Friday, February 8, 2008

The Two Responses to Al Gore

There have been various responses in the mainstream media and by the public to Gore’s movie, “An Inconvenient Truth,” and to Al Gore himself. People love him and people hate him. While I have a hard time loving any politician, I certainly can’t say that I hate him after witnessing the impact that “An Inconvenient Truth” has had on public opinion.

Al Gore presented climate change rather accurately and there is little in the science that can be disputed. Likewise, the impact that Gore’s movie has had on public awareness cannot be disputed – I continue to hear people say that they started recycling, biking more often, etc. in response to the documentary. While “Hot Politics” claimed that public opinion and media response to climate change shifted after Hurricane Katrina, I personally noticed a much greater change in dialogue after the documentary was released a year later. I may disagree with Gore being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work, but I assume that the Norwegians felt that the impact was large enough and universal enough to warrant the award (or they wanted to enhance the impact further by such an honor).

And then there are those that likely inculcated a strong bias against Gore during his tenure in the Clinton administration. Many such people are so hopelessly biased and resistant to the possibility that Gore did something positive that their only response to “An Inconvenient Truth” is to attack or discredit the character of Al Gore. For example, the media reported on how much flying Al Gore has done to give his talks. Or witness the cartoon below demonstrating Gore’s carbon footprint. Such messages serve as a deflection from what Gore says, as though by finding a flaw in the man, his message can be ignored.

It is a common tool in debate; if you are losing the argument, change the subject. It is illogical, as for example, Gore’s argument on climate change bears no relation to Gore’s personal character. Many do not recognize this inconsistency, but most of those who reject the facts surrounding climate change do so not because of science, but primarily because they either don’t like who is saying it or they don’t believe in the principles required to take action (e.g. regulation or taxation).

Pollution is the quintessential example of market failure. A primary role of the legislature is to ensure that such market failures, once recognized, are internalized in the cost of doing business. In “Hot Politics” Newt Gingrich expressed his concern that doing so would put an undue burden on the cost of doing business in America. Focusing only on short-term economic gains as the key to long-term economic stability is irresponsible; climate change needs to be evaluated as the risk management issue that it is.

I commend Gore for doing more than anyone else in pushing climate change towards becoming a national priority, despite negative responses by some sections of the media and public to his message.

1 comment:

John Losinger said...

Per your comment regarding the cartoon I posted, Gore's personal character has everything to do with his argument! You cannot divorce the messenger from the message.

Gore's personal "agony" over global warming, as expressed in the film, proves itself to be hypocritical and self-serving. After all, when Al Gore doesn't do the things or make the changes/sacrifices that he asks of others, his arguments, regardless of their merit, lose a great deal of credibility.

While I certainly do commend him for helping publicize (and popularize) the climate change debate, his personal choices remain a huge obstacle in his effective selling of the issue. One of the biggest pieces of the puzzle lies in changing peoples' personal habits regarding energy use, including Mr. Gore's.

If you truly care about climate change, which I do, you should also care about who is championing your cause. Having a spokesman who doesn't practice what he preaches is both dishonest and counterproductive.

Ironically, it is those who care the most about the issues Gore raises who should be the most concerned with Gore's personal choices.