Tumblr Icon RSS Icon

Is Al Gore a good science communicator?

Posted on  

"Is Al Gore a good science communicator?"

Share:

google plus icon

I wrote last year “the best climate reporter in the country is Al Gore, a former journalist, a brilliant synthesizer and communicator.”

Who could have imagined that a film of him giving a PowerPoint presentation about climate science would be the 5th highest grossing documentary of all time in this country?

Yet filmmaker/scientist Randy Olson wrote this month:

You want to know why Al Gore and his movie have proven to be such an abject failure? (And yes, failure is the right word “” polling shows no net increase in public concern about global warming in the years following the movie “” for two decades its been roughly a third of the public who are seriously worried about global warming.) It’s for this very reason. A very dull and dispassionate voice was chosen to deliver a supposedly dire and passionate message. It was one of the worst cases of bad casting in history. Gore is ultimately “a scientist” when it comes to communication instincts. You can see it played out in his movie and two books as he’s slowly come to the realization that you need something more than information to reach the masses. Duh.

Ouch.

I’ll come back to the issue of polling, which I don’t actually think bears this view out  — even if it were a reasonable metric for judging the success of a documentary.

But what floored me is that I had just finished Olson’s pretty good book, Don’t Be Such a Scientist:  Talking Substance in an Age of Style.  In that book, just published in late August 2009, Olson says almost the exact opposite (pages 107 – 108):

Before I begin this discussion, I want to make my overall opinion clear concerning Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth. It is, plainly and simply, the most important and best-made piece of environmental media and history. End of story.

You can talk about Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and how it gave birth to the entire environmental movement, but Al Gore’s movie took the broadest and most urgent environmental issue and jumped it up from background noise to buzzword. There’s no point talking about any shortcomings as if they mattered. You can expect only so much from a single piece of media. His movie went way beyond what anyone could have realistically expected. In the spring of 2006, when I was at the Tribeca film Festival with Flock of Dodos, I heard skeptics in the independent film world laughing about Al’s movie being “a PowerPoint talk — who’s gonna wanna buy a ticket to a movie theater to see that?”  Most of them couldn’t believe it when the movie scored over $50 million in worldwide box office. It was an unmitigated success that deserved to win both an Academy award and the Nobel Prize, and, guess what, it did. Total success….

The movie is a personal narrative by former vice president and Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore about his lifelong connection to the topic of global warming, dating back to his undergraduate days. Interwoven with his PowerPoint presentation of the impending risks of global warming are personal insights, in which Gore reveals the pain of tragedies involving his sister and his son, as well as occasional humorous quips…..

The Al Gore movie is slick, cool, and as hip as the formerly dull vice president could possibly be package.  It scores close to an A for style.  And when it comes to substance, it has plenty. That’s why he won an Oscar — it’s rich in both substance and style.

You can check these quotes on Amazon here.

I agree with this part of Olson’s assessment in the book.  And I’ll give my “review” of his book at the end.

Gore has become a terrific speaker on a very difficult subject — climate science — as anyone who has heard him in recent years can attest.  Of course, he’s been demonized by the anti-science ideologues, which limits how effective a communicator he can be to the groups who find the anti-science ideologues credible — but that is also true of many actual first-rate climate scientists, like Hansen, Schneider, Mann, Santer and so on.

Gore’s film is remarkably accurate — far more accurate than the body of work of any practicing climate journalist.  I discussed the issues raised about a handful of the thousands of facts presented in the movie here. But let me again refer people to RealClimate’s analysis of the UK court case on the film:

Overall, our verdict is that the 9 points are not “errors” at all (with possibly one unwise choice of tense on the island evacuation point).

So it was a staggeringly effective documentary that was substantive and accurate.  But what about the polling?  Well, let me just note that the highest grossing documentary of all time in this country is Fahrenheit 9/11, released June 2004 — and Bush still got reelected!

Also, here is the most recent Gallup polling on one of the central issues addressed by Gore’s movie:

1997-2010 Trend: Do You Think Global Warming Will Pose a Serious Threat to You or Your Way of Life in Your Lifetime?

