As fate would have it, the same week Al Gore was testifying before Congress, I was doing a little testifying myself. Admittedly, there were a tad fewer paparazzi in the Madison, Wis., classroom where I was giving a talk on global warming (sponsored by Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow, or CFACT). The debate in Washington offered some familiar echoes.
One student asked a long and rambling question that went basically as follows: He understood why I think Al Gore is dishonest and misleading. But how can I criticize Gore when all he wants to do is make people change their behavior and take care of this planet?
Translation: Gore is on the side of the angels and therefore it's mean-spirited to throw inconvenient truths back at the Oscar winner for "An Inconvenient Truth". "Yeah, exactly," the kid responded when I rephrased the question thusly.
The press and the Democrats seem to share this kid's sensibility. Covering Gore's congressional testimony, The Washington Post's Dana Milbank portrayed Gore as a man of science versus a bunch of creationist nutjobs. Milbank wrote: "... instead of giving another screening of 'An Inconvenient Truth,' the former vice president found himself playing the Clarence Darrow character in 'Inherit the Wind.'" It's an unintentionally accurate comparison, because the movie completely distorted the reality of the Scopes trial. The real Clarence Darrow contentedly lost the open-and-shut case after a nine-minute jury deliberation. The movie was about something bigger than the facts. So is Al Gore. And that's why his fans love him.
Gore says global warming is "a crisis that threatens the survival of our civilization and the habitability of the Earth." It's graver than any war. He compares it to the asteroid that allegedly killed the dinosaurs.
But here's the thing. If there were an asteroid barreling toward earth, we wouldn't be talking about changing our lifestyles, nor would we be preaching about reducing, reusing and recycling. We would be building giant wicked-cool lasers and bomb-carrying spaceships to go out and destroy the thing. But Gore doesn't want to explore geo-engineering (whereby, for example, we'd add sulfate aerosols or other substances to the atmosphere to mitigate global warming). Why? Because solving the problem isn't really the point. As Gore makes it clear in his book, "Earth in the Balance," he wants to change attitudes more than he wants to solve problems.