I recently blogged about the first installment of Walter Russell Mead’s very public thrashing of Al Gore. Part two is now available and it’s wonderful.
In my view, one of Mead’s most important observations is that the global warming debate is primarily not about science. As regular readers know, this blog rarely talks about science. I have no background in that field and am therefore not in a position to evaluate complex scientific theories one way or another.
My background is journalism. Prior to 2002 I spent a decade writing difficult investigative pieces. One of my earliest stories involved a case in which someone was wrongly convicted of murdering a nine-year-old girl. Forensic science played a pivotal role in that wrongful conviction and my work focused on how science had been misused in the courtroom.
Lab technicians, police officers, and prosecutors all portrayed the alleged scientific evidence as far more damning than it actually was. Jurors were shown photocopies of a peer-reviewed scientific study and invited to draw conclusions that were actually erroneous.
The idea that science can be used and abused by people with an agenda is, therefore, an old idea to me. When I began paying attention to the global warming debate, I suspected that some of the same concerns might apply.
Mead acknowledges that “Gore fundamentally misstates the nature of the scientific discussion of climate change” but he says the “real issue here is not climate science.” In his view, those who spend a lot of time debating the science fall into Gore’s trap.
There are many marvelous observations in this new Mead essay. You can read the whole thing here. But I’d like to highlight the way he describes the dynamic between skeptics and Gore. Many skeptics, he says,
cannot help themselves. They start arguing with him about hockey sticks and CO2.
This is exactly what Mr. Gore wants; it moves the argument onto his strongest terrain. Whatever one thinks of the scientific evidence for climate change, Gore is on much stronger ground when he argues that the earth is warming than when he argues that a great green global treaty on the lines he proposes can ever be either adopted or enforced.
There is.no serious evidence in either history or political studies to suggest that his approach to the problem can ever be adopted or will ever work. Like war, global warming may well be real ” but that doesn’t mean a treaty can help.
The green movement’s core tactic is.to cloak a comically absurd, impossibly complex and obviously impractical political program in the authority of science.
To argue with these people about science is to miss the core point. Even if the science is exactly as Mr. Gore claims, his policies are still useless. His advocacy is still a distraction. The movement he heads is still a ship of fools.
I think I’ve got goosebumps.
The Failure of Al Gore: Part One