May 21, 2006  ·  Lessig

So the Gore movie will at least give lots of good and appropriate work to bloggers, as lots try to spin the story told by Gore. My favorite so far are two ads released by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. (Both are here.) The first is totally empty and hilarious, with the slogan (and who could make this up): CO2: They call it pollution. We call it life.

The second has more substance, charging the biased media with not reporting the fact that there were scientific studies showing that the ice caps were in fact thickening, not thinning. That claim has incited a strong rebuke from the scientist quoted in the ad:

“These television ads are a deliberate effort to confuse and mislead the public about the global warming debate,” Davis said. “They are selectively using only parts of my previous research to support their claims. They are not telling the entire story to the public.”

CEI: They call it truth. Scientists call it lies.


  • Jonah

    My favorite commentary on these ads came from Lloyd Alter at

    …We thought we would look at them to see if they could be parodied, but they cannot, they are already parodies. It is as if they hired Jon Stewart to put them together; they are truly the funniest thing we have seen in weeks.


  • three blind mice

    lol. no side is being entirely truthful in this debate.

    no serious scientist questions that increases in atmospheric CO2 contribute to increased atmospheric temperatures. this was first suggested by the swedish chemist svante arrhenius in the late 19th century as a straightforward conclusion from statistical mathematics.

    that being said, weather is complex. whether or not increased levels of CO2 lead to “global” warming is something that can (and should) be debated. some models predict global atmospheric warming, some predict that the poles will get colder, but most often we are presented with the extremes of al gore’s apocalyptic visions, or the “conservative” view that nothing is wrong. both are, in our view, equally pernicious.

    moreover it has to be recognized that the goals of the “environmental movement” (and many of the solutions offer by greens) dovetail with the ambitions of anti-capitalists every bit as much as the views of “conservatives” dovetail with the ambitions of capitalists.

    that “conservatives” oppose the market-based solutions of the kyoto protocol simply because lefties support its goals. is a perfect example of the non-scientific thinking that pervades both camps. slowly – by their decreasing opposition to nuclear power – the greens are coming around. hopefully, once real conservatives take power back from the neo-conservatives, the right will make similar concessions to reality.

  • poptones

    I live far from major city centers and so would have to drive many, many hours just to see this “slideshow” gore is presenting. Even the movie (you’ve seen the slideshow! Now see the movie of the slideshow!) likely won’t get around my neighborhood. My question is thus a simple one:

    If gore is so idealistic and wants his message to be heard, where do I go online to view it? Why is the “internet senator” not offering this? It’s a slideshow for crying out loud – how much bandwidth could it use?

    Someone post this thing to youtube, please…

  • Karl Popper

    It seems to me that proponents of climate change aren’t really true scientists. The basic method of science is to repeatedly attempt to falsify your own hypothesis. Instead, this group seems to generally attempt to present global warming as a fact, then look for evidence to confirm it, all the while touting the consensus they have achieved on the issue. I think that using this method will invariably lead to poor outcomes.

  • Seth Finkelstein

    Maybe I should put these in every thread:

    RealClimate – “Climate science from climate scientists”

    Tim Lambert has excellent coverage on his site

    Please acquaint yourselves with the very basics of the knowledgebase, instead of requiring it be reposted into comment boxes to counter right-wing propaganda talking-points.

    [n.b. regarding "an argument that gets built upon the ethic that guides at least some conversation in places like this - facts, reason and a bit of persuasion" - well, we're about to see :-(]

  • Sami Khan

    The problem with human systems tend to be that a lot very important matters are lost in debates and in the end economic interests prevail. Yes weather is complex, and so is the environment in general. The time it would take science to prove global warming might just be equal to creating a biosphere on earth, and you know what type of disaster was that. Ultimately it seems the economic systems we have a problematic in that they completely fail to internalize our actions, further we don’t feel that our actions even need justification as long as it can’t be proven that they’re doing harm, yet look at the number of extinct species that are going the way of the dodo every year — this is something we can prove. Global warming is a concern not because it affects other species on this planet or the environment, which to us is simply aesthetic beauty that is very compromisable for profits, but it affects us directly… Yet this is also just a debate… If you want data, here’s my suggestion, we reduce the carbon dioxide emissions by half and see if the rate of global warming over the next 10 years decreases significantly. In the above post the person is talking about the null hypothesis being that global warming isn�t happening, how about we make the null hypothesis that global warming is happening. Then the onus is on the businesses to prove to us that it isn�t. As for his sideshow, well there we have it, even our champion needs the money, he�s simply internalizing the economic cost of him doing his job, sorry but go see the movie, it supports the cause, and be glad that there is a politician out there looking out for humanity�s long term interests, because most are not.

  • Peter Rock

    CEI reminds me of this organization.

