Not surprisingly, my most recent letter drew some fire; also not surprisingly, no one disputed the facts.
One respondent wrote:
It shows great weakness that Gore never debates the issue, despite many invitations to do so. He will never go head-to-head with a climatologist who disagrees with his stance because Gore knows how porous his argument is.
I routinely attack his arguments and his hypocrisy here on this forum, but I am not an expert and base my arguments on common sense. I would love to see Gore debate with [four deniers] or any of the other climatologists who believe global warming is NOT caused by man. But, of course, Gore avoids any real debate at all costs.
I tend to disagree with decisions to avoid debate, whether they are Al Gore and climate change deniers, Richard Dawkins and creationists, or others. There are two dangers inherent to debating, however: 1) doing so can provide undeserved intellectual respectability to one's adversary, and 2) an uninformed audience may believe that the better arguer--as opposed to the more accurate argument--is correct. I am willing to take my chances, although I understand Gore's reluctance after years of being slimed by the corporate media. As far as "real debate" is concerned, there is little or none within the scientific community.
Another reader asks:
Did he renovate before or after the comments about his high electric bills surfaced? Did his strong support of the internet have anything to do with the rapid growth of internet companies with stock prices soaring with no indication of any profitability? Didn't that pretty much collapse into a near recession in 2000? Let's face it, he has no factual arguement [sic] for man's causing global warming. Has he ever explained what happened to the global cooling scare in the 1970's?
I'll answer those passive-aggressive questions, after having done the research that the questioner neglected to do:
Gore's home renovations were already underway (along with renewable energy, carbon offsets, CF bulbs, etc.) before the inaccurate critique of his electricity bills was propagated by the Tennessee Center for Policy Research. For example, Gore tried since at least the previous summer to get solar panels installed on his roof, but was stymied by neighborhood rules until April of this year. (Interestingly, the TCPR waited to issue their press release criticizing Gore's home until the day after he won an Oscar for An Inconvenient Truth). As ThinkProgress noted,
There is no meaningful debate within the scientific community, so the right-wing busies itself with talk about how much electricity Al Gore's house uses -- and even then they distort the truth.
Upon completion of the renovations earlier this month, Gore's house earned a Gold certification from the US Green Building Council. TreeHugger noted that "the 10,000-square-foot home is one of only 14 in the U.S. to achieve this rating, and the only home in Tennessee that's gotten any certification at all."
Gore's visionary support for the Internet predated the NASDAQ boom by years if not decades, long before stock prices soared. Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf wrote in a 2000 open letter titled "Al Gore and the Internet" (reprinted as part of this excellent primer on the whole brouhaha) that "No other elected official, to our knowledge, has made a greater contribution over a longer period of time:"
As far back as the 1970s Congressman Gore promoted the idea of high speed telecommunications as an engine for both economic growth and the improvement of our educational system. He was the first elected official to grasp the potential of computer communications to have a broader impact than just improving the conduct of science and scholarship. [...] When the Internet was still in the early stages of its deployment, Congressman Gore provided intellectual leadership by helping create the vision of the potential benefits of high speed computing and communication
The stock-market bubble started to deflate in March 2000, and the overall economy slowed throughout late 2000 and 2001. (However, the recession is dated by the National Bureau of Economic Research's Business Cycle Dating Committee as March through November 2001.)
For a factual argument concerning global warming, I'll quote (yet again) from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's "Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report Summary for Policymakers:"
"Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level. [...] Most of the observed increase in globally-averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG concentrations."
With respect to any "global cooling" conjectures from the 1970s, popularized mostly by today's climate-change deniers, I was unable to find any mention of it by Mr Gore. If he didn't buy into the scare--having already begun informing himself about global warming--he has no explanations to make.
update (2/22 @ 12:00pm):
USA Today demolishes the myth of a "global cooling scare" in the 1970s (h/t: Climate Progress):
Thomas Peterson of the National Climatic Data Center surveyed dozens of peer-reviewed scientific articles from 1965 to 1979 and found that only seven supported global cooling, while 44 predicted warming. Peterson says 20 others were neutral in their assessments of climate trends.
The study reports, "There was no scientific consensus in the 1970s that the Earth was headed into an imminent ice age." [emphases added]
What will the deniers come up with next to excuse their ostrich-like behavior?
update 2 (11/11 @ 11:21am):
The NCDC study is here (4MB PDF); h/t once again to Climate Progress.