should not throw stones at those trying to avert catastrophe.
USA Today helped the global warming Deniers and Delayers throw sand in the eyes of the American public last week by publishing a misleading, erroneous, and irrelevant ad hominem attack on former Vice President Al Gore. The article, “Gore isn’t quite as green as he’s led the world to believe,” by author and Hoover Institution fellow Peter Schweizer, accuses Gore of not practicing what he preaches.
That USA Today would publish an obviously un-fact-checked article from someone who works at an institution that has recevied nearly $300,000 from ExxonMobil to spread disinformation on global warming is more evidence of how big media helps confuse the public on global warming.
The article is so flawed, USA Today was itself forced to run a correction. DeSmog Blog offers a good debunking — “Hoover Institute and the Art of Slander,” — and I will run the reply by Gore’s communications director at the end of this post. I want to focus here on the cleverly misleading irrelevancy of the core argument, which Schweizer summarizes in his final paragraph:
The issue here is not simply Gore’s hypocrisy; it’s a question of credibility. If he genuinely believes the apocalyptic vision he has put forth and calls for radical changes in the way other people live, why hasn’t he made any radical change in his life? Giving up the zinc mine or one of his homes is not asking much, given that he wants the rest of us to radically change our lives.
This argument is flawed on so many levels. First, Gore isn’t a hypocrite — that claim relies on inaccurate information. More importantly, Schweizer is mischaracterizing what Gore believes.
Schweizer’s key message can be found in the word he repeats three times in the final paragraph: “radical.” He is trying to scare the public from acting to prevent catastrophic warming by suggesting those who want action demand radical change from people. In fact, the policies Gore and others advocate — more fuel-efficient cars, greenhouse gas trading, a strong push on renewables — hardly requires radical change.
The truly radical change that will be imposed on Americans (20- to 80-foot sea level rise, a growing number of super-hurricanes, heat waves, and mega-droughts) will come from listening to people like Schweizer who apparently would have us take no serious action on climate.
And this brings us to the most important flaw in the article: Schweizer never states whether he believes Gore’s vision — that we must start taking strong action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the next decade or face catastrophic climate change — is correct. If he believes Gore is wrong, then his entire article is utterly beside the point. Who cares how Gore lives if his warning is wrong? But if he believes Gore is right — and indeed a core argument of Climate Progress is that Gore is indeed right — then once again, who cares how Gore lives — we need to put in place strong national policies at once.
People like Schweizer who don’t take a clear side in this issue but merely try to shoot the messenger should simply be dismissed out of hand. They are part of the problem. Fortunately, the voices of people like Vice President Gore who are trying to solve the problem are growing ever stronger. Kalee Kreider, Gore’s communications director, deserves the final word, in a letter to USA Today:
Gores’ green commitment
The op-ed attacking former vice president Al Gore’s environmental record was extremely misleading.
Former vice president Gore has worked to implement the recommendations from his movie and book, An Inconvenient Truth, and that includes his personal commitment to live a zero-carbon lifestyle.
He reduces the global-warming pollution for which he is responsible and then, each year, finances additional reductions elsewhere until his net impact on the global climate is reduced to zero.
He has long since switched to a hybrid car and was already in the process of adding solar photovoltaic units to his home before the commentary was published.
In addition, the Gores have donated 100% of all the profits from his movie and book to the fight against global-warming pollution.
The assertion by author Peter Schweizer that the Gores were swimming in Occidental stock is also off base. At Mr. Gore’s request, all of his father’s stock in Occidental (Oxy) Petroleum was sold almost six years ago as the estate was closed. So, although Mr. Gore has and will continue to call on his fellow Americans to do their part to combat global warming, he isn’t asking of them what he isn’t willing to do himself.
Rather than vilifying a person who is trying to make a difference, wouldn’t it be more fruitful for Schweizer to join the effort to solve the climate crisis?