gore is making his point with a really good argument!

Al Gore is right when he says that we are still not able 'to slow the rate at which emissions are increasing'. He lists many reasons beyond global warming why the US should take leadership in emission reduction. I think he is perfectly right. Alternative energies will be a big deal in the future; and wasting energy as it is done right now is wrong, anyway.

He presents a clear political standpoint:
He blames the unregulated market for the current situation and argues for market regulations. He does this in a situation where 'the rule of law' has lost its ability to control the market (he says: 'human redemption', which sounds weird to my ears).
He argues for cap and trade with the interesting argument that the idea is already established and it would be too difficult to change strategies. I think there are better ideas out there (decarbonization), but Al Gore is also pragmatic - or thinks he is.

And his high moral tone? He is a politician, not a scientist. He makes his argument in a society where religion is politics, where global warming is by many considered as an invention of gay abortionists who want to take away your gun. Conspiracy theory is everywhere (not only here in klimazwiebel). The public sphere is pretty messy. It is so messy that Al Gore almost sounds like a voice of reason.

I think this article of Al Gore helps to focus discussion. It is a reality check. Where exactly do you differ, and, equally important, where do you agree? Al Gore still shapes public debate, like it or not. It is important to be precise.

_Flin_ said...

@Werner Krauss: Al Gore explicitly states "the last 10 years were the hottest decade since modern records have been kept.".

I can not tell you why you don't know the answer to the 1000-year question, but it might come from Mann et. al. 2009, or maybe, if you prefer somebody else without treerings, a paper often cited by skeptics is Correction to: Loehle 2007 (corrected version starts on page 12).

DirkH said...

Al Gore has vested financial interest in a politically mandated decarbonization of society. This op-ed piece is his attempt at saving his income stream. It should be evaluated accordingly: it is PR, it is advertisement.

Werner Krauss said...

I am not the one to defend Al Gore, but anyway:
It's politically mandated: that is called democracy. He has an vested interest: this means it is a promising strategy. You should invest into it, too. It is PR? I call it capitalism. Only strategies that pay, that create jobs and are economically viable are good strategies. Decarbonization for its own sake and without profit is fantasy.

@ReinerGrundmann said...

The most interesting part for me is where Gore tries to come to grips with the faiure of climate policy so far. He writes:

Some analysts attribute the failure to an inherent flaw in the design of the chosen solution — arguing that a cap-and-trade approach is too unwieldy and difficult to put in place. Moreover, these critics add, the financial crisis that began in 2008 shook the world’s confidence in the use of any market-based solution.
Well, there are other reasons for rejecting this approach, one being that it has led to corruption, the other that there is no link between increasing revenues from carbon trading and actual emission reduction. These are by far the most damning criticisms, not the ones Gore quotes.

He then attacks these carefully crafted criticisms (some might call them strawmen):

But there are two big problems with this critique: First, there is no readily apparent alternative that would be any easier politically. It is difficult to imagine a globally harmonized carbon tax or a coordinated multilateral regulatory effort. The flexibility of a global market-based policy — supplemented by regulation and revenue-neutral tax policies — is the option that has by far the best chance of success.

Who says we need a harmonized tax? And why do we need a coordinated multilateral regulatory effort? Gore quite rightly, in the same article, points out that China would have changed its position IF the US had come with an offer. In other words, we all know that the US Senate is the roadblock.
As for carbon taxes, they need not be universally harmonized, as is the case with all other taxes. Another convenient strawman.

But the most disturbing view is contained in this paragraph:

Second, we should have no illusions about the difficulty and the time needed to convince the rest of the world to adopt a completely new approach. The lags in the global climate system, including the buildup of heat in the oceans from which it is slowly reintroduced into the atmosphere, means that we can create conditions that make large and destructive consequences inevitable long before their awful manifestations become apparent: the displacement of hundreds of millions of climate refugees, civil unrest, chaos and the collapse of governance in many developing countries, large-scale crop failures and the spread of deadly diseases.

In other words, Gore tells us, If you want to argue for a new approach, you will be contributing to chaos and collopse in society.