In fact, Gore’s movie and book and the temporary media surge around it I think can be plausibly said to have contributed to the slight and temporary improvement in numbers here from early 2006 to early 2008.  Of course, it’s hard to separate out the impact from the IPCC reports released in 2007.  But there is certainly no evidence that Gore’s film or his media outreach on it had no impact or failed.  He can’t be blamed for poll numbers nearly 4 years later!

Recently, of course, there has been a massive uptick in the disinformation campaign and a worsening of media coverage (see Boykoff on “Exaggerating Denialism: Media Representations of Outlier Views on Climate Change”).  And at the same time, many in the environmental community and political world decided to downplay talk of global warming (see Messaging 101b: EcoAmerica’s phrase ‘our deteriorating atmosphere’ isn’t going to replace ‘global warming’ “” and that’s a good thing).  And there are many, many other factors that have affected recent polling, as I’ve written:  “One more reason that recent U.S. polling on global warming is down slightly” and “Large majority of Americans continue to believe global warming is real and trust scientists.”

Gore himself has been pushing action on clean energy as much as he has been talking about global warming recently (partly I think in response to criticisms of the original movie for not offering enough solutions).  And the polling shows public support for action on climate and clean energy remains very strong, as I’ve reported over and over again (see “Overwhelming US Public Support for Global Warming Action” and “Memo to policymakers: Public STILL favors the transition to clean energy“).  So that message is working.

There is no perfect messenger — just as there is no single form of communication.  Some folks make documentary films.  Some folks blog.  And as I said, the anti-science crowd demonizes all of the best messengers on the science, in an effort to limit their effectiveness.

Don’t Be Such a Scientist

Finally, I can recommend Don’t Be Such a Scientist for non-climate scientists who want some insight into better communications and messaging told in a pretty entertaining, personalized fashion.  I think the overall recommendations for better communications and dealing with the media are useful for general scientists.  Indeed, I think we need many such books, and I would urge scientists to read as much on the subject as possible.  After all, science journalism is “basically going out of existence,” so scientists will need to figure out how to talk to the public directly.

But I think that climate scientists are in a completely different ballgame, with a much, much tougher media environment than most scientists have to deal with — along with a powerful disinformation campaign that requires a different messaging strategy.  When one of the most prestigious scientific journals in the world, Nature, editorializes — “Scientists must now emphasize the science, while acknowledging that they are in a street fight” — you know you are in a very different communications environment than scientists have ever seen before.

We all have strengths and weaknesses as communicators.  The trick is to find the venues that best take advantage of your strengths while continually working to overcome your weaknesses.  But now that we are in a street fight, we can’t expect any one person to win it for the rest us.

Every single one of us needs to work hard to improve our messaging and communicate on this subject in every venue — because the future of all our children and grandchildren and future generations are at stake.

Tags:

« »

43 Responses to Is Al Gore a good science communicator?

  1. Oliver James says:

    There is a dire need for the foundation or nonprofit sector to step in and fill the gap for scientific communication.

    Are any funders listening?

  2. Stephen Shep says:

    I hate to be this person, the article is another great one as always.

    “So that message is wokring.”

    Other than that great job! Thanks for another interesting read.

    [JR: Hey, don't apologize. I made the typo -- and I'm always glad when people point that out.]

  3. Daniel J. Andrews says:

    Any response from Randy as to his reversal of opinion on Gore? I’m curious as to why the sudden switch in opinion.

  4. fj2 says:

    Al Gore is a hero as is Randy Olson and it is probably best not to pay too much attention to what Olson says about his own work; he is just too close to it and has lived with it some time.

    It does seem that our current president — though not a scientist — is even better at “emphasizing the science” and “in a street fight”.

    Hopefully, the successful outcome of current action on the healthcare crisis will lead to immediate action on the environmental crisis.

  5. Steven Leibo says:

    The comments about Al Gore not being a great communicator on climate change reveal great confusion about how Mr. Gore works. Not only did he create the film An Inconvenient Truth, write the books and give a zillion talks on the topic he has personally trained thousands of people around the world to give tens of thousands of their own talks while putting together an enormous number of pubic service announcements that are about climate change but do not have his name on them. To assume Al Gore’s “communication” skills are limited only to what has his name directly on it is to totally misunderstand Mr. Gore’s entire approach to this challenge.

