Which is why I'm writing now. I just happened to catch up with a 1.18.07 Wall Street Journal op/ed piece titled "Will Al Gore Melt?". And while I have no problem with the WSJ per se--I do with the authors of this piece, Flemming Rose and Bjorn Lomborg, the Culture Editor of Jyllands-Posten in Copenhagen, and Professor at the Copenhagen Business School, respectively.
So I have to respond. Why? Because I would hate to see the deceptive spinning of facts regarding Climate Change cast doubt on the overwhelming evidence behind its human origins. I'm not worried about Al Gore's ability to defend himself and counter the 'facts' laid out by Rose and Lomborg. But I am worried about you. When confronted with arguments against An Inconvenient Truth that seem to make sense, what do you say? How far will you sway?
With a little help from my sources (linked and referenced as best I can) here's a little point and counter-point...
First, a point the authors make about the dangers of following Gore's path toward an "environmentally obsessed society"...They write, "If we slowly change our greenhouse gas emissions over the coming century, the U.N. actually estimates that we will live in a warmer but immensely richer world."
Now, I don't know which U.N. report they are referring to (and there are many), but consider the fact that in two weeks, the very same institution's Intragovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will present an updated, and long awaited 4th Assessment Report, Climate Change 2007--and it is very unlikely that it will support their contention. How can it, with pre-release review already prompting headlines like "UN climate panel to step up warnings on climate" (Reuters), and "Report has 'smoking gun' on climate" (USA Today). Sounds like it's going to be hard to find allusions to a warmer and richer world in this report.
Second, a point intended to convince us that the cooling of some areas of the world are conveniently "ignored" by Gore...they write "He considers Antarctica the canary in the mine, but again doesn't tell the full story. He presents pictures from the 2% of Antarctica that is dramatically warming and ignores the 98% that has largely cooled over the past 35 years."
At first blush, Rose and Lomborg would appear to have dealt a blow to the unfortunate truths Gore would have us believe...but again, their contention is readily dismissed by the facts. Scientifically, while there are data suggesting that the East Antarctic ice sheet is showing some growth, it is far from conclusive, compared to the mass of data on rapid melting elsewhere. Moreover, there are known ocean currents that act as a buffer to the transport of heat (via warm water from the tropics) to the South Pole--and even if temperatures did warm on the order of, say, 10 degrees Centigrade (shifting from roughly -60 to -50 degrees Centigrade) some increase in ice would be consistent. (There's lots on this, with good backup, on Coby Beck's How to Talk to a Global Warming Skeptic.) Bottom line, it's most important to remember that "a rise in the global mean temperature does not imply universal warming." (RealClimate.org) When you hear otherwise, there's no need to back off of global warming.
I think you get the gist of it. So beware: a few well placed spokespeople, or articles, or studies can disproportionately color (colour, for my friends at futerra) an otherwise overwhelming body of truth. Especially so when the truths are supported in a language--namely, science--which for most of us is not a native tongue. But you don't have to get a degree, memorize the book, or otherwise become an expert. You do have to take what you read and hear, and think before being moved off course. You do have to let science and scientists do what they do best--that is, challenge, and challenge, and challenge again their assumptions--and recognize when those challenges are being exploited.
And, you do have to trust your eConsiousness. Climate change is far too broad in its impact and implications to be a slam dunk in anyone's book. If you're engaged at your core, you will find the true story line, and future op/eds will be...well, just that.
P.S.: For any of you who are interested, here's a bit of homework. Can you help counter two additional contentions made in the WSJ piece? If so, please drop a comment here (click 'comments' below) for all to see. I, for one, would like to have the answers in my back pocket.
1. Rose and Lomborg write, after being rebuffed in attempts to interview Gore, "It would have been great to ask him why he only talks about a sea-level rise of 20 feet. In his movie he shows scary sequences of 20-feet flooding Florida, San Francisco, New York, Holland, Calcutta, Beijing and Shanghai. But were realistic levels not dramatic enough? The U.N. climate panel expects only a foot of sea-level rise over this century." (I would definitely like to research this U.N. statement.)
2. Further, they challenge him elsewhere, as in "Mr. Gore says that global warming will increase malaria and highlights Nairobi as his key case. According to him, Nairobi was founded right where it was too cold for malaria to occur. However, with global warming advancing, he tells us that malaria is now appearing in the city. Yet this is quite contrary to the World Health Organization's finding. Today Nairobi is considered free of malaria, but in the 1920's and '30s, when temperatures were lower than today, malaria epidemics occurred regularly." (WHO reports, here we come...)