People are naturally prone to worry about dangers that are invisible: radioactivity, for one spectacular example. The media know this, and are forever trumpeting the discovery of new perils to scare us with. Hardly a week passes without someone announcing that some familiar food or other useful substance has just been discovered to cause cancer (though usually only when administered in huge doses to mice). Dangers associated with weather are special favorites because they are usually so difficult to cope with. In recent decades, we have been treated to alarmist reports about impending disasters to be caused by nuclear winter, acid rain and the ozone hole. But the Big Daddy of all such scare stories is "global warming."
Al Gore, who had a dangerous brush with the presidency in 2000, has long been associated with this particular fright syndrome, and I have no doubt that he is perfectly sincere in believing that global warming is a real danger. But recently he has stepped forth with a brand new campaign to sell the American people on the peril. It is spearheaded by a documentary film entitled "An Inconvenient Truth," in which Gore himself presents what he chooses to regard as overwhelming evidence of the reality of the danger. Given his political history, it is perfectly fair to wonder if this maneuver isn't simply, or primarily, a device to promote his own candidacy for the presidency in 2008. But, whether it is or not, it is also a powerful blast in the propaganda war over the issue of global warming -- and must be treated as such.
Gore begins by insisting that the scientific argument over the truth of the matter is over; climate scientists, he asserts, are virtually unanimous in endorsing it. Among the thousands of predictions on the subject, moreover, he invariably opts for the worst-case scenarios. The increase in the quantity of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is caused, to an important extent, by human "pollution," and this is the cause of a dangerous increase in the planet's surface temperature. That, in turn, is causing glaciers, and the great ice caps of Greenland and Antarctica, to melt. This will inevitably result in the disastrous flooding of coastal areas all over the globe, and all sorts of ecological upsets (e.g. the extinction of the polar bear).
William Rusher is a Distinguished Fellow of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy and author of How to Win Arguments .
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