Al Gore: Man of La Mancha

Last night Vice President Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth won an Oscar for best documentary. I did not actually see him accept the award, but I did see the Melissa Etheridge song performance followed by Mr. Gore’s appearance on stage with Leo Dicaprio (which, by the way, I thought was quite funny in that Mr. Gore pretended to begin an announcement that he was running for President but then got cut off by the music; in spite of the dull, robotic way he came off in the 2000 campaign, I think Al Gore does have a pretty good sense of humor).

Mr. Gore’s effort to turn the tide of global climate change seems a bit quixotic to me. There are still too many unanswered questions for me to take this global warming threat seriously:

– Given the fact that precision in temperature measurements is unique to recent history, why should we assume that this, first of all, really is a problem?

– On a related note, why should we assume that the earth’s present climate is ideal and should remain constant?

– Has climate change never occurred in the history of the world before? If it has, why are we so concerned about it now?

– Why should we assume that human activity is ultimately responsible for global warming?

– Why should we assume that human activity can stop the trend of global warming?

– To what degree could greenhouse gases come from naturally occurring phenomena?

– Why don’t we believe in the ability of living beings to adapt to environmental changes?

– What will be the economic ramifications of a radical environmental policy? For example, my own state of Kentucky has the lowest energy costs in the nation due to our coal industry. If the federal government mandated a reduction in the use of coal and an increase in the use of alternative sources of energy, how would Kentucky’s poorest people be able to pay their heating bills every winter? Proposing radical steps that will certainly result in human suffering must be justified by conclusive evidence that much more human suffering would result were the action not to be taken. There is no conclusive evidence here.

– Finally, as I watched the Hollywood crowd applaud Mr. Gore and the whole movement he represents, this question came to mind: IF human activity causes global warming, then how much more do Hollywood celebrities contribute to it than the average American? How much more energy do they use to heat their mansions? How much fuel do they burn flying all over the world on private jets? They want us to ride bicycles to work, but what are they willing to do to change their lifestyles? Mind you, I am not saying this because I resent their wealth. They have worked hard to reach the pinnacle of their profession, and many people are willing to pay to see them do what they do. I don’t resent the free market. I do, however, resent hypocrisy.

I don’t doubt that Vice President Gore sincerely believes in this threat, and that he is seeking to use his position as a former VP and quasi-celebrity to make a difference for good in this world. I don’t question his motives. I do, however, question the presuppositions that in all likelihood ground his position on this issue:

1. Human civilization is, for the most part, bad for the earth (in contradiction to Genesis 1:26-28).
2. Americans are the worst offenders of all.
3. The ultimate solution to this problem lies in the hands of big governments.

I disagree with all three. I don’t say this because I don’t support any environmental issues. I do. I believe we have made wonderful advances in recent decades to deal with things like air and water pollution. I think it is great when churches, schools, and local organizations adopt sections of a highway to keep the area around it clean. I don’t litter. I love national parks and wildlife refuges. I do not own an SUV and probably never will simply because I like to save money on gas. When they become more marketable, I will probably look into buying a hybrid, again because I like to save money. I agree with President Bush’s call for us to reduce our dependence on foreign oil because that is in our nation’s best interest.

But I think this global warming threat has been wildly exaggerated by overzealous people who take as their starting point incorrect ideas about humanity and the environment. They are living in a fantasy world. They claim to be charging at giants, but all I see are windmills.

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5 Responses to “Al Gore: Man of La Mancha”

  1. Cogito Says:

    Aaron,

    I am by no means a global warming alarmist. There are a considerable number of problems with the theories out there that still leave me pretty skeptical.

    But, my company specializes in the removal of CO2 from gas and liquid streams. Historically we concentrated on natural gas, but now there is a coniserable amount of interest in removing the CO2 from, say, your coal fired power plants in Kentucky. As a result, I get to stay somewhat abreast with Al Gore type thinking.

    So, that being said, I’m going to try to answer your questions from the perspective of what I would call a reasonable, moderate global warming alarmists. The extreme ones, of course, would prefer that we go back to riding horses and bicycles, so they’re not really worth the time to argue with.

    You had a line of questions, none with numbers. I’m going to answer them in order and number my responses.

    1) The same precision can be attained, theoretically, for all time periods. Most people are not using historical data from recorded temperatures, but are rather inferring temperatures based off of, primarily, ice core samples from the arctic.

    2)Pure conejecture and some climate models.

    3)It has. A change in the future would disturb the delicate climate balance that we have in place right now and how we live our lives.

    4) It may not be solely responsible, but best guesses are that it is having at least an aggrevating effect.

