The world has become such a difficult and dangerous place that I am deeply appreciative of recent amusing events, which seem as if they were written by the Marx Brothers or Monty Python. I have in mind, it should go without saying, Al Gore winning both an Academy Award and the Nobel Peace Prize. The very sentence sounds like a punch line. But I can't quite figure out who is supposed to be the butt of the joke. I rather suspect that he has one more award to come -- the trifecta of absurdism. Perhaps he will be pronounced the world's greatest jockey or the world's most graceful dancer. It only makes sense, given Al Gore's acknowledged role in bringing the Internet to humanity. Whatever the award, the world will receive it with the same demeanor it displayed in appreciating the emperor's new clothes several centuries ago.
It is hard to say which of Al Gore's awards seems more improbable: his Academy Award, although he does not possess a single skill required for filmmaking, or his Nobel Peace Prize for his work on global warming, although he has no technical skills in that area and he has misled the world profoundly as to the danger. It just goes to show how good life can be once you officially are designated a victim of George W. Bush. Once Gore lost the 2000 election (before which he was scorned and mocked by the liberal world), the world fell over itself, showering him with wealth and honor. If only he could arrange to lose another election to a Republican, he could be chosen Pope, Homecoming King and Soapbox Derby champion.
Before reviewing Gore's various inanities that won him the Nobel, it is worth taking a look at one of his related projects: carbon offsets. As chairman and founder of Generation Investment Management, a firm that purchases carbon dioxide offsets, Gore stands to profit further from what he sees as mankind's misery -- which is OK by me. I'm glad to see he finally has developed the capitalist instinct (like his dad did with Occidental Petroleum and Armand Hammer).
But carbon offsets are a rather strange concept. Let me use a simple metaphor to explain it: Let's suppose that Al Gore goes to an Italian restaurant and eats a loaf of garlic bread, a plate of lasagna, a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs, an extra-large pizza with seven toppings, a couple bottles of Chianti and a large assortment of pastries. As a result, he puts on 10 pounds. But he is deeply concerned that mankind is getting too fat. So he pays 10 peasants in Asia $10 each to eat nothing for a week. Although they are already thin, by starving themselves for a week, they each lose a pound. As a result, after a week, mankind is weight neutral. Al Gore weighs 10 pounds more, 10 Asians weigh 10 pounds less -- and Al Gore is given another Nobel Peace Prize for his leadership in keeping mankind's waistline in check.
Of course, this example is not quite fair to Gore because that imagined humanitarianism actually (SET ITAL) costs (END ITAL) him cash money. In the real carbon offset business, he looks forward to being paid for directing other carbon consumers to invest in carbon neutral projects. Although when Gore personally is using carbon, as when he flies in a carbon-belching Gulfstream, one of his companies would pay some other fella not to fly or plant a tree or do something to offset Gore's carbon belching.
But Al Gore's carbon offset shuffle is small potatoes, as it were. His great accomplishment is to have shared the Nobel Peace Prize with the thousands of scientists of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -- while contradicting their scientific findings. (See Danish climate expert Bjorn Lomborg's wonderful article in The Boston Globe last week for more details.)
For example, Gore warned the world in his Academy Award-winning movie to expect the world's sea level to rise 20 feet this century. His co-award winners said about 1 foot -- the same increase in sea level experienced during the past 150 years. So much for the Eastern Seaboard being underwater.
Gore also warned that the world is endangered by the fast melting of Greenland's glaciers, while his co-award winners (the scientists) concluded that if sustained, the melt would add -- at most -- just 3 inches to sea level. I guess we'll still have Miami and London despite an inconvenient truth.
Lomborg also points out that while Gore was (amazingly) technically accurate to warn that up to 400,000 people might die by 2050 because of global warming, Gore carefully failed to point out that 1.8 million lives will be saved from the cold that global warming will replace. So global warming will save a net of 1.4 million lives, rather than cost 400,000 lives. In a week or two, I will review Bjorn Lomborg's superb new book, "Cool It," which blows a hole in the need for Kyoto treaty compliance that even Al Gore and I could walk through.
Until then, take comfort in knowing that Al Gore's warning about the shrinking population of polar bears is also wrong; their population is rising. The award Gore truly deserves (and the one for which I hereby nominate him is): Best Scary Campfire Storyteller. (He should beat out the hook on the car window story handily.)