He said many sensible things, some things people will excoriate him for, and one really dumb thing
Editor’s note: Please see the correction in the text below. I goofed!
As I pointed out yesterday, the very latest science suggests that Arctic sea ice may be completely gone in September about 90 years from now starting around 2065 (although some scientists think it could happen in 20 years). From the paper: “Our estimate of the first 20-year period with climatological ice-free conditions in September in the Arctic is 2066–2085.”
I have never heard any credible scientist predict the complete deglaciation of Antarctica and Greenland at any time within the next 100 years, let alone just a few years. Such an event would raise sea level by 230 feet and completely remake the map of the world.
I’m sure those who deny that humans are warming the globe will find much to attack in Gore’s statements during the Guardian interview. I’ll let them criticize him. [I removed the following comment because it doesn't encourage the tone I'm trying to encourage. Mea culpa! - T.Y.] prance up and down about it. So I’ll stick to things that people of good will can debate reasonably. For example, whether a carbon market system employing cap and trade really will be effective. Gore argues that after a rocky start in Europe they’ve begun to get their act together, and “once there is a truly global carbon trading system the synergy will drive towards much higher levels of efficiency.” Debatable for sure, but certainly a reasonable proposition.
I’m sure people will also debate what he had to say about nuclear power. Gore says he is not as reflexively opposed to it as he once was, but he remains skeptical. And this statement about nukes seemed to be true on its face:
“For the eight years that I spent in the White House every nuclear weapons proliferation problem we dealt with was connected to a reactor programme. People have said for years that there are now completely different [nuclear] technologies. OK, but if you have a team of scientists that can build a reactor, and you’re a dictator, you can make them work at night to build a nuclear weapon. That’s what’s happened in North Korea and Iran. And in Libya before they gave it up. So the idea of, say, Chad, Burma, and Sudan having lots of nuclear reactors is insane and it’s not going to happen.”
Here’s the most incisive thing I thought Gore said:
“An economist called Herman Daly said years ago that we’re operating Planet Earth as if it’s a business in liquidation.”
Say what you will about how much Gore exaggerates aspects of global warming, I don’t think there is any question among environmental scientists about whether we living in a sustainable manner on this planet. We clearly are not, and this is ultimately an even bigger issue than climate change. Gore obviously has understood this for a long while, which is a lot more than we can say for most politicians.
As a journalist, I believe it’s my job not only to get the facts straight — for example, pointing out the error in Gore’s statement about the cryosphere — but also to tell the truth about the facts. That’s my goal here.
One last thing — a quote from Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel in their excellent book, “Elements of Journalism”:
“If journalists are truth seekers, it must follow that they be honest and truthful with their audiences, too — that they be truth presenters. If nothing else, this responsibility requires that journalists be as open and honest with audiences as they can about what they know and what they don’t. How can you claim to be seeking to convey the truth if you’re not truthful with the audience in the first place.”
The Guardian should be applauded for taking this call for transparency seriously and publishing a partial transcript of the interview. Until the advent of Web 2.0, journalists and editors were much more wary of opening their notebooks to readers, perhaps because they were fearful of what readers what might think if they saw what was not actually included in a story. That’s an outmoded way of thinking, and I’m glad the Guardian seems to feel that way too.
But one question for the Guardian: Why a partial transcript? What else did Gore have to say?