    DRM/TC: They call it restriction. We call it protection.

  • Vale italian girl

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  • Jack Jenkins

    The University of Wisconsin Gaylord Nelson Intstiture for Environmental Studies hosted a two-day review of non carbon emitting energy sources, May 8 & 9.

    I attended and finally turned to a colleague next to me and asked what year I’d taken the first year-long “Energy Resources” course he TA’s. It was 1973-74.

    We later agreed, over beers, that the only problem was that we were much further BEHIND and DEEPER IN SHIT than we were then.

    The geophysicist who led that seminar one-third of a century ago !! also led a seminar in “science and government.” He was on the President’s science advisory staff during the Johnson and Nixon years and brought with him considerable skepticism.

    HOWEVER, none of us imagined then that corporations would own the president and both houses of Congress and would reverse the directions we took in the ’70s and the progress we made on into the ’80s.

    We have pissed away a third of a century while we let the fucking robber barrons enslave us while enriching themselves.

  • http://b Paul M

    What the last poster Jenkins said is exactly true. The problem is the topic is being discussed “over beers” or in blog responses such as these, instead of the serious arena of social change which is supposed to have something to do with government. This is no weak matter, and in essence we are in deep deep trouble. Unfortunately, the way humans tend to get out of trouble usually involves something called war, war somehow is the focal point when we humans take things too far. Am I off base to say a world war III is around the corner?

  • three blind mice

    The time it would take science to prove global warming might just be equal to creating a biosphere on earth, and you know what type of disaster was that.

    nothwithstanding seth finkelstein’s link certainty, the science seems to be with you Sami Khan. what seth’s links present as “science” cannot be subjected to controlled experiment. observation of the weather is not the same thing as predicting it. it seems to us that the fact of the matter is that we don’t really know and to pretend that we do is not science.

    scientists (and CIA agents) are better served by admitting the limits of their knowledge than by feeding pre-conceived political agendas. the risks are too large.

  • Seth Finkelstein

    “what seth’s links present as “science” cannot be subjected to controlled experiment”

    Neither can the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe. Are you going to deny it’s science?

    We don’t know everything, but we do know many things.

    By concidence, fresh today, here’s yet another link.

    “As the formal release of the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report on Climate Change draws nearer, quite a few skeptics have been going public to say that the evidence is now overwhelming. … There may still be a few more such announcements to come. But it’s clear by now that the evidence is more than enough to convince genuine sceptics. Those who refuse to accept overwhelming evidence are more correctly described as denialists.”

  • ACS

    Wait a second. I think this debate about the science of climatology (apart from being outside my usual interests and the nature of this blog generally) has gone a little too far into the “what we could know” and not enough into the “what we do know”.

    SO what do we know about climate change?

    Firstly, there is little empirical data considering the massive climate system. For example, the oldest recordings of tempreture are from the Paris Observatory and only go back to 1847. Before that there is zip except some rather vague calculations from Ice Cores and Tree Samples.

    When we compare the available small amount of data in the context of a system that has, literally, billions of variable and tends to change on a large scale over thousands of years we are only in a position to speculate. I agree with Seth that theory is a legitimate aspect of science but it must be agreed that nothing which comes from theory can be devoid of bias of the author. We must also admit that theory can serve political purposes and in a debate of this nature is very likely to do so.

    In regards to global tempretures there is a fact that is not very well known. In the twentieth century can you guess the hottest decade from the available known world-wide data.

    It was the 1940′s.

    The second hottest decade?

    The 1980′s.

    It is important to note that the spikes in these decades were in close proximity to large volcanic and geological events. Furthermore, despite the fact these were the hottest decades some glaciers were found to expand, sea tempretures were cooler in the antartic in the 1980′s.

    What is the result of this analysis? Firstly, in comparison to natural geological events we humans produce little pollution. I note that the sulfur dioxide released from the Mt St Helen’s eruption is estimated to be between 20 and 35 percent of the worlds sulfur emissions in the 1980′s.

    Secondly, there is no clear link between world tempretures and environmental impacts. In fact some scientists are beginning to theorise that the planet has its own climate control system that kick in when tempretures go too far up or down.

    I agree there is some connectin between human industry and global weather patterns. I do not see that there is a necesary connection between human industry and chaotic weather patterns. Without evidence of the systems that may be affected and the nature of the effect I do not think that any statements in this regard can be treated as more than speculation which is apt to political jockeying.

    On the other hand, I have been to places like rjasthan in India and Milan in Italy and I have seen the effects of industrialisation on the environment, particularily the decrease in standard of living as a result of air pollution. I do not need to be convinced of global warming to believe that industry should be made clean to acocunt for this factor.