  6. It is quite possible to have a meaningful discussion of global warming without even mentioning Al Gore.

    But as the only popularly elected Presidential candidate to be defeated by a Supreme Court ruling, he serves well in his present role as lightning rod to the reactionary right wing. Now Al Gore has science on his side, and all the twisted and confused verbiage the court can muster will not turn it back.

    Given how intransigent our political system is in facing global warming, one could say that Al Gore does more now to attack the problem than he ever could have as President. He certainly has persisted longer. No matter what the vox populi says, both history and science will be kind to Al Gore.

  7. Chad says:

    Gore is an excellent communicator. Unfortunately, the partisans that make up the majority of those who need to change their minds on this matter will not listen to anything Gore says. Not that it really matters much anyway – few people are the mindset that can actually be swayed by data.

  8. “A very dull and dispassionate voice was chosen to deliver a supposedly dire and passionate message.”

    It’s dull and dispassionate, not b’coz, Al Gore is “a scientist”, it’s b’coz he failed to walk the talk. 1. He failed to reduce his own carbon footprint. 2. He preached civil disobedience, but failed to turn up at the protests.

    These made him an easy target as an imposter, irrespective of the merit of what he was preaching. The medium is the message. The medium failed. the message rung empty.

  9. Steven Leibo says:

    Let me add one additional observations as one of those Mr. Gore has personally trained. I have myself watched as people who initially heard about climate change during one of the many talks I have given eventually flowed into movements like last fall’s wonderfully successful 350 effort. One would not automatically add those people to the list of Mr. Gore’s accomplishments but it would most certainly be true.

  10. John Franklin says:

    If Al Gore was a great communicator he would have been able to communicate to and convince the American public why he (and not George Bush) should be president. He could not do that even though he was part of an administration that was highly popular with the electorate.

    If he truly wanted to communicate the reality of global warming to the American public he would have realized that he was not the person to deliver the message in the movie. He was and is clearly a partisan figure for many people. Almost half of the electorate voted against him.

    Ask any person who has been out on the stump talking about climate change issues. Deniers and contrarians are frequently using their dislike of Al Gore to bolster their arguments. I frequently have to tell people that I want to talk about climate change and not Al Gore’s carbon footprint, speaking fees, background, etc.

    There are plenty of good science communicators around but Gore is not one of them. He is a child of privilege who blew an important presidential election and we are all suffering the consequences. That he could not see the downside of making himself the “communicator” for global warming is just one more sign of his failure to understand politics – meaning that he is not even a good politician.

  11. Mike#22 says:

    @#8, Al Gore’s got started on fixing Global Warming back in the 80′s. Right through the 90′s, almost everyone thought we had time to fix this painlessly.

    The concept then was just to encourage low carbon energy sources, dial in some efficiency, become better stewards of the environment, but keep on with economic progress. Dissing the American Way of Life by opposing consumerism would have been political suicide for Gore or anyone, and a distraction in any case from the problem as it was understood by the mainstream back then. We had decades yet to get the rising CO2 under control. Al Gore walked that walk, and he talked that talk, probably better than anyone in this country.

    Almost no one was paying much attention to the small is beautiful meme.

    I expect Al Gore would rather live in Bill Mckibben’s house, with a few additions necessary for his home offices, staff, Mrs. Gore’s offices, more staff, and security. http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/200707/mckibben.asp

    But he has been doing some work on his own home:

    http://climateprogress.org/2007/12/16/gore-greens-his-tennessee-home/

  12. Anna Haynes says:

    Joe et al, what was the “tale of two movies”?
    (namely that a different climate documentary, sans celebrities, came out about the same time as AIT, but sank w/o a trace – the comparison was instructive in a “what works” kind of way)

    also, re whether polling does/doesn’t support this take on AIT -
    “Al Gore’s movie took the broadest and most urgent environmental issue and jumped it up from background noise to buzzword”
    - I can’t speak for 200 million people, but I tell you that it was AIT that lit a fire under me, about climate change.

