Chicken Little, Smoking and Al Gore

Sunday’s paper included an article on the acidification of the oceans, and another on the changed political world associated with smoking cigarettes.   I sat in my easy chair,  and I let my mind wander.   Almost immediately, Chicken Little and Al Gore popped into my head.  It makes sense, sort of, really, it does.

I have disliked Mr. Gore for a long time, and the article on smoking brought back old memories. Mr. Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth, is probably where my smoking Al Gore memories began.    The film discussed skeptics and the smoking lobby in a way that tried to make one interchangeable with the other.   I took it personally.

According to Mr. Gore, I must be immoral, unethical or stupid since I don’t see the world his way.  I find his actions oddly suspicious and, dare I say it…unethical.  Why does Al Gore seem to feel a need to attack those that disagree with him?  He has equated skeptics to people who think the Apollo missions were faked.

Let’s review how Mr. Gore attacked climate skeptics in his film.

  • He began by showing how he was fooled by the evil smoking lobby.  How he grew tobacco on his farm until his sister died of lung cancer in 1984.  I thought Mr. Gore was about 20 years late for the anti smoking party.
  • He then used some statistical gymnastics to “prove” that there was a consensus in science. Everybody that was anybody in science agreed with him.  The science was conclusive.  Earlier in the film he made the point that conventional wisdom is frequently wrong in science.  Most scientists will admit there is no such thing as consensus in science.  Doubt is a part of science.
  • People that disagree with him could not possibly have any factual basis for their argument.  They must have an ulterior motive.
  • The only explanation was that these people were casting doubt and profiting by this effort.  And as Mr. Gore then noted, we have all seen this one before….
  • A slide from a 50’s magazine showing physicians recommending smoking immediately appears.
  • It is followed by a quote from a smoking lobbyist recommending doubt as a strategy.

Casting doubt is a part of the scientific process.  Mr. Gore demonstrated an ignorance of the way science works and personally insulted everyone that disagreed with him.   Why?  To convince the audience that skeptics have no credibility.   Come on Al, argue the science.

I found the character assassination unwarranted and uncalled for.  Why the smoking references?   The two (smoking and carbon dioxide) are very different subjects.

Smoking is an addictive habit with virtually no beneficial offsets. Carbon dioxide is a building block of life.  No carbon dixode, no plants.   As carbon dioxide increases it causes changes in our environment.  Some changes are good, and some are bad.  Some carbon dioxide is good, too much is bad, but how much is too much?

A difficult question…and there is no consensus, no single answer.

Al Gore was not the first and he will not be the last to try to win his argument by attacking the credibility of his opponent.  It is a normal political activity…that does not belong is science.  Ahhh, if only it were so.  The argument has been a recurring one for decades.  The skeptic/smoking talking point seems to be everywhere.  It’s like everybody in the global climate game has the same script.

Let’s talk Chicken Little.

The Oceans  suck up carbon dioxide.  As the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air increases, carbon dioxide increases in the sea.  This presumably causes rapidly accelerating changes in the surface ecosystem of the oceans.   I have read several articles on the subject.  It certainly sounds plausible,  the ecosystem might be in danger?  Unfortunately, I find myself distrusting the science because of one simple problem.  History.

Climate experts have been spouting gloom and doom since the 1980’s.   And at least so far, the sky is not falling.

UN IPCC predictions of doom have been around since the first Climate Assessment was published in 1992.  A strong El Nino in 1998 made these guys look positively brilliant.  And then as the 21st century began, the climate gloom parade developed growing pains.

  • The predictions of accelerating warming failed to show up.  The world stopped warming in 1998.
  • The Mathematics of the Hockey Stick were successfully challenged
  • Scientists got caught cooking temperature numbers in Climate-gate.  The e-mails also displayed an arrogance and disdain for those that disagreed.
  • The IPCC 2007 Synopses predicted erroneously that the Himalaya Glaciers would be gone 30 years.  Their current guess, 400 years.  As a part of the admission, the IPCC was forced to acknowledge some sloppy vetting practices.
  • In 2006 a skeptic found huge errors in NASA climate data, lowering temperatures for the first 6 years of the 21st century.
  • In 2009 Al Gore predicted incorrectly that the Arctic would be ice free by 2013, a year when the Arctic Ice actually grew.  2012 was a big year for ice loss, but a cool summer in 2013 caused at least a temporary change.

The sky could start falling today or tomorrow, and Chicken Little could be right.  But I cannot help but think:

Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

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