Saint Gore

I’m going to borrow this from the Howler. In a recent Newsweek article about the charlatans who pollute our scientific discourse (particularly that about global warming), editor John Meacham writes:

>As Sharon Begley writes in this week’s cover, however, we are living in a very different time. On global cooling, there was never anything even remotely approaching the current scientific consensus that the world is growing warmer because of the emission of greenhouse gases inextricably linked to human activity (like, say, driving).

>When Sharon and I—along with Julia Baird and Debra Rosenberg, the editors on the project—began talking about what Sharon calls “the denial machine,” I was somewhat skeptical. Corporate America is calling for action and thinking green. California is curbing emissions. Al Gore is now an Oscar-winning PowerPoint presenter. If Gore, whom George H.W. Bush called “Ozone Man” in 1992, and ExxonMobil could agree on the gravity of the issue, then who, I wondered, wasn’t onboard?

>Too many people, as it turns out. Sharon’s reporting illuminates how global-warming skeptics have long sown doubt about the science of climate change, doubts that have affected—and are still affecting—our response to a real and growing problem.

>Our story is not a piece of lefty cant. Honest, well-meaning people can disagree about what we should do about climate change, but it is increasingly difficult to maintain that the problem simply does not exist, or is a minor threat.

>We are not saying that it is time for all Americans to give up their cars and bike to work, or that Gore should be canonized or that the board of the Sierra Club should be given emergency powers to run the country. But Sharon is saying that to reflexively deny the scientific consensus does a disservice to the debate, which is shortchanged and circumscribed when Rush Limbaugh tells his listeners, as he did earlier this year, that “more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is not likely to significantly contribute to the greenhouse effect. It’s just all part of the hoax.”

Americans probably should bike to work (where and when possible) and Gore should be rewarded for putting up with this kind of crap. Even though that’s a concessive phrase, it suggests that one major group in the global warming discussion has a religious, not a scientific, character. That group, of course, is the one that’s been right all along (even about things other than global warming, by the way) about the science. Perhaps they ought to be accorded with a little rhetorical respect. Such characterizations, even outside of the bounds of argument, do a worse disservice than the classic National Review straw man–at least there one knows what one’s getting.