Mar 192007
 
Authors: Daniel GibsonReinemer

Global warming skeptics can thank Al Gore.

It’s tough to wade through the science of climate change, ask critical questions, and look for compelling evidence.

It’s a lot easier to attack the idea of changes in the global climate due to human impacts by attacking Mr. Gore.

In science, evidence comes from observation, experimentation, and quantitative analysis of results. But why bother with such trouble when you can just sling mud?

An effective way to get around actually providing evidence is to find a person some Americans already view unfavorably and link their persona with the issue you oppose.

Here’s how to sidestep any investigation into a complex issue occupying some of the brightest minds in the world, do minimal fact-finding, and come out sounding informed enough to make it on cable news:

1) Cite one inconsistency or somewhat misleading portion of the film “An Inconvenient Truth”

2) Find a quote from one expert who at least partially disagrees with something Mr. Gore said in the film.

3) Bring up Mr. Gore’s electric bill.

4) Throw in an ad hominem about Mr. Gore’s weight, beard, or any personal aspect you wish to mock (call it the “Coulter closer” – rebutting an argument by insulting the person).

Of course, the problem with anyone who makes this argument is it doesn’t get to the heart of the issue; in short, they’re missing the hurricane for the hot air.

Most likely, history will prove that Mr. Gore is not completely correct in all of his assertions or predictions regarding the global climate. This is not a reflection of his ability or bias, but rather a testament to the uncertainty inherent in a subject like climate change.

Indeed, as the New York Times reported last week, several scientists disagree with some segments in “An Inconvenient Truth.” Importantly, though, the scientists do not find fault with the major themes of the documentary.

On the frontiers of cutting-edge science, you will always find a certain amount of disagreement as the facts emerge.

But while the details and a few implications are still debated, the scientific consensus is not.

In February, the Board of Directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science released a statement regarding climate change, which began with an unambiguous declaration: “The scientific evidence is clear: Global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a growing threat to society.”

So while the debate about the amount of increase in sea levels over the next hundred years or the exact role of increasingly warm sea currents on hurricane severity remains academic, the clarity of the fundamental message should not be confused with that of the details.

Whether or not you like Mr. Gore or his approach to global warming is irrelevant to the scientific consensus that has emerged on the subject. Likewise, some of Mr. Gore’s assertions in “An Inconvenient Truth” may be subject to debate without altering the essential facts regarding climate change.

Many of the most important issues, like global warming or the war in Iraq, require a search for truth, which demands skill, patience, and thoughtful deliberation. Often, the reality of a complex situation is such that nobody has a completely true answer.

In such cases, we must acknowledge the uncertainty involved without losing sight of the big picture. If the real search for truth becomes inconvenient, we all suffer.

Daniel Gibson-Reinemer is a fishery and wildlife biology masters student. His column appears every Tuesday in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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