Monday, April 28, 2008

Not An Inconvenient Clip

In Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, there is a scene depicting an artic ice shelf. Recently, Gore has been criticized since part of the scene is a clip from the science-fiction movie The Day After Tomorrow.

This matter has been discussed in elements of the blogosphere that are traditionally skeptical of anthropogenic global warming or global warming in general. See for example this post at Uncommon Descent. However, this criticism has received little attention from mainstream science bloggers or the general media.

Three relevant points have not yet been addressed:

First, the original source of this report was ABC News. This story was then picked up by the right-wing "News Busters."

News Busters exists to "expose" and "combat" what it terms "liberal media bias". News Busters went on to say that "Adding delicious insult to injury, this was presented by one of ABC's foremost global warming alarmists Sam Champion during Friday's `20/20.’" However, one of the "liberal" media organizations, ABC, broke the story damaging to Al Gore. Furthermore, having such a story reported by an “alarmist” is a good example of intellectual honesty and unbiased reporting.

Second, the sequence is properly credited at the end of the movie. No deception appears to be occurring(1). This stands in sharp contrast to Expelled(or see my review here). Gore never makes any statement that implies this is actual footage. When I saw the movie, I did not assume that this was actual footage. There appears to be no deliberate attempt to deceive viewers. If the burden on Gore is to avoid deception, he has met that goal. Not discussing the nature of the footage makes Gore sloppy but not intellectually dishonest. Even if one believes that Gore had a duty to preempt possible misunderstandings, failure to do so is a lesser offense than outright deception.

Third, this incident says little about the substance of global warming. As I've discussed in an
earlier entry
, ad hominem attacks when directed at major proponents of an idea can be valid heuristics. This is not such a case. Even if Gore’s behavior had been deceptive, he is a layman who is acting as a popularizer for a scientific theory. Furthermore, among climate scientists there is a strong consensus that global warming is real and that it is being caused by people.

Overall, this is a non-issue and the general media is correct to give it little attention.

(1) I've been told this by word of mouth. I don't have a source for it and have not had a chance to look at a copy of the movie.

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