    The cleaning of pollution causing industries does raise the issue of cost. It is expensive to fit carbon filters or to bury wastes resulting form emissions from industrial sources. This is a factor that should come into consideration (and does to some extent in Kyoto).

    A problem I see here is that countries will engage in cheap industry (China and increasingly India) in order to fuel thier economies whereas countries like Australia (home) have gotten rid of almost all manufacturing to focus on more lucrative high tech and management positions in the world economy. Countries like India have little in the way of environmental regulation (except of course Agra where there is no industry in order to prevent damage to the Taj). Coutries like Australia have extremely high levels of environmental regulation (you can’t burn leaves without a permit). And now the rant and rave, the (theory) reason why the monkey of pollution wont get off our backs:- Pollution would not be an issue if it werent for globalisation. There Ive said it and you can all whinge and whine but it is an inescapable conclusion of the economic process.

    I am not a right winger. Its just the world government is taking so long to get together!

  • Wadard

    Instead, this group seems to generally attempt to present global warming as a fact, then look for evidence to confirm it, all the while touting the consensus they have achieved on the issue. I think that using this method will invariably lead to poor outcomes.

    Ahh, you mean just like the US Office of Special Plans did to mount their case for Saddam’s supposed WMD. There’s a classic example of a poor outcome.

  • Will

    Why is Lessig shillling gore’s enviro-scare junk? I agree with Lessig’s stance on IP and I’m totally committed to Creative commons, but seeing Larry display a left-wing world-view might lead visitor’s to this blog to assume that CC is a left-wing type movement. Of course, LL is free to post whatever he wants on his blog, I just see him as something of a leader in the Freedom of IP movement and leaders need to be more … restrained.

    Kyoto was and is a totally ineffectual treaty — even the greens’ own climate models predicted insignificant effect assuming a best-case Kyoto adoption scenario. Furthermore, given our rapid technological progress does it make any sense to make substantial economic sacrifices (that produce negligible effects even under the most optimistic models) when in 40 years our whole energy infrasturcture will be radically altered in any case?

    This is a left-wing thing: political, pure and simple. The goal of the current green movement is to generate D-rat voters and harm capitalism. The rabid appeals to “science” by the modern left are laughable (and I say this as a publishing scientist) — the one thing the field of climatology desperately needs is a little humility. They won’t ever find it, though,because in the current situation the funding they recieve is directly proportional to their political usefulness and the amount of fear that can be generated by predictions of eco-disaster.

  • Shawn

    Oh really Will – what kind of “publishing scientist” are you exactly? And on what basis do you claim that ” in 40 years our whole energy infrasturcture will be radically altered in any case”? Our energy infrastructure hasn’t changed an inch in the last 40 years.

    Speaking of shills, perhaps you should attempt to cloak your roll as one. Using terms like “the greens” and “D-rats” makes it pretty clear how unbiased you are. And by the way – the Republican’s ineptitude at running the Gov’t have generated far more D-Rats than Global Warming ever well. Watched anything but Fox News lately?

    It’s impressive how quickly the far-right has mobilized on the blogs around this issue. For each post of someone saying “yeah, we really need to do something about this”, there’s a post like yours, Will, in which someone who claims to have credibility on the issue hand-waves an argument as to why they’re wrong.

    If you’re such a scientist, let’s apply Occam’s Razor here. Which scenario is more likely:

    1) The 1,000+ scientists who’ve reviewed science data, the journalists for Time, and the people in Alaska who’s houses are sinking because the 100,000 year old permafrost is melting all hate capitalism, technology, and the free world and are banding together to push this thing called Global Warming that they made up

    2) As the movie is titled, the reality behind climate change is inconvenient, and while rational people are able to internalize that and say “OK…what’s it going to take to fix it”?, while others prefer to cling to their narrow and comfortable view of the world and will do everything in their power to maintain their current situation, even if that means ruining the planet.

    Your pick.

  • KirbyMeister

    Personally I have a couple views about the global warming thing:

    * Global warming will not happen the day after tomorrow
    * Global warming will happen if given enough time
    * No one will do anything about it other than make empty promises. Gore’s whole campaign about global warming will be forgotten like Stalin and the proleteriat.
    * Corrolary: The only people whom do care about global warming are the scientists, trees, and God.
    * Models of global warming timeframes are entirely dependant on input data and are chaotic. Thus the wide range of different predictions on global warming.
    * We should not propose radical, unnessasary solutions (i.e. shut down the world) nor should we take no action.
    * Any solution for countering global warming should not take more than 20 years.
    * Kyoto is a load of bullshit. It allows developing nations (which will probably be using the dirtiest technology) to completely bypass Kyoto until after they’ve made the CO2 footprint of a small industrial revolution.

    And also, Will, are you _really_ a publishing scientist? And where are you publishing? Postmodern climatology journals dont count.