A convenient omission of the truth

Although the scientific meat of Al Gore’s Nobel work on global warming is recognized by both believers and skeptics, many with intimate knowledge of carbon science overlook significant discrepancies and possible attempts to mislead. Sadly, however, a little bit of fudging isn’t acceptable, no matter how many blockheads and dissenters it convinces.

As detailed in the International Herald Tribune, Gore’s documentary and book, both titled An Inconvenient Truth, make apocalyptic predictions in a manner sure to elicit calls to action through fear rather than strict adherence to fact.

For example, most estimates cite a maximum sea rise of 23 inches for this century. Gore, who according to the article cites “no particular time frame,” predicts sea rises of 20 feet. That’s only the first of many ambiguous statements Gore makes, however.

Gore thinks coastal areas are consigned to an irremediable doom reminiscent of Waterworld, save for the people-fins and dreamy early ’90s footage of Kevin Costner. But Don Easterbrook, a professor emeritus of geology at Western Washington University, told hundreds of experts at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America that “there are a lot of inaccuracies in the statements [from Gore] we are seeing, and we have to temper that with real data.”

There’s also a nasty little report from the National Academies that contradicts Gore’s claims that the current century is the warmest in the past millennium. According to the article, the report found that, “current highs appeared unrivaled since only 1600.” Apparently the earth was warmer 400 years ago, well before heavy industrialization began.

James Hansen, who is director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA), said while “Al does an exceptionally good job of seeing the forest for the trees,” and he agrees with Gore’s main idea, he nevertheless admits that inaccuracies exist.

This “forest for the trees” analogy and its justification don’t sit easily with me.

If human-induced climate change existed, but the masses were nevertheless unconvinced, it still doesn’t seem right to falsely claim a situation akin to The Day After Tomorrow would happen in the near future merely to communicate the point. The masses may nevertheless remain unconvinced, but when lied to, they will remain in a state deprived of evidence and laden with ignorance. It’s like parents who wildly exaggerate the risk of condom failure to get children to remain abstinent: ridiculous.

The justification of such fudging assumes some false premises: First, that it’s okay to be dishonest toward people if they’re not intelligent enough (read: don’t have the right opinion) and second, that people aren’t intelligent enough to make decisions for themselves if presented with the facts in a colorless manner.

I wonder how those who advocate this top-down approach to human intelligence and governance would feel if they were on the receiving end of the mandates and dictum.To add insult to injury, Gore has been insulated from accusations of trickery with loose language. Flaws are excused as “reasonable for a politician” with Gore’s noble end.

Does this mean if a politician and a scientist were to each write a report on the same subject – let’s use cat food as a nice, neutral example – and both reports contained 20 false or exaggerated statements (cats prefer bacon to tuna, cats will only eat food if served in stemware, etc.), that the scientist is more wrong and deserving of greater castigation because he’s a scientist?

By this reasoning, politicians somehow get off the hook because they are politicians. This is the exact opposite of how things should work. Elected leaders should face additional scrutiny – not less.

Gore and his defenders, of course, are not unique in their slapdash yet valiant approach to environmental woes. The British Conservatives’ new energy policy, for example, decides people’s air travel needs for them. Because air travel – for the evil purpose of personal enjoyment – contributes to human-induced climate change, individuals will be allotted “one short-haul flight a year,” according to a leaked document.

Although the climate change bandwagon has gained as much momentum as a steam engine in recent months – or a wind-powered engine, even – the pressure to conform is no substitute for plain facts. Individuals can make decisions for themselves, but if they wish to retain that right, it is imperative that they be wary of anyone claiming the contrary.

Victoria Bekiempis is a sophomore majoring in history and French.