"An Inconvenient Truth" (2006), Albert Gore, Global Warming, Institute for Public Policy Research, Popular Delusions, Robert M. Carter, Threats to Liberty
Carter delivers a devastating critique of the film.
Those raw scientific facts that Mr Gore chooses for use in An Inconvenient Truth are mostly correct. Indeed, much of the material could have been drawn from elementary university courses in meteorology, geography or geology, though one would hope that university treatments would be presented in a more balanced and critical way.
Overall, the film is a compelling account of various natural earth phenomena that have the potential to impact humanity disastrously, and therefore a graphic illustration of the fact that we live on a dynamic planet. Were the film to be stripped of its sententious script, we might be watching an episode in David Attenborough’s recent TV series, Planet Earth.
Hence, presumably, the appeal to audiences: who often break into spontaneous applause at the end of a showing, and thereby reveal both their gullibility to emotional messages and their lack of scientific understanding.
For the problem with An Inconvenient Truth is that it is well-made propaganda for the global warming cause rather than well-made climate science. Nowhere does Mr Gore tell his audience that all of the phenomena that he describes fall within the natural range of environmental change on our planet. Nor does he present any evidence that climate during the 20th century departed discernibly from its historical pattern of constant change. This is not surprising, for no such evidence yet exists.
During his movie, Mr Gore asserts that climate change is now a moral rather than a scientific issue. He is right, though not in quite the way that he might have imagined.
The moral issue concerns the way in which much of today’s environmental “science” – including that regarding climate change, as typified by this film – is presented to governments and the public. Mr Gore clearly believes that his presumed morally superior ends justify any means, including distortion of evidence, and in consequence he nails his colours firmly to the climate alarmist mast.
But then I came upon an example of what struck me as impossible-to-believe exaggeration.
Indeed. And the intellectual dishonesty involved in this is not restricted to Mr Gore’s film, but has become all pervasive.
For example, professional sociologists at the London-based Institute for Policy Research urge that “the task of climate change agencies is not to persuade by rational argument. … Instead, we need to work in a more shrewd and contemporary way, using subtle techniques of engagement. … The ‘facts’ need to be treated as being so taken-for-granted that they need not be spoken“.
Wonderfully damaging material, I thought, but much too good to possibly be true. So I started searching to find if there was the slightest basis for any of this at all, and I immediately found this Institute for Public Policy Research handy how-to publication: Warm Words: How Are We Telling the Climate Story and Can we Tell It Better?
One explanatory diagram
Many of the existing approaches to climate change communications clearly seem unproductive. And it is not enough simply to produce yet more messages, based on rational argument and top-down persuasion, aimed at convincing people of the reality of climate change and urging them to act. Instead, we need to work in a more shrewd and contemporary way, using subtle techniques of engagement.
To help address the chaotic nature of the climate change discourse in the UK today, interested agencies now need to treat the argument as having been won, at least for popular communications. This means simply behaving as if climate change exists and is real, and that individual actions are effective. The ‘facts’ need to be treated as being so taken-for-granted that they need not be spoken.…
What is significant here is that this discourse is immune to scientific argument, since it is simply constructed in a different way. Its currency is not science but ‘common sense’. The prevalence of this repertoire in public media underlines that the task of climate change agencies is not to persuade by rational argument but in effect to develop and nurture a new ‘common sense’.…
Much of the noise in the climate change discourse comes from argument and counter-argument, and it is our recommendation that, at least for popular communications, interested agencies now need to treat the argument as having been won. This means simply behaving as if climate change exists and is real, and that individual actions are effective. This must be done by stepping away from the ‘advocates debate’ described earlier, rather than by stating and re-stating these things as fact.
The ‘facts’ need to be treated as being so taken-for-granted that they need not be spoken. The certainty of the Government’s new climate-change slogan — ‘Together this generation will tackle climate change’ (Defra 2006) — gives an example of this approach. It constructs, rather than claims, its own factuality.
Where science is invoked, it now needs to be as ‘lay science’ — offering lay explanations for what is being treated as a simple established scientific fact, just as the earth’s rotation or the water cycle are considered…
Opposing the enormous forces of climate change requires something superhuman or heroic. Science is not enough — especially when scientists argue among themselves. What is needed is something more magical, more mythical. Many strong and successful brands have a kind of myth at their core — they appear to reconcile things that are normally impossible to reconcile.