There is a conceit among the American left that the American right cleaves to bad science out of deference to religion, while the left is all-science, all-the-time. Former Veep Al Gore's new movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," however, shows how unscientific -- and downright faith-based -- the left has become.
Is global warming human-induced? Gore says that it is, and he may well be right. Last month in The New York Times, Gregg Easterbrook of the Brookings Institution announced that he had converted from global-warming "skeptic to convert." Easterbrook noted that a 1992 survey found that a mere 17 percent of members of the American Geophysical Union and American Meteorological Society believed in greenhouse-gas climate change. Since then, scientists have found more evidence of the phenomenon.
Gore was wrong in 1992 when he wrote that 98 percent of scientists agreed with him on global warming. Witness the survey cited above.
Now, he is wrong when he argues in his movie that there is a complete consensus on global warming today. As proof Gore cites a 2004 study that looked at 928 climate abstracts and found none that refuted global-warming dogma. That says more about the researcher than the scientific community.
There are a number of well-known scientists who don't believe that global warming is human-induced, or who believe that if it is, it is not catastrophic. Hurricane expert William Gray of Colorado State University believes the Earth will start to cool within 10 years. Neil Frank, former director of the National Hurricane Center, told The Washington Post that global warming is "a hoax." Climate scientist Robert Lindzen of MIT believes that clouds and water vapor will counteract greenhouse gas emissions.
So you have to ask yourself: Why does Gore pretend that apostates do not exist? Scientists acknowledge contradictory data. But the faith-driven Gore argues that all scientists agree with him -- well, except for those who are bought and paid for by big polluters.
Because this is a crusade -- and not about science -- Gore is drawn not to the most reasoned scenarios, but the most apocalyptic.
Consider this exchange with ABC's George Stephanopoulos -- formerly of the Clinton-Gore administration -- who questioned Gore's prediction that global-warming could cause sea levels to rise 20 feet. "But the consensus is several inches over the next century. Right?" asked Stephanopoulos on June 4. "Not 20 feet?"
"Not at all," Gore replied. He added that the scientists he talks to -- his disciples, if you will -- see it his way. He ignores the less catastrophic theories, which predict a rise of an inch per decade, or 3 feet over the next century. To Gore, the worst-case scenario is the only scenario.
I thought Gore's chart comparing carbon-dioxide increases to temperature spikes was dramatic. But because Gore omits what he does not want to see, I have to listen to former NASA scientist Roy Spencer of the University of Alabama, when he tells me: "It is an alarming chart, but there are so many alternative explanations for what he's showing. He's giving it one possible explanation and making it sound like the only explanation." Spencer says it is "more likely" that the higher temperatures increased carbon dioxide levels.
Spencer, who also writes for TCS Daily (which receives some funding from ExxonMobil), believes that some global warming is human-induced, but "I don't believe in climate catastrophe. And, "It comes down to whether you believe the climate system is fragile or resilient." It all comes down to belief -- and that is the problem. Global warming has become so politicized that scientists must believe in it. If they predict dire consequences, they win praise from true believers and grants for their important research. Scientists who question the prophecies of doom can expect to be marginalized.
Oddly, Gore begins "An Inconvenient Truth" discussing a young classmate who wondered if South America and Africa once had been connected. Their teacher ridiculed the friend, who turned out to be right. Sometimes the know-it-alls are wrong.
Now Gore is the know-it-all teacher -- and woe to any scientist who does not agree with him, not just on global warming, but on a 20-foot rise in sea level. It is this alarmism -- this extremism -- that has led many a thinking person to question global warming. It's hard to trust those who believe only the most extreme scenario.
Besides, whenever the establishment says you have to believe something, you want people who question the establishment. Or as global cooling guru Gray once said, "Consensus science isn't science."