- The Washington Times - Monday, June 5, 2006

There was much I couldn’t get to in this profile/review of Al Gore’s new movie-treatise “An Inconvenient Truth.”

Especially since I’m neither a climatologist nor someone who writes often about science, I tried to steer clear of the nuts and bolts of the global warming dispute. But one thing I touched on in the story is Gore’s characterization of skeptics as “deniers.” (Joel Achenbach of The Other Paper has a long and interesting typology here.)

Gore’s take, you won’t be surprised to know, is that the science of global warming is basically a settled matter, and that the “deniers” are little more than a media noise machine.

He told me: “Look, there are five elements of the consensus worldwide. No 1: Global warming is real. No. 2: Human beings are the principal cause of it. No. 3: The consequences are bad, getting worse, heading toward catastrophic. No. 4: We need to fix it quickly. No. 5: We can fix it. We still do have time.

“Many of those who have been against doing anything about it have now gotten to the point where they accept the first of these five points. They’ve built their new barricade of resistance at the second. Human beings, they claim, are not responsible for it. They will also say the consequences are not necessarily bad. And they’ll say you can’t fix it without doing more harm than good.”

Why, I asked, does global warming split along ideological lines? Is it the speculative nature of global warming alarmism? Is it an inborn resistance to the way we organize a modern economy?

Said Gore: “Some of the deniers feel justified because they feel that in the past there have been times when advocates of some progressive change have used hyperbole to try to stampede people to make changes. And so they want to protect themselves against that. They’re suspicious that that’s going on here.

“There are others who do have an economic stake and who are less likely to be curious about what scientists are saying. The movie quotes the line from Upton Sinclair, ‘It’s difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends on not understanding it.’”

The editors of the New Republic dubbed the latter group — the ones whose salaries presumably depend on the unabated burning of fossil fuels — “Exx-cons,” that is, conservatives in the pocket of companies like ExxonMobil.

Arizona State University climatologist Robert Balling — whom I spoke to for, but couldn’t fit in, the piece — is one such skeptic. He said he’s forever dogged by the fact that he took funding from the oil-and-gas industry. “It was $400,000 to fund graduate students,” he said. “These guys will never let me live that down.”

With a pool of $6 billion in climate-change research, Balling asked, why should the federal government have a monopoly on funding?

Good question, it seems to me.

Over to you, global warming experts.

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