  13. Rick Covert says:

    I thought Al Gore’s film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” was an entertaining and informative movie. He demonstrated that he had a very good sense of humor and his account of his sister’s death to cancer was very heartfelt. I couldn’t believe that this Al Gore was the same Al Gore who ran a dismal presidential campaign in 2000. In fact, I liked the movie and his efforts to mitigate climate change so much that I labled him Gore 2.0. :-)

  14. TomG says:

    I have the cd An Inconvenient Truth and I did not find Mr Gore to have “A very dull and dispassionate voice…”.
    I thought he did very well.
    What I find interesting is Mr Olsen’s finish to that sentence,”…was chosen to deliver a supposedly dire and passionate message.”
    What’s up with the “supposedly dire” crack?
    The way things are going I’d say our future has a very good chance of being on the “dire” side.

  15. toby says:

    I admire Al Gore, and thought the praise he has received for his work is well deserved.

    One can only compare him to Dick Cheney, who has made a career justifying his term in office. The man will just not shut up and go away.

    Al Gore, while he was not silent on the Brush Administration and its disastrous policies, had the courage and foresight to take a complete career turn. His introduction of himself as “the former future President of the United States” was at the same time humorous and candid. It spoke to the character of the man.

  16. Bill W says:

    Al Gore is a double-edged sword. Without his name on it, AIT would likely never have reached the wide audience that it did. With his name on it, though, many (most?) Republicans use the messenger as a reason to ignore the message.

  17. Gore is not the reason the Republicans ignore the message; the message is the reason they so vehemently attack Gore. Gore only became a lightning rod for this vituperation because he was presenting the message so effectively, not the other way around.

    For my part, I find the soft-spoken reasonableness of Gore’s presentation one of the most effective (affective?) parts of the entire program.

  18. Peter Bellin says:

    I think AIT is a good movie, but is now dated. It is reasonable that there are allusions to the 2000 Presidential race and Mr. Gore’s hisotry in the film. However, I think that these now detract from the film. I think we need new documentaries to define and describe the problem, although I wonder if one can be made that will be as influential.

    The film does have a strong message, but it needs to be refreshed.

  19. Raleigh L says:

    He is an AMAZING communicator, and his book Our Choice was great, the only problem is that the GOP and anti-environmental interests have been trying to mock his statements and assasinate his character for 10 years now.

  20. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    Given the attitude of the mainstream media it is surprising the general public have any understanding of global warming. The greatest disaster faced by mankind barely rates a mention. When it does rate a mention there has to be a balance between established science and loony denial.

    Al Gore can claim much credit. Of all those who started looking into global warming at denial sites, at least some saw though the smoke screen and checked out real science.

    Me thinks I agree with Peter Bellin, time for an update.

  21. Wit's End says:

    Ha ha,

    People that whine about Al Gore’s delivery of the message remind me of my ex-husband, (the youngest ever inductee of the National Academy of Science) and our 3 otherwise adorable children, when summoned to wash the dirty dishes in the sink.

    Ewwww! They said. We don’t like the tone/phrase/exact phonics with which you ask us to wash our dirty dishes!

    To which I replied, the tone/phrase/exact phonics with which I ask/implore/demand your participation will always be an issue. You simply WOULD RATHER NOT WASH YOUR DIRTY DISHES.

  22. paulm says:

    The guy won a Nobel Prize. Duh!

    Had it not been for his movie and book we would be years behind were were at now.

  23. The Wonderer says:

    Al Gore has been a great communicator. It’s just that the pro-status quo forces are better equipped and more effective at framing the issue and the people who oppose them.

  24. Leif says:

    The powers that be have boo-cu bucks to spend to hire Madison Ave. to sell their viewpoint. The very people that convinced the population that it is cool to smoke cigarettes, buy SUVs, rot your teeth with soft drinks, even buy bottle water with perfectly good free water available. Hell, even go to war on trumped up charges. We work with volunteers, nickels and dimes, and a product that most would just as soon not think about. The very fact that we have the awareness that we do is testimony that we are doing something right.

  25. Barry says:

    Logic Deferred @ 17 has it exactly right.

    If you want to find out which people have been the best communicators on climate change, just look at who the denialist crowd targets. They attack Gore relentlessly for a reason: he is one of the best to communicate the science to average Americans. Otherwise they wouldn’t bother using their powder on him.