Before Copenhagen, the argument was that it is now or never to save the planet. Now the argument comes as a travesty: if you are not signing up to my preferred policy, you will have to blame yourself for the deadly diseases. Not a very appealing position. Why can't he say that after such colossal failure at Copenhagen, we need to discuss all political options that are proposed?

Henk Hak said...

re# 13 _Flin_
Ad hominem ? Maybe. Al Gore frames the initial question in the context of the future generation's opinion about our present actions or lack thereof. And the only option to reduce CO2 emissions according to Gore is cap and trade. Carbon trading is a corrupt and inefficient process. Please read if you want a view from the left or Solomon in the National Post for a view from the right . They agree that the poor and the ordinary man will pay, as usual. So is it ad hominem to point out that Gore thinks his personal life style is quite ok , and will actually not be threatened by the changes he proposes. But cap and trade will increase hardships for the poor, lower and middle class.Their life style will be greatly affected; the people that can afford it the least.
BTW I voted moderate warming.

Henk Hak said...

Sorry the article from Znet (Zmag) I meant to quote is

Werner Krauss said...

'We can't wish away climate change' - I like the title. It's true and timely. Listen to all those who jump on the bandwagon of climategate etc. They are not about discussing anything. Cap and trade or alternatives? Nothing like that - no climate policies at all, that's what they want. Drill, baby, drill!

In my seminars on culture & climate change we watch together 'Inconvenient truth', and we analyze it critically according to its narrative structures, its rhetorical devices and how Al Gore makes use of science. This comes as a shock to many of my students. But I also listen to their stories: imagine you grew up in a small Hindu village where everything concerning climate is nothing but the will of Gods; or in a small Texan village where even evolution is considered a leftist conspiracy from Washington; or coming from Hungary where strangely enough environmentalism helped to turn communism down - these stories are also part of Al Gore. His influence is in global popular culture, and for many he is a cultural hero, and who dares to doubt that? Popular culture is full of surprising connections.
Normally, I criticize Al Gore. But when I read some of the comments today, they reminded me of the stories my students told me. When grown ups start loosing their brains and manners; when they become aggressive, loud, make illogical arguments, when they start to shout you down - that's when you need a hero, a superman. Al Gore has to remind us: 'We can't wish climate change away'. He is right. And those barking and sobbing critics are wrong.

(By the way, thanks to those with productive critic of cap & trade politics based on critical reading of Al Gore's article. I completely agree.)

_Flin_ said...

Actually I think Al Gore isn't 100% true about the US climate policy, since there are the insulation program and more laws for cars so that they achieve better miles per gallon. But that cannot be the end of it.

You just have to compare per capita emissions in the USA and Europe to see that the claim of reducing CO2 emissions will account for a loss of quality of life is rubbish.

The important thing is to put a pricetag on a ton CO2 so that investments CO2 emissions show up as real costs. If this happens with cap and trade or anything else, will be the same for me, as long as it happens soon enough. This will not only lead to investments in cleaner energy, but to efficiency measures as well.

@ReinerGrundmann said...

why do put the stress on the science again? Have a look at another approach, from one Republican (also featured in the NYT)

itisi69 said...

"Nothing like that - no climate policies at all, that's what they want. Drill, baby, drill!"
That's an interesting claim coming from somebody punishing Gosselin for his rotten meat statement.

There's a middle way you know (and no I'm not a buddhist). Extremists are on both sides. I consider Al Gore as one.
Many sceptics do want preservation of Earth resources and environment and are very much in favor of clean air.
It's sad that there's always a tendency in AGW circles to accuse sceptics of being ruthless rapists of Gaia.

_Flin_ said...

@itisi69: There is no middle way. Either you try to balance CO2 (and Methane) in the atmosphere, or you don't. If you want to, you will have to reduce CO2 emissions by 40%.

Being a warmist, I really couldn't care less if some central african mountain goat gets extinct or not. Neither am I afraid of Earth. Earth will get constantly warmer in the next billion years, due to the sun. Earth won't die until sun goes nova. And life on earth won't die either. Bacteria and insects procreate fast enough to adapt.

It is the existence of mankind on the existing civilisatory level that I fear will change to the worse.

Henk Hak said...