    5) It cannot. But we can at least mitigate our own aggrevating effects. Many believe that funds should not be spent on trying to prevent global warming, but rather trying to figure our how in the world we’re going to cope with it.

    6) A great deal. But present data shows that since the industrial revolutions human actions have dramatically increased the concentrations of so called “greenhouse” gasses in the atmosphere.

    7) They can, but the question is how? One way for global adaptation would be famine and death. This is what we would like to avoid.

    8) It depends on how radical. Anywhere from some small burdens to a depression that makes the 30s look like the roaring 20s.

    9) Probably much more than they would like to admit, even to themselves.

    I didn’t want to cut-and-paste the questions, so you’ll have to scroll up and reread them for the responses to make sense.

    And as for Mr. Gore, here is a quick defense of your 3 points.

    1) Only certain aspects are problematic, especially apathy to damages we are doing to our environment.

    2) Americans are the biggest polluters, both per capital as well as total emissions.

    3) Only through governmental regulations can we limit domestic and industrial emissions. To do so you must internalize the negative externalities of our behavior. In a free market society, industry will always choose the path that makes the most economic sense. Without governmental incentives, regulations, and economic repraials from governing bodies, the most economic means of production will always involve heavy pollution. This goes on right now, and is why the water in Kentucky is safe to drink…for the most part anyway.

    So, while I do not buy into these arguements too much, I would say that these are the reasonable responses to your questions from the other side.

  2. Doctor Clockwork Says:

    Good response, Luke. I appreciate all that you had to say here. I’m definitely in harmony with your “reasonable, moderate global warming alarmist” perspective.

  3. Aaron Says:

    Yes, Luke, thank you for a good response. I only wish there were more moderates in this discussion. I actually heard John Kerry say the other day that we have a ten-year window in which to deal with this problem. What? How in the world can he predict such a threshold with such specificity? Is there going to be a big cosmic door that is forever closed, locking us into irreversible doom once we hit 2017? I think he has no idea what he is talking about. But people like him are usually the ones who are leading the charge (which makes sense, given the fact that they are extremists who want radical action right away; such people would tend to be more energized for the cause).

    Another pair of questions for you, Luke:

    If CO2 is the culprit, to what degree does normal breathing contribute to global warming, and could this be affected by an increase in population?

    Also, why wouldn’t planting more vegetation be a possible solution here, since plants absorb CO2?

    In all honesty, we have experienced almost an entire month of below average temperatures. I wouldn’t mind if the average temperature were slightly higher. As Dennis Miller says, “I’m always a little chilly anyway.”

  4. Ali Says:

    Just an observation, nothing very scientific here.

    My experience here in Australia is that there has been a period of 20, 30 or maybe 40 years where the weather has been kinder to Australia. Now, when heavier rain or stronger winds etc occur, people start talking about global warming, yet in the same television news item there will be older people who say, “This is what it was like when we were younger.”

    Who is right? And can’t weather cycles don’t extend further than one generation? I personally seriously doubt the global warming rhetoric, though I am keeping myself open to being convinced. However, I fully support being better stewards of our world.

  5. Cogito Says:

    Aaron,

    The amount of CO2 produced by human beings through breathing is inconsequential. Here are some numbers to demonstrate.

    Let’s take, for instance, the US consumption of gasoline and the CO2 produced by combustion of this gasoline.

    According to the API (American Petroleum Institute) the US consumed on average 9.159 million barrels of gasoline each day (a barrel is 40 gallons, so that’s 384.7 million gallons).

    Now, on average, a gallon of gasoline will produce 20 lbs of CO2.

    This means that 384.7 x 20 =
    7,694,000,000 lbs of CO2
    are produced each day in the US by gasoline consumption alone.

    Now, according to the USDA, the average human produces 2 lbs of CO2 per day.

    This means that we would need a population of
    7,694,000,000/2=
    3,847,000,000 people
    to have equivalent emissions.

    The US Census bureau estimates the current global population to be 6.5 billion…

    So in the US, gasoline consumption ALONE (not including diesel) produces more CO2 than over 1/2 the world’s population.

    Throw in coal, diesel, natural gas, etc….you probably get the point. And that’s the US alone.

    Plants do remove CO2, but if you’ll notice we seem to be having a trend of having less acreage with plant growth each year, rather than the opposite. Most of the people who are beating the war drums on global warming are the same ones that have been beating them about deforestation.

    And lastly, remember that we’re talking temperature averages. Over 100 years, a 2 week cold snap doesn’t make a hill of beans.

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