    Sure the denialist crowd has major bucks…but they also have something much more important: people don’t want to believe their cheap energy is causing problems. The public is primed by self-interest and momentum to be dismissive of climate change. It has always been a uphill fight to convince people to change today to avoid worse changes tomorrow. Gore helped get that conversation started: kindling in wet, windy weather.

    You will know when Gore starts slipping when the denailist start ignoring him.

  26. Christopher Yaun says:

    The EARTH MATTERS

    Oil Industry executives met in Houston last week for the IHS CERAWEEK gathering of the tribes. They released one short message to the public, “There is no PEAK OIL!”

    Which message is winning today,”Greenhouse gas emissions continue to exceed the worst case scenario.” or “We have enough fossil fuels to satisfy our demands for the next 100 years.”?

    The oil industry has 40 rigs working in over 4000 feet of water drilling for oil in 30,000 feet, 5 miles of drill pipe, with operating costs of $2-3 million per day. Chevron’s new rig in the Gulf Of Mexico is producing 125,000 barrels per day and a billion dollars of revenues per month and will double that this year….

    Meanwhile we are discussing if we think Al Gore is an effective messanger for the cause! We lost! What’s next?

    Either we each go net zero carbon, one at a time until they stop drilling….we already lost.

    Al Gore is, was, ineffective. Revkin is ineffective. Joe Romm is ineffective. I have been terribly ineffective.

    And you know what, it’s not really anyone’s fault. If James back in 1988 Hansen had been accompanied by Einstein, Roosevelt and Churchill we probably would still be facing 5-600 ppm.

    If the scientists are right and the science models are correct….the climate in the next decade will be brutal. No one is prepared for this.

    The best spokesman the cause will ever have and not a thing anyone can do about it.

  27. ken levenson says:

    Al Gore was clearly instrumental in establishing “the base” of public support – very effective.

    But beyond this base? A liability I’d say. He is a walking Rorschach test and to far too many, through perhaps no fault of his own, a polarizing boogyman.

    Whenever I’m “debating” someone on the right about climate they always sneer “Al Gore!!!”. I respond, that I don’t give a damn about Al Gore – what I think has nothing to do with Al Gore…in a desperate if futile attempt to discuss substance…

    How to gain more public understanding and support for action?
    Put Gore far backstage – scientists, military generals, business leaders and center right political leaders must make the case now.

    And of course Obama must leverage his healthcare victory to the hilt and lead, lead, lead – Obama should explain the science himself, directly to the American people, as only he can…..

  28. Bruce Post says:

    I read this site faithfully, everyday. I am a non-scientist, but I did spend most of my professional life working in the U.S. House and Senate and in other public policy positions. Now, I am a local Selectboard member up here in Vermont. And, I continue to grapple with how to move people beyond self-centeredness and complacency.

    I am attracted to John Kotter’s work on leading change and his recommendations for breaking through complacency. See his small book: Our Iceberg is Melting (which you may already have reviewed). Yet, I have also read Daniel Goleman’s Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception. Where Kotter gives me some hope for creating dramatic change, Goleman leaves me in a funk.

    Years ago, I saw the movie Charly, with Cliff Robertson and Claire Bloom. In it, a cognitively challenged man is, through science, suddenly turned into a genius. Yet, it becomes shockingly obvious that the process that made him a genius will become quickly reversible, and he will return to his original condition. With all the best technologies available at the time, Charly and his scientific helpers seek to stem the slide backward, to no avail. Charly finally concludes that, while we have developed the most modern and sophisticated technologies, mankind has not evolved sufficiently fast to cope with these advances.

    Now, some evolutionary scientists believe that the human being is evolving, as a species, toward altruism, in large part because of the need to preserve humankind. Yet, I too often wonder if Charly’s conclusion is correct: That we may not be able to evolve quickly enough to cope with the tidal wave of negative consequences generated by our embrace of those technologies, which multiply the damaging effects of unwise human choices.

  29. Randy Olson says:

    This was a very good and logical critique that Joe presented here, addressing the seeming contradiction between my having praised Gore and his movie in my book, yet over the past year in my talks (and the post on Revkin’s blog) have called the movie a failure.

