Why Broad’s NYT piece isn’t all that important
[ed. note from David Roberts: It appears everyone in the climate world was writing about this piece at once! My response is here; RealClimate’s is here; Tim Lambert’s is here. Now take it away, Andrew.]
William J. Broad writes today on the complicated relationship between Al Gore and the scientific community in the New York Times.
Here’s the thesis of the article:
But part of his scientific audience is uneasy. In talks, articles and blog entries that have appeared since his film and accompanying book came out last year, these scientists argue that some of Mr. Gore’s central points are exaggerated and erroneous. They are alarmed, some say, at what they call his alarmism.
So what evidence does he supply for this “uneasiness”? Why, he quotes some really reasonable and middle-of-the-road scientists: Jim Hansen, Dick Lindzen, Bjorn Lomborg, Roy Spencer, Benny Peiser, Bob Carter, Paul Reiter, Michael Oppenheimer.
Lomborg, Peiser, and Reiter are not climate scientists.
Lindzen, Spencer, and Carter are scientists, but between them, they have about as much scientific credibility on this issue as the Tobacco Institute has on the health effects of smoking.
Hansen and Oppenheimer are strong advocates on the other side. Oppenheimer even consulted for Gore on the movie.
And then there’s this Easterbrook guy, who I don’t know. But he’s retired, which makes me a bit suspicious that he’s a nut.
So when you strip away the journalistic husk of the article, you’re left with the unsurprising conclusion: Lindzen and two or three other scientists are uneasy about Gore’s statements.
Stop the presses! Mr. Broad, your Pulitzer’s in the mail!
It’s too bad. There is a story here, just not the one that was written. The real story is about how Al Gore is battling and beating the Exxon/Bush uncertainty agenda. Gore’s statements (and his few inaccuracies) cannot be viewed by themselves in isolation; rather, they have to be viewed in relation to the inaccuracies and downright mendacity of the other side.
After reading Mr. Broad’s article, here are a few things to remember:
- Al Gore is an advocate, not a scientist. Advocates make whatever argument they think is most effective. Judging him by the standards of science is comparing apples to oranges. There are indeed some parts of Gore’s movie that I would disagree with, but on the whole the movie is overwhelmingly accurate.
- Let’s compare An Inconvenient Truth with any Wall Street Journal editorial on climate change (e.g., here). I’d argue that Gore’s movie is far more accurate than anything the WSJ has published on this issue, even those pieces written by ostensibly credible scientist Dick Lindzen. Perhaps Mr. Broad will write an article about the Wall Street Journal editorial page making scientists uneasy.
- Al Gore is not a spokesman for the scientific community. The views of the scientific community are well described by the IPCC’s reports. If you want to know what real “middle of the road” climate scientists think about the climate, read the recently released summary (PDF) of the newest IPCC report (also discussed here).
[Update] As I suspected, Easterbrook is a nut. I hate it when people are predictable.