Readers of earlier entries in this blog will not be surprised by my answer. Nor will Lance Harting, the young man who raised that interesting question.
Unfortunately, Lance has arrived at The Intersection with rhetorical guns blazing delivering ad hominem attacks on the former Vice President and the people who share his assessment that we are facing a global emergency, for example refering to Gore as “the patron saint of climate catastrophe.” That’s hardly a way to engage others in serious debate.
Still, Lance’s proposition is worth discussing. I think Al Gore is sincere in his statement that his current campaign for a coordinated set of policies to limit CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions is more important than running for President of the United States.
If the world’s climate has not yet crossed a threshhold into a new regime, it may well be on the verge of doing so. Climate scientists agree that we have no more than ten years to act–not merely to decide–and the sooner we start reducing those emissions, the better.
Al Gore is delivering an urgent and badly needed warning, not sounding an unnecessary alarm. He has looked at the evidence and called for political action since the late 1980s, when it was a problem on the horizon. Now that problem is upon us, and it is reasonable to use words like crisis, emergency, or tipping point.
Why am I so convinced of this? I have been reviewing science books for educated adults for major metropolitan newspapers for ten years. These books are by credible authors, mostly without political axes to grind, who used primary source science and history as their guide. The development of the “inconvenient truth” that Gore presents in his slide show and documentary can be traced in those books.
You can find links to reviews of the following titles and others on my Science Shelf website’s climate links page.
You may also choose to follow the direct links here in chronological order:
- Billions and Billions by Carl Sagan (1997)
- The Change in the Weather: People, Weather, and the Science of Climate by William K. Stevens (1999)
- The Coming Storm: Extreme Weather and Our Terrifying Future by Bob Reiss (2001)
- The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History, 1300-1850 by Brian Fagan (2001)
- Climate Crash: Abrupt Climate Change and What It Means for Our Future by John D. Cox (2005)
- The Republican War on Science by Chris Mooney (2005)
- Field Notes From A Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change by Elizabeth Kolbert(2006)
- The Weather Makers: How Man is Changing the Climate and What it Means for Life on Earth by Tim Flannery
If you read those books in chronological order, you will discover how the scientific consensus has evolved–it is not a bandwagon effect as some would have us believe–and how the political process, especially in the United States, has failed to address the problem even as it grew more apparent.
If you call Al Gore an alarmist after that, I don’t know what it will take to persuade you that the world has to act decisively and quickly to prevent massive tragedies later in this century.