    On Thursday I will do my best, in as objective and clinical of a manner as possible, to present my analysis of “An Inconvenient Truth,” on my website, http://www.thebenshi.com (I’m traveling this week so can’t get to it until Thursday). What I will be doing is not analyzing the scientific content of the movie (which we all know has been done in great detail), but rather looking more at the style elements of communication — most important of which is the absence of effective narrative structure, which didn’t have to happen — the pieces were there in the movie for a well told story, they just rushed it into production too quickly to find it. And I have to say, of all the comments here, the one I agree with the most is #26 above in which he says we are all failures. That’s absolutely right — no one should be collecting any kudos at this point and the scale of the challenge is so large that all anyone can do is just contribute to the best of their abilities.

    [JR: Thanks for this comment, Randy. I also could not agree more, that assuming we stay anywhere near our current emissions path, history will judge us all bitterly -- and rightly -- as failures.]

  30. Turboblocke says:

    Please try not to be so insular: although the USA might have mixed feelings about Gore, in the rest of the world he seeems to be highly respected.

  31. mike roddy says:

    We all owe a big debt to Al Gore for his courage, hard work, and effectiveness. I have nothing but respect for the man. His minor faults-annoying cadences and a lack of spontaneity- are the kind that can be forgiven.

    It’s not that Gore is a bad communicator- actually, he’s just kind of OK- but we need someone better. A Churchill, full of fire, inspired by the challenge, and who can reach an audience on an emotional level. He’s probably out there right now. Oratory is a dying art, but all we need is one person.

    Maybe someone with the money to support a speaking and TV tour with the right visual aids will perform this search. Then, things could really begin to change.

  32. Wit's End says:

    mike roddy, now that health care reform is behind him, I expect Obama to turn his full attention to climate change. I have always thought that was his plan – he’s got kids, and he’s not stupid. I think he wanted to get a platform with a health care victory, and build on it to pass climate change legislation.

  33. John Franklin says:

    It is important to consider how Al Gore is able to communicate with the center and right audiences, where his skill as a communicator would be tested. Approximately 25% of eligible voters voted for him in 2000 (approx. 50% turnout and approx. 50% for Gore). Gore did not need to do much to convince most of that 25 percent and, according to the Gallup graph above, that is approximately the percentage of people concerned about global warming at the start of the century.

    Currently, according to the graph, 32% of the public sees global warming as a serious threat. That would mean at best he has convinced 7% of the population. The actual percentage is probably considerably lower since some of the 50% of the electorate that did not vote in 2000 favored Gore and might now have the time to answer a Gallup poll. AIT may have gotten the message across but it clearly changed few minds. Analyzing the movie for anything other than results may be a useful exercise for a course on mass communication but the real measure of Gore’s ability to change minds on global warming has to come first from public polling and then legislative action. Gore fails on both accounts.

    The book “Silent Spring” was successful, in part, since it dealt with the facts of a very important issue and had no subtext concerning the author’s failed political campaign. It is a real tragedy that Gore used his position to buy the climate change issue and is now more part of the problem than part of the solution. There are plenty of people working very hard and passionately on climate change (who are not being assisted by inherited political capital and whose background does not include family money gained from oil and coal exploitation and tobacco farming) who could have done a better and more effective job.

  34. SecularAnimist says:

    Olson wrote: “A very dull and dispassionate voice was chosen to deliver a supposedly dire and passionate message.”

    “Was chosen”?

    Nobody “chose” Al Gore. Al Gore volunteered — he volunteered to get out there with his slide show and start educating people about what he rightly recognized as an urgent existential threat to human civilization, if not to the survival of the human species.

    With all due respect, this business about somebody “choosing” Al Gore is something one hears a lot from right-wingers who have been thoroughly brainwashed into throwing a fit at the very mention of Al Gore — “If you climate scientists wanted credibility you shouldn’t have chosen Al Gore as your messenger.”

    If anyone “chose” Al Gore to symbolize the global warming problem, it is Rush Limbaugh, Fox News and the rest of the right-wing propaganda machine. And they didn’t “choose” him to be a messenger about anything — they “chose” him to be a “convenient” boogeyman and knee-jerk target of hatred for Ditto-Heads everywhere. And they chose him for that role in the late 1990s when it was obvious that he would be running against George W. Bush for the presidency in 2000 — long before Gore took his climate change show on the road.

