Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.
- John Adams
I almost spilled my coffee. I just stood there, dumbstruck right in my own kitchen. Flipping through the Wall Street Journal the other morning while waiting for the oatmeal to cool, my eye was caught by an article I had to read all the way through - then and there. It was the text of an interview with the latest Nobel Prize laureate. No, not the one named Al Gore.
Few may have noticed, but Mr. Gore shared this year's Nobel Peace Prize with a real scientist, or rather a whole slew of them on the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That group's work is as unglamorous as its bureaucratic name. It's never even made a horror film (GLOBAL WARNING!) about the earth's being inundated as the polar icecaps melt.
This international panel just plods along trying to find out what's really going on with the climate. Facts are stubborn things, as dour John Adams once noted, and it takes a lot of patient research to find and evaluate them, then suggest an appropriate response. It's about as exciting as bookkeeping.
Being an alarmist is a lot easier; some politicians and pamphleteers make highly successful careers of it. Real scientists may not be pleased by the sensationalism that envelops the whole subject of global warming. But if they speak up, they could be labeled heretics and exiled to the farthest reaches of academic opprobrium. For global warming has become more of a fighting faith than a topic for calm analysis. Disagree and you're liable to be called not just wrong but anti-science. Today it is the ultimate heresy.
One of the scientific dissenters is John Christy, a member of both the UN panel and the University of Alabama's faculty. (He's the director of that university's Earth System Science Center.) In a break with tradition, Dr. Christy declined to perform the traditional pas de deux of mutual flattery when Nobel laureates share the same prize. Not when Al Gore's may be the first on record awarded essentially for the kind of PR that comes too close to being propaganda. It makes you wonder what propagandist will get it next year - Michael Moore?
It turns out there are indeed reasonable things to be said about global warming - and on television at that. I was amazed. The transcript of Dr. Christy's interview with CNN's Miles O'Brien is worth reading: (Just set down your coffee cup first.)
Miles O'Brien: I assume you're not happy about sharing this award with Al Gore. You going to renounce it in some way?