For those interested in alternatives to cap and trade:
James Hansen has proposed a "Fee and Dividend" system instead of cap and trade. Here some articles on it
I think Kirsch is wrong here: Gore does not favour fee and dividend over cap and trade.

The comment sections are at least as interesting as the articles.

No easy solution no matter what is being proposed.

_Flin_ said...

Fee and dividend is interesting, key point would be how the money is dividended back to the citizens. If it isn't, it's just a carbon tax (which would be fine with me, as long as there is a price tag on a ton of CO2).

The proposed value of 125 US$/t CO2 seems a bit high to me, though.

Current calculations of the german government are 55€/t CO2 for 2008.

MikeR said...

I was disturbed by Gore's stressing the financial interests opposing mitigation. Perhaps true, but surely there are huge financial interests supporting it as well? If I understand correctly, he himself has close to a billion dollars worth of interest. Doesn't he think that's relevant?

eduardo said...


my short comments: the absence of any uncertainty puzzles me. Gore is able to predict without any shade of doubt what will be the most important source of new jobs in the 21st century; that future sea-level rise is being underestimated; that hurricanes will become more destructive in the future..all this might be true but it is not established results. On the other hand, he overlooks other results that are also not established but that contradict him. For instance most models indicate a reduction of snow cover in the future and a shift towards more stronger Arctic Oscillation, which is the opposite of what is occurring this winter. He is cherry picking his facts and therefore I do not trust him.

Werner Krauss said...

to Mike R 28

one billion dollars? Where do you know from? Do you have any sources? Or is it just a metaphor for 'very very very much'?

Werner Krauss said...

to Eduardo 29

Yes, I fully agree with your comment, as well as with many parts of other comments (Hank, Reiner, Fin etc). Al Gore is not reliable, his arguments are not sustainable. It is important to point that out. The only problem is that this is maybe not the point.

The argument I tried to develop during this thread was that Al Gore plays in another kind of league. He is a figure of popular culture, a pop star. We have to measure him in form of culture critique, not only in terms of his science. He is much closer to Hollywood than to the science laboratory. His science is Hollywood science - Walter Mathau as Einstein, so to speak. You do not expect that the Hollywood Einstein delivers completely correct science; the message is more important.
Al Gore's arguments are based on the power of symbols and signs, not on the power of enlightenment and rationality. His audience is not a school class that wants to learn the maths; instead, they are fans, believers and those who seek orientation. They want to know: is climate change real? Al Gore gives an answer everybody can understand: a dose of science (he is serious!), a dose of family (he is just like us!), a dose of religion (the world is enchanted!), a dose of humor (you don't fall asleep like in college), and so on...
The tragedy (big word, maybe too big) of climate science is that they constantly play a role in that Al Gore movie without realizing it. Alarmists and skeptics (warmists and doubters, to be klimmazwiebel-correct) don't find a way out of this film. That's kind of fascinating, and that's a big problem, too.

MikeR said...

@Werner Krauss: You are quite right; I have no idea of his actual financial interest, and I should have just said very very much.

Zajko said...

Much of what has made Gore so popular also makes him a liability as the embodiment of AGW. He is just too easy to criticize on science (and certainly his interests don't help his credibility), and the moral arguments he makes are certainly presumptive.
Maybe we can learn from Gore what effective public communication on global warming looks like, but is it worth emulating?
Should the public expect a decontextualized science of black and white? Do we need a celebrity on a moral crusade to inspire action?

I used to see Al Gore as someone who, despite his flaws, was doing good work. Now the best thing I can say with confidence is that he is a skilled and effective communicator.

eduardo said...

as you said, Gore can be considered a Hollywood star. Form that standpoint I would say that his article is directed to his own fans, people that are mostly convinced that he is right but that might get a bit wobbly after the Climategate. His article tries to reassure his troops. What in my view it doesnt is precisely what is necessary, to try to reach to people that may not necessarily agree with him. In this sense his article is not helpful. I do not think anyone of those would be particularly moved towards Gore's position. Therefore the article is counterproductive for Gore's goals. It is clear by now that it will be impossible to impose any political change to a minority, and perhaps that minority has now become the majority.