Former vice president Al Gore’s jarring movie An Inconvenient Truth may have won the Academy Award for Best Documentary, rattled the complacent cages of middle America and stimulated discusssion about the dangers of ignoring climate change.
But was it “hype” laced with exaggerated claims and outright factual errors? Has it actually unnerved bonafide climate scientists?
A New York Times story published March 13 takes Gore to task.
“Part of his scientific audience is uneasy,” wrote William Broad. “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.”
The response to Broad’s story has been swift, if not savage. You’ll need to keep refreshing Google News or Technorati to keep up. Later in the day, the conservatives and climate-change deniers will chime in. Let the blogwar games begin.
It’s worth remembering at this point that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just called evidence of climate warming “unequivocal” and proclaimed that human-generated greenhouse gas emissions are “very likely” the single biggest cause. The summary for policy makers was blunt. Whatever finally falls out over climate change, Gore’s movie portrays a consensus among many scientists.
The first rule when criticizing popular science presentations for inaccuracies should be to double check any ‘facts’ you use. It is rather ironic then that William Broad’s latest piece on Al Gore plays just as loose with them as he accuses Gore of doing
Also responding within hours, blogger David Roberts posted an energetic critique that skewered Broad’s story as “the worst, sloppiest, most dishonest piece of reporting I’ve ever seen in the NYT.” After dismantling several of Broad’s assertions, and offering detailed background on the qualifications of several sources, Roberts concludes:
Bill Broad took to the pages of the paper of record to establish that there is significant concern in the scientific community about the accuracy of Gore’s movie. To do so, he trotted out scientific outliers, non-scientists, and hacks with discredited arguments. In at least two cases (Pielke Jr. being a scientist and the NAS report contradicting Gore) he made gross factual errors. As for the rest, it’s a classic case of journalistic “false balance” — something I thought we were done with on global warming. I guess when it comes to Al Gore, the press still thinks it can get by on smear, suggestion, and innuendo.
- IPCC’s Latest Sizzling Details
- CO2 hit 379 PPM in 2005 versus 300 PPM peak over 650,000 years
- Average global temp rose 1 to 2 degrees F during 20th century
- Sea level rose 4 to 8 inches in 20th century
- Since 2000, temperature rise has sped up
- 11 of past 12 years are warmest since 1850
- Sea level may rise another 7 to 23 inches by 2099
- The ocean is getting warmer as deep as 9,800 feet
- 80 percent of heat is absorbed by the sea
… of the sources cited in the article, at least four have records of misinformation on the issue. Though three of these were identified as skeptics or as having expressed skepticism, in all four cases, their past statements or studies questioning global warming theory have been debunked or discredited by the scientific community — which Broad did not report.
One of the mildest responses appeared on Al Gore’s own web site. With a link that sends readers back to the NYTs story, the site says:
Some scientists argue that some of Mr. Gore’s central points on global warming are exaggerated and erroneous. But Mr. Gore clearly has supporters among leading scientists, who call his science basically sound.