  35. The Wonderer says:

    John Franklin,

    If other people “could have done a better and more effective job”, why didn’t they? Where are they now?

  36. Chris Winter says:

    John Franklin,

    I agree with Logic Deferred (#17) and Barry (#25) that the vehemence of the attacks on Al Gore is directly proportional to his effectiveness in communicating the warning on climate change. You mention the success of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. I note that that 1962 book is still being attacked, and submit it is for much the same reason. And many of the people working passionately for a solution to global warming are part of RePower America, an organization started by Al Gore.

  37. John Franklin says:

    I know a number of people who had climate change movies and books in preparation at the time of AIT. We will never know what impact those would have had if Gore not pitched his large, well-funded, politically connected tent in the middle of the global warming landscape. As to where those people are now, some have moved on to other projects where they feel they can do some good and others are doing what they can to work on the issue of climate change. They all were independent types who would not likely join RePower America, however.

    I have no doubt that Al Gore gets many people really mad but I can’t see that as an indication that he is a good communicator – and that was the question being asked here. What the climate change movement needs is someone who can win over rather than enrage the other side.

    I also think that it is absurd to think that the vehemence of attacks is a metric for effectiveness in communication. We all know public figures we vehemently dislike but many if not most of those would not be considered good communicators.

    If Gore has been inspirational for some people then that is all for the good but his success in having the public embrace his views on the important issue of this century is demonstrated by the above graph.

  38. “Here’s the smell of the blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, oh, oh!”

    Mike, Gore committed slander by leaving in a glasshouse,

    [snip]

    [JR: Post your ad homs elsewhere.]

  39. Mr. Vikash, if one is going to make claims, it is important that the claims represent the facts accurately.

    The former Vice President’s house is not just a house: it is, in addition, a 24 hour office building for his Non-profit organization which has hotel rooms for workers who stay over night, as well as a round-the-clock Secret Service operations unit.

    Oddly enough, my house includes neither of those features. That being the case, I am hard pressed to imagine why anyone might suppose it appropriate to make an analogy between Gore’s residence and my own. Yet this is basically what you are doing in your post above in #38.

    This is a fairly blatant fallacy — and, as a matter of fact, one that is tediously repeated in the denier screeds — known as the “weak analogy”:
    http://www.fallacyfiles.org/wanalogy.html

    (I prefer the term “specious analogy”, but no one listens to me … )

  40. Joe, The Al Gore thread starts here: http://climateprogress.org/2008/09/25/gore-calls-for-civil-disobedience-to-stop-coal-but-will-he-lead-like-gandhi-and-king/ .

    “If Gore really believes that civil disobedience is an important strategy — then he needs to lead the effort and go chain himself to some fences and sit in front of some bulldozers with thousands of others. If he won’t, then this is all just talk. Gandhi and King certainly never sat around with a bunch of world leaders in a big, fancy hotel and urged others to do that which they were not prepared to do any time or any place, over and over again, until the cause was won.”

    I’ve been working to communicate climate change and on mitigation and adaptation for past 6 years. As an Engineer-MBA from amongst world’s most competitive colleges, I could be possibly staying in a McMansion like many of my peers, but I choose to stay in a smarter 2-bedroom house. With two young children, and a belief that reducing GHG emissions is a moral responsibility, I realise, it’s worth every bit to make this adaptation.

    If at all Mr. Gore’s house is being used for multiple purposes, this hasn’t been effectively communicated. – http://climateprogress.org/2007/12/16/gore-greens-his-tennessee-home/ .

    I apologise, if the mistake is mine.

    Regards,
    Vikash

    [JR: I have written many times about why I think the issue of Gore's house and similar things are bogus.]

  41. Leland Palmer says:

    Gore’s a hero.

    Walks on water, IMO.

    He get’s passionate enough about global warming, and is very effective, IMO.

    We just need more passionate voices just like his.

  42. John Franklin says:

    If he had campaigned and communicated well enough to carry his home state in 2000 Gore would be a hero of mine too – even though he inherited, and did not build, his political capital in that state.

  43. As opposed to the man who beat Gore and who, in dramatic contrast, inherited all his capital — political as well as financial — from his own father?

    In any event, the question asked was about Gore’s skill as a science communicator.