As Obi-Wan Kenobi said, “Now that’s a name I’ve not heard in a long time.”
I remember watching Al Gore’s presidential campaign with interest back in 1999 when he lost to George Bush because his home state of Tennessee didn’t vote for him, thus denying his candidacy a crucial eleven electoral collage votes which would have given him victory. We didn’t hear too much from him until he brought out his animated slide show called ‘An Inconvenient Truth‘ in 2006. For those who might not remember, this was the film shown to school kids across the world that was so bad and so inaccurate that a judge in the UK ruled that it could only be shown with a warning that it contained nine scientific inaccuracies.
The film’s distributor, Paramount, warned in its synopsis of the film:
“If the vast majority of the world’s scientists are right, we have just ten years to avert a major catastrophe that could send our entire planet into a tail-spin of epic destruction involving extreme weather, floods, droughts, epidemics and killer heat waves beyond anything we have ever experienced.”
But the judge ruled that the ‘apocalyptic vision’ presented in the film was politically partisan and thus not an impartial scientific analysis of climate change.
It was, he ruled, a ‘political film’.
Of course the ten years have come and gone with none of the Gaia punishments he promised coming to pass. Now, as then, Gore and the like are forced to cherry pick events and coerce them into climate cages until they perform the tricks they command. In fact, Al Gore’s recent speech at the government sponsored EcoCity World Summit 2017 did exactly that. It is the type of behaviour that makes them guilty of the very thing they accuse others of: denying science.
“The climate movement, not least in cities, is right now in the tradition of all the great moral causes that have improved the circumstances of humanity throughout our history. The abolition of slavery. Women’s suffrage and women’s rights. The civil rights movement and the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. The late Nelson Mandela said it was always impossible until it was done. The movement to stop the toxic phase of the nuclear arms race and more recently the gay rights movement. Some of you may disagree with that. I don’t. I did earlier in my life.
But all of these movements have one thing in common. They all have met with ferocious resistance and have generated occasional feelings of despair from those who knew the right direction and wondered whether we could ever get there. The late Martin Luther King Jr. once said to a supporter in the bleakest hours who asked ‘How long is this going to take?’ He replied, “How long? Not long. Because no lie can live forever. Because the moral arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice. How long? Not long.”
The late economist Rudy Dornbusch said things take longer than you think but then they happen much faster than you believed they could.”
The effrontery of this type of comparison is so bad it’s hard to know where to start. Badgering climate taxes out of the poor suckers out here in ‘real economy’ land to fix a non-problem is bad enough, but to compare it to the abolition of slavery is beyond the pale. Slavery, unlike cherry picking normal weather events, was (and still is in many parts of the world) a real problem. People being denied the right to vote on the basis of their gender, unlike temperature variation, was (and still is in many parts of the world) a real problem. Separating people on the basis of race, unlike regular storm events, was (and still is right here in Australia) a real problem.
Gore is a good public speaker and knows how to work a crowd. You don’t get to be Vice President without having political skills of communication and he uses this skill very effectively to confuse two very different issues. The examples he uses are mostly moral issues which are viewed as being wrong by the culture at the time and then compares those to his heavily disputed scientific theory. The common thread isn’t that the issues are similar, far from it. The common thread in his tapestry is that of emotional appeal and this gets to the crux of the matter. Because the gig is up on the scientific front with the world stubbornly refusing to warm as Gore ordered, the resort is to tug on heart strings and use symbolism.
There is a place for being taken up with emotion, watching your favourite romance movie, family relationships, your deeply held religious convictions for example. The one place in all of human endeavour that should never allow emotion is that of science. The great scientist of the past such as Newton or Einstein would be horrified that a scientific debate was reduced to slick presentation and emotional manipulation. Comparing it to the abolition of slavery, which is one of the greatest moral achievement of the civilised world, is shameful.
But then shame has never been big on the radar of snake oil salesmen.
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Stephen Cable, BSc
Stephen holds a degree in Construction Management from Newcastle University and works as a Quantity Surveyor in Brisbane. He has an intense interest in the ideological contest between freedom and control that dominates our social and political discourse. The benefits brought to humanity through the application of libertarian principles are legion with the application of free market systems, freedom of speech and smaller government. Stephen writes in a way to illustrate the philosophical genesis behind political and social events and how they impact your life and the life of those to come.