The past couple of years have been a trying time for those who believe humans are primarily responsible for global warming.
The "Climategate" scandal in 2009 shook the foundations of the academic community by showing scientists aren't above suppressing research that contradicts their global warming claims. The "hockey stick" graph that supposedly demonstrates rapid and unprecedented warming linked to greenhouse gas emissions has received sharp criticism.
And, the western world's economy has hit the skids, which means people are more worried about their immediate economic future than their distant meteorological one.
As a result, the American public's inclination to accept the scientific claims that the world's in for a heap of trouble if humanity doesn't stop burning carbon-dioxide-producing fossil fuels has dropped substantially, from more than 70 percent four years ago to well under 50 percent today.
Fewer people are willing to kiss Al Gore's ring
, which may explain his recent bizarre behavior. In early August at the Aspen Institute, Gore launched into a profanity-laced tirade against those who question global warming orthodoxy, and at the end of August in an Internet-TV interview, Gore even invoked the "R" word. To quote the Guru of Green: "One day, climate change skeptics will be seen in the same negative light as racists." What next? Will he be linking his critics to "Nazis?"
For the record, I'm not one who brands claims of anthropogenic, or human-induced global warming, as a "hoax." But I do question whether we've been too quick to accept the so-called scientific "consensus." And, as a skeptical journalist, I question the motives and objectivity of people such as Gore whose financial livelihoods and lavish lifestyles depend on selling worst-case global warming scenarios.
Since I don't genuflect before Gore, I decided to find out the names and credentials of some of the people he condemns in the same breath as racists. My source, by the way, is not the ExxonMobile website, but rather that democratic font of knowledge, Wikipedia:
Freeman Dyson, professor emeritus of the School of Natural Sciences in Princeton and a fellow of the Royal Society. Dyson is one of the most respected academics in the world, and though he objects to the characterization, his intellectual stamina has been likened to Einstein's.
Dyson writes: "Computer models are very good at solving the equations of fluid dynamics but very bad at describing the real world. The real world is full of things like clouds and vegetation and soil and dust which the models describe very poorly . . . the climate of the Earth is a very complicated system and nobody is close to understanding it."
Henrik Tennekes, retired director of Research, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute: "The blind adherence to the harebrained idea that climate models can generate 'realistic' simulations of climate is the principal reason why I remain a climate skeptic."
Khabibullo Abdusamatov, mathematician and astronomer, Russian Academy of Sciences: "Global warming results not from the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, but from an unusually high level of solar radiation and a lengthy — almost throughout the last century — growth in its intensity."
Philip Stott, professor emeritus of biogeography at the University of London: "The myth is starting to implode . . . Serious new research at the Max Planck Society has indicated that the sun is a far more significant factor [than greenhouse gases]."
William Kininmonth, meteorologist and former Australian delegate to the World Meteorological Organization: "There has been a real climate change over the late 19th and 20th centuries that can be attributed to natural phenomenon. Natural variability of the climate system has been underestimated by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and has, to now, dominated human influences.
Sallie Baliunas, astronomer, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics: Most of the increase in the air's concentration of greenhouse gases from human activities — over 80 percent — occurred after the 1940s. That means that the strong early 20th century warming must be largely, if not entirely, natural."
And that's just a small sampling of highly credentialed scientists who question the global warming orthodoxy.
It's one thing to link the skeptics to racists in front of a compliant Internet-TV interviewer, and something else again to do so face-to-face with Professor Dyson on worldwide television. Until Gore is ready to do the latter, he'd be well-advised to tone down the invective, lest he start resembling even more closely the buffoon caricature of him on Comedy Central's "South Park."
Kingsley Guy's column appears every other Sunday. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.