Al Gore Blames the Media for Global-Warming Inaction

Here’s what he had to say. I would argue that he is, um, wrong. Anyone who can say with a straight face that the mainstream media’s portrayal of global warming has been overly skeptical deserves — well, an Oscar.

P.S.: David Remnick wrote a very interesting essay on Gore in this week’s New Yorker (and his long Gore profile from a year or two ago was fantastic); I very much would have liked to see the Saturday Night Live sketch described therein.

P.P.S.: How does Remnick serve as the New Yorker’s editor and write more articles, and better ones, than most of the writers there? Forget Seth Roberts’s sugar water; I want for breakfast whatever Remnick has.

(Hat tip: Jim Romenesko)


lnico

The video can be found here :
http://politicalhumor.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?zi=1/XJ&sdn=politicalhumor&zu=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.crooksandliars.com%2F2006%2F05%2F14.html%23a8280

pkimelma

Stephen: "whereas, another study found that 53 percent of mainstream newspaper articles disagreed the global warming premise.". He was quoting a study (the article does not say which study).
The issue was more with regards to media articles not explaining the consensus among most scientists who actually study such things (we have so many talking head "scientists" on cable news who have something to say on every subject, that you may forget that science as a field is quite broad).
You also need to realize that the MSM does not just include the New York Times, but many other outlets. This study would have included Fox News for example.

egretman

Yeah, Dubner, I think you finally got one wrong. You seem to be referring more to the recent attention that global warming has gotten in the pulp media whereas Gore was referring to the last few years of media analysis.

He's exactly right when he says, "They have failed to report that it is the consensus and instead have chosen … balance as bias."

"Balance as Bias", it's the new Faux News way.

Having said that though, I must admit that after studying Non-linear Chaotic Systems as my graduate degree, the believe that scientists know exactly what the results of excess CO2 buildup will be is to believe in fairy tales.

grendelkhan

Saying that Gore is "um, wrong" is not the same as arguing that he is. A point was made about the discrepancy between the state of contention in the media versus the state of contention in the scientific literature; a conclusion was drawn that the media was presenting a distorted view of the science.

Did I miss the part where "arguing" now means simply saying "um, wrong"?

stankwell

Too bad the Remnick article has it wrong about the 2000 Florida results. As extensively documented in many sources, Bush would have won Florida -- and therefore the election -- if SCOTUS would have let the manual recount proceed. Smart people just look stupid when they say Bush stole the 2000 election.

grendelkhan

egretman, I've yet to see a scientist, writing in the scientific literature, say that they know exactly anything--their language is couched in terms of uncertainty, in error bars and in phrases like "it is likely". The idea that scientists are claiming to know exactly what the results of excess CO2 are is simply wrong.

Now, popularizations may jump to conclusions and make sweeping, over-broad statements, and I suppose scientists can get tarred with that brush quite easily, but it's a different issue.

tmitsss

If you read the article you see the slight of hand.
" A 10-year University of California study found that essentially zero percent of peer-reviewed scientific journal articles disagreed that global warming exists, whereas, another study found that 53 percent of mainstream newspaper articles disagreed the global warming premise."

Are we talking about the fact that everybody agrees that the Earth is warming and has been since the Little Ice Age or are we talking about Human induced CO2 causing the warming. Nobody can disprove that the increase in CO2 might have some effect on global temperature, since without CO2 the planet would be an ice ball. There however substantial and valid disagreement as to whether the human induced portion of the warming is measurable or in any way significant.
Additionally the burden in on the proponents of that theory to prove it, and they certainly haven't carried the day on that.

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pkimelma

Yes, climate scientists are not saying that they know *exactly* what will happen, only the way that trends are going and what they predict. If you studied non-linear chaotic systems, you know that you can make "most likely" predicted outcomes with degrees of certainty. Further, by seeing trends evolving as predicted, you can narrow likely longer term outcomes. This is why it has taken so long for science to get more certain on Global Warming (cause and effects).

pparkmanlg

I agree with Dubner; Al Gore is um, wrong. However, my reasons are completely different. Global warming is a sideshow - rather than concern over 1 debatable side-effect of massive energy consumption -we need to look at the whole panoply of energy-related issues. And the cure for these massive problems ... pollution, deforestation, political dependence on unstable regions, building a society based on soon to be exhausted non-renewable resource, and, yes, climate change ... are all the same. We have to conserve energy. Whether or nor global warming is caused by humans, we have to conserve energy - starting now - and that's all that matters.

mathking

Let's not digress into the 2000 Florida recount, because every argument about "who would have/should have" won is based on the most favorable premise for that side. Manual recount as it was being conducted, same rules. Manual recount forcing all counties to follow the same rules. Manual recount using the same rules to either allow or disallow absentee ballots. Many variations thereof.

As for Gore's comment, I think it was right on target. Part of a much larger problem in the media, the twisted concept of balance as it is practiced now. Every viewpoint is not equal and when you present two opposing sides the way the mainstream media tends to, you create a "he said / she said" tenor in reporting. For LONG time this was the media way to present the issue of global warming. In spite of the scientific consensus which has been strong (and growing stronger) for quite a while now.

It is also the way many other controversial issues are presented, even if there is a near overwheming preponderance of evidence supporting one side over the other. It really boils down to timidity and laziness. The story gets framed, you get one person from "each side" to quote and you write a story.

As for making predictions, news reports tend to take a sentence here, a paragraph there out of scientific reports and use these to make headlines. The single biggest thing climate scientists have been saying is that the weather is going to get a lot more unpredictable because more energy will be trapped in the system. I have not read any reports where scientists say they know what will happen. (While I haven't read anywhere near all of them, I have read a lot.) That has been the province of reporters.

