Stop the press: Scientists doubt Gore's alarms

It's newsworthy when the mainstream press takes notice of unfrenzied approaches to climate change.

Bob Tippee

It's newsworthy when the mainstream press takes notice of unfrenzied approaches to climate change.

The News York Times made such news in a Mar. 13 article by William J. Broad.

The essence: Celebrated alarms raised by former US Vice-President Gore have fallen subject to scientific scrutiny and come up short.

Broad quotes an impressive range of scientists who see inaccuracies in Gore's horror movie about global warming, An Inconvenient Truth.

Some of the quoted scientists agree with Gore that humankind needs to change behavior or face catastrophic warming. Others aren't sure about that but favor lesser precaution. Yet others argue that climate changes attributable to people are too small to do anything about.

Members of the group quoted by Broad, largely can be said to disagree about the politics of global warming but to agree that Gore has the science, to varying degrees, wrong.

One obviously sympathetic scientist expressed worry that Gore was "overselling our certainty about knowing the future" but praised him for "getting the message out." To some participants in the global warming issue, propaganda comes before fact.

In Broad's piece, Gore's facts—the melting ice, the vanishing coasts, the ravaging storms—receive the doubt they deserve.

Even better, the article gives a rare and thorough airing to the possibility that at least some observed warming might be part of natural cycles.

In an e-mail exchange reported by Broad, Gore characteristically asserted, "The degree of scientific consensus on global warming has never been stronger." Against the variety of views presented in the article, however, that deception looks flimsier than ever.

Responding to concerns about the accuracy of what he presented as fact, Gore argued that his movie dealt with the most important aspects of global warming even if it shirked "some nuances and distinctions" important to scientists.

There's his central error. Truth about global warming and wisdom of response lie in the very complexities Gore wants everyone to ignore.

The right response to global warming probably falls somewhere between no response and blind response. Broad's article offers the refreshing prospect that between the extremes, reasonable discussion remains possible.

(Online Mar. 16, 2007; author's e-mail:

More in Editor's Perspective