Climategate: Al Gore and the politicization of science
One of the most disturbing outgrowths of the global warming controversy over the last twenty or so years has been the increased politicization of science. Of course, this is far from the first time this has occurred, but it may be one of the most important, because we are at a particularly fragile moment in the global economy. Indeed, had it not been for the release of the Climategate emails and documents in November, the recent Copenhagen conference might have succeeded in reallocating billions, even trillions, of dollars, possibly leading to a form of global bankruptcy. Less than two months later, with the so-called science now unraveling on an almost daily basis, the whole thing seems close to insane. How could we have done it?
Well, how could we have done it?
Okay, I'll take a pass at that - with the caveat that this is a very early narrative of a story that many will tell and examine in the future, undoubtedly in book form. In fact, it deserves several books.
But let's start with the obvious. Most of us love Mother Earth. It's a beautiful planet to live on with many extraordinary places and creatures "in't." Most of us want to preserve it. And for decades we have been trying to do so - liberals and conservatives in sometimes different ways - via governmental and non-governmental means. To greater or lesser degrees, some of these means worked - or at least improved things. Anyone who lives in Los Angeles, as I do, knows the benefits of air quality legislation. You can actually see the hills and your eyes don't tear, as they once did, when you walk into the back yard.
As we know, while these things were going on, organizations were growing and forming in protection of the Earth, or what was perceived to be the protection of the Earth. Many of these groups would phone us or go door-to-door asking for money, which many of us, I among them, gave. We were all good servants of Gaia. No matter what our religion - or lack thereof - it was the right thing. The Earth was in jeopardy. We had to defend it. And these organizations continued growing. Being "green" became the normative behavior, in practically every aspect of our existence, from the school to the supermarket. We lived in a "recycling world." (Yes, I know there were many environmental errors and misidentifications of endangered species, etc., but mistakes are the way of the world. Let's pass over that for the moment.) Environmentalism had become for many a replacement religion rather than the simple common sense that it is.
Enter Al Gore. Recently having lost a highly-disputed election for the most important position in the world, he was ripe for a cause and became influenced by a small group of scientists who had deep and sincere beliefs in an impending catastrophe from CO2 caused Anthropogenic Global Warming. The most prominent of these scientists is James Hansen of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who is said to have a general dislike for industrial civilization and what it has wrought. Whether this is true or not or whether Gore knew it, I don't know, but it doesn't appear to have mattered. Gore - who had no scientific training and indeed had an exceptionally poor academic record in general - seized upon the information proferred by Hansen and the others, not questioning them, as far we know, for a second. (As you will see from this link, many, including director superiors, are questioning Hansen now.)
Giving the former vice-president his due, several motivations (probably more) were operative: 1. In the pervasive pro-environmental atmosphere, most people - himself included - would tend to take what the scientists told him at face value. 2. Gore needed something to resurrect himself from what he undoubtedly considered an unfair loss and assault on his ego. He had won the popular vote for President, after all. 3. He probably didn't have the skills to question the scientists anyway, even if he wanted to.
He did, however, have the skills of a politician and the many important connections accrued from years of power. These things conspired to make Gore the most significant force in the promulgation of man-made global warming theory. In a short time he was lecturing everywhere as its designated spokesperson and had made a film on the subject, An Inconvenient Truth, which garnered an Oscar, despite mediocre aesthetic value. This was followed by the Nobel Peace Prize he shared with United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an organization - it should be noted - that gathered none of its own facts, but relied on others. In that way, Gore and the IPCC (although filled with scientists) were similar. They learned everything second-hand.
This, to borrow a word from Gore, was convenient, because, as often as not, they did not have to examine truth or the facts directly. Their so-called truth could completely be at the behest of belief systems they wanted to believe. Science was becoming fully politicized and not, in fact, science. (One of the great ironies is that the skeptics were the ones who were accused of being anti-science, when it is the reverse. Similarly, as recently as a few weeks ago, I saw James Carville on television accusing global warming skeptics of being "pro-pollution," which is not only a lie, but a completely anti-scientific one. Many of the skeptics had been the ones complaining that the the fixation on AGW left proven environmental problems - like dirty water - unattended. )
Meanwhile, with AGW now "settled science," Gore was able to find and campaign for a solution to the problem. That solution turned out to be the trading of "carbon credits," a system which entailed the setting up of carbon exchanges across the globe that would make many people rich, very rich, to the tune of billions of dollars, including Mr. Gore. The former vice-president would become wealthy beyond his wildest dreams through promulgating a scientific theory that would save humanity from itself. No narcissist could possibly ask for more.
So is Al Gore an evil person? I think not. He has meant well, in all probability, and was convinced he was on the side of truth and justice (at least in the beginning anyway-who knows now what he thinks?). But he is also, like many bloviators, an emotionally weak person with the insecurity of someone who has to make absurd claims such as his legendary invention of the Internet. At the beginning of the Copenhagen conference he - foolishly and seemingly out of desperation -insisted the north polar cap would be ice free in five to seven years, only to be contradicted almost immediately by the scientist who was his source.
In a certain way we could look upon Gore as a joke, had not his ideas so permeated the culture. Although the British papers are having a field day with the recent revelations, our mainstream media - still engaging, one could say, in the politicization of science - have largely ignored them or relegated them to back pages. And much of the popular culture still takes the position that we are on the brink of climate Armageddon. Leonardo DiCaprio and Cornel West (shame on him!) have just released yet another video warning of imminent disaster. Ask almost any kid about global warming and they will parrot back what they learned in nearly every school. Man-made global warming is a perilous reality.
Gore is the poster boy for all this. That is why Pajamas Media continues to harp on him and is investigating the scandal further with much more information to be revealed shortly. Further Lionel Chetwynd and I have just finished taping another Poliwood calling for Gore's Oscar to be rescinded. This time we invite the former veep, director Davis Guggenheim and producer Lawrence Bender to appear on a show to defend their film. Nice guys, we even give them the questions in advance. Watch for other Climategate reports on PJM and PJTV soon. As Churchill said, never,never, give up - and we won't until the global warming issue is returned to it proper place... science.
UPDATE: Although I singled out the British press for praise above (of course, I meant some of it), the UK government appears to be as reactionary as our own when it comes to AGW. .. Oh, and for those in the comments who do see Gore as evil, I understand your point, but personally save the "e" word for the likes of this man.