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Brett Dunbar

The American media have given the no lobby rather more attention than they really merit. Climatologists are overwhelmingly of the opinion that the bulk of the current warming is anthropogenic so the habit of inviting one pro and one anti for "balance" dramatically exaggerates the significance of the antis.

Actually proving that the sharp increase in CO2 is responsible for most of the current warming trend is difficult, due the complexity of the system and the multiple other factors affecting climate, it does seem to have been accomplished to the satisfaction of virtually all specialists.

egretman

Now, popularizations may jump to conclusions and make sweeping, over-broad statements, and I suppose scientists can get tarred with that brush quite easily

Exactly, grendelkhan.

The scientific community is apparently incapable of countering these sweeping and over-broad statements of the Faux Media.

Nevertheless, what do we know now?

1. There has been a phenomenal rise in CO2. This is as proven as newton/gravity and Darwin/evolution.
2.There has been a corresponding rise in temperatures. However, not to the degree that the early models predicted. Newer models are taking into account increase global shielding of the sun rays by the increase in temperature producing more clouds. The models get better.
3. What will be the ultimate effects of continued increasing of CO2? It depends. And there's the rub.

The melting of Greenland would be bad for coastal cities. Well sure. Otherwise, where you live may be hotter or cooler, wetter or dryer, more storms or less. That's the chaotic aspect of this entire issue.

This next tact for Rush Limbaugh etc. will be to tacitly accept global warming by insisting that it will be good for America. Warmer north, longer growing season, etc. Trouble is, if we have truly tipped a non-linear system into another set of states then Rush and the rest of us could be in for a wild ride.

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baltecon

I completely agree with pparkmanlg. The solutions proposed for the supposed global warming are warranted based on their own merits, regardless of any actual existence of global warming. Air pollution should be curbed because nobody likes breathing smog. Renewable energy should be developed, and consumption reduced, because otherwise we'll run out someday. These are valid, necessary actions, and do not need to be pinned to one theoretical side-effect.

My main problem with Gore's argument is that he equates consensus of scientific opinion with fact. Just because a group got together and agreed upon some belief does not make it true. Global warming may be a logical theory, but it has not been conclusively proven or disproven.

grendelkhan

baltecon: what do you reckon would be a better approximation to 'fact' than a consensus of scientific opinion? You're aware that there's a bit more to science than "g[etting] together and agree[ing] upon some belief", right?

I'm a bit boggled over people strongly disagreeing with Gore who agree with his message that conservation is critical, and that reliance on fossil fuels is unsustainable. It's like... "I agree with your positions, but you place more emphasis on one justification and not enough on others." Seems more nitpicky than anything else. And certainly has nothing to do with Dubner's original "um, wrong" remark--does he read the comments here? Is there any chance he'll actually explain himself?

Nathaniel

I'm not sure how Gore can be "um, wrong" about a fairly straightforward statement of fact. Articles published in the general media do not present the same degree of certainty or uncertainty that peer-reviewed science articles present on the same subject. There's no real space for disagreement there, it's a factual statement.

The only thing you can disagree with is whether that is a good or bad thing, whether the scientists are right or wrong (consensus does not mean correct), or whether the journalists should be making such an effort to report both sides of the issue. You can certainly defend the integrity of journalists without having to appear to be petty and disparaging anyone who dares criticize the content of mass media reports on scientific matters.

rafe

I agree with egretman, Dubner got this one wrong (hey, it happens :-)

I also agree with his claim that many mainstream scientists tend to have overconfidence in their ability to predict the outcome in non-linear complex systems. Whether the media is exacerbating this overconfidence bias does not mean that it doesn't exist.

dpalermo

The fact that the US population never pressed the government to adhere to the Kyoto protocol more than proves that the press there never gave too much attention to the matter! You guys are the most polluting country in the world (well, China got there too after a few years, but still, they have 5x the population), and no one there ever cared for it... Indeed, something that has been in the wide media in most other countries for at least a decade are only now being noticed by your press. Gore is right; you are wrong.

isalante

How'd Seth Roberts cure his acne? The other ailment solutions are fascinating.

egretman

Um...yes, rafe, scientists are at a loss to predict real specific outcomes of this rise in CO2. But you should still be concerned.

Because this isn't just a Non-linear Chaotic System. This is the more alarming Time-varying Non-linear Chaotic System. Remember, the CO2 is still rising. That means it's not the same Chaotic sytem today that it was yesterday and not the same as it will be tomorrow.

For instance, Cornell professors are given to illustrate to their students that Chaotic systems are not unbounded. As an example, they say "you will never see a hurricane in the south Atlantic".

Well, guess what? One hit Brazil in 2004. The global system is changing.

yep

"01 Mar 2007 at 12:10 pm # stankwell
Too bad the Remnick article has it wrong about the 2000 Florida results. As extensively documented in many sources, Bush would have won Florida — and therefore the election — if SCOTUS would have let the manual recount proceed. Smart people just look stupid when they say Bush stole the 2000 election. "

Stankwell - not correct. You are correct if what you are saying is that had Al Gore's legal team had his way, Bush would have won. However, in a full count of all of the actual ballots of all the counties (Gore wanted a recount in select counties) in FL, Gore won. This doesnt take into account undervotes, hanging chads, butterfly ballots or any of the other issues that may have caused some to vociferously state that it was stolen.

And, yes, Stephen, the media has presented a 'balanced' (as in 50-50) view of an issue that is more likely 95-5 or greater among scientists. That, um, doesn't make him, um, wrong. The media does not present both sides to whether smoking causes cancer (because it does and people who say otherwise are, um, wrong); this is just as silly.

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