I am not sure how to classify certain global-warming proponents. As I have said many times, the majority of climate scientists are honest, hard working men. Some are more prone to error than others, but that’s life and no cause for alarm.
A few are willing to make sharp short cuts, and let pass disqualifying mistakes; but they do so because they feel their results are ultimately correct. Some have said this qualifies them as “hoaxers.” I do not accept this. A hoaxer is a con man, somebody who knows his theory is false, but he promulgates it anyway, for personal gain or fame.
Others, like Dr Hansen, are in the grip of True Belief. To them, the End really is near. And when they act on this deep conviction—by making atrocious public statements, or by advocating minor criminal behavior—I cannot become overly upset with them. I even admit to some amusement.
Yes, we should—and I have—point out the depth of their religious fervor. We should call on the more regular members to admit that it’s possible to go too far. But, as long as the True Believers do not cross the line and advocate or cause physical harm, they are essentially harmless.
That’s scientists, I mean. Politicians and pundits are a different matter. They can cause real and lasting harm. It is they that must take up the banner of the scientist and lead the charge. And it is they that choose the battles.
For example, if Drs Hansen and Lindzen—to name two prominent men on either side of global warming—were quarreling over, say, undecidability propositions in logic, their (academic) fight would be as bloody, but it would excite no outside interest. It is only when politicians take sides that we have to fear.
Which brings us to Al Gore. Is he a True Believer? He certainly gives the outward appearance of one. His public statements on global warming and condemnations of public behavior are not qualitatively different than fiery sermons directed towards a flock who have, of late, been negligent in their tithing.
Do I need more proof than this?
It would be an enormous relief if the recent attacks on the science of global warming actually indicated that we do not face an unimaginable calamity requiring large-scale, preventive measures to protect human civilization as we know it.
Unimaginable calamity! Civilization as we know it! That’s hellfire. Later he says we are a “criminal generation that had selfishly and blithely ignored clear warnings.” That’s brimstone. His solution? Give ’till it hurts, friends.
His parishioners have responded to his harangues and admonishments by opening their wallets. Mr Gore, like many big-tent ministers, has become wealthy from his criticisms of the crass commercialisms he claims have led us to the precipice. (He actually, apparently unaware of the irony, enjoys the phrase “market fundamentalism.”)
But never mind. Does he believe what he’s saying, or is he just another politician invoking fear in an attempt to secure power? It does make a difference in how we treat him.
Now, nobody can get to be a US Senator and then Vice President while being an idiot. It follows that the man is not a fool and has some intelligence. He, like most activists, probably does not understand the specifics of man-made harmful global warming theory (the physics, chemistry, modeling, equations of motion, etc.). Therefore, he, and the activists, must rely on scientists to interpret that theory, and put it in a way that it is comprehensible to them.
Mistakes are inevitable in this process. That is, we scientists imperfectly summarize our findings. This is partly our fault, and partly because of the limitations of our listeners. Still, I think, the gist of global warming theory can be grasped by any reasonably intelligent person.
Please understand that I say this next (necessary) sentence in the humblest way possible. I know more than Al Gore does about the theory. For example, I am aware of its limitations and its uncertainties. I know what is likely and what is merely possible given that the theory is true; and I know the same if that theory is false. I doubt that it is true; further, I am not alone. That is, there are other qualified scientists who think as I do.
Yet Mr Gore has never contacted us, nor has he taken our council. And since he must have more than an inkling of how science works, he must be aware that we skeptical scientists exist. Although we skeptics might be wrong—just as the theory’s proponents might be wrong—any competent political or policy statement conditional on the theory must acknowledge its uncertainties.
Then, since none of Mr Gore’s statements contain any uncertainty, and given that he is intelligent enough to understand that these uncertainties exist, and given his recourse to “market fundamentalist” practices meant to enrich himself, we can conclude that he is a fraud.