WSJ.COM 8/23/13: It's not surprising that Al Gore put on weight after he lost that election. The guy has more whoppers than a Burger King. Yesterday we noted that in an interview with the Washington Post's Ezra Klein, Gore had misrepresented the content of his own movie by characterizing his outlandish "climate change" doomsaying as having been merely an accurate prediction of last year's weather.
It was left to one of Klein's colleagues, the delightfully named Jason Samenow, to clean up another bit of the mess Klein allowed Gore to make. Gore claimed that "extreme events" like hurricanes are "more extreme" than they used to be: "The hurricane scale used to be 1-5 and now they're adding a 6." Samenow called the National Weather Service, which told him, in Samenow's words, that "Gore's statement about this new breed of hurricanes is patently false."
The idea of a "Category 6 hurricane" is not completely original to Gore; it has been the subject of idle chatter such as this August 2012 Discovery.com piece: "Will we ever need to push the hurricane scale up to a 6? Probably not, experts say."
Reader Jeff Brazell notes that Gore's statement that "extreme events are more extreme" is also false, at least as applied to hurricanes and other tropical cyclones:
Note that the newspaper columnists and scientists who have talked about introducing Category 6 storms (i.e., winds greater than 174 or 180 mph) reference storms that are mostly pre-global-warming-alarmism, most notably Typhoon Ida in 1958 and Typhoon Nancy in 1961, both with sustained winds of 215 mph, and Typhoon Tip in 1979 with sustained winds of 190 mph. The 2005 hurricane season is considered to be the worst ever, but, it didn't have any storms of the ferocity seen in the Pacific in 1958, 1961, 1979.
Also, if you graph and calculate a linear trendline from the government's "U.S. Hurricane Strikes by Decade" report, you see that the trend for major storms (Category 3, 4, and 5) since 1851 is very slightly negative, with the clear peaks, again, in pre-global-warming eras.
As frequent contributor Jeryl Bier notes on Twitter, there are a couple of other statements in the interview that sound implausible, to wit:
There has been a 100-fold increase in the number of extreme, high-temperature events around the world in the distribution curve. . . . The cumulative amount of energy trapped by manmade global warming pollution each day in the earth's atmosphere is now equal to the energy that would be released by 400,000 Hiroshima bombs going off every 24 hours.
The first one sounds like it may be the product of statistical cherry-picking and the second like an apples-and-oranges comparison, but we'll leave it to others to check them out.
Meanwhile, another portion of the Gore interview is worth picking apart. Klein asks Gore to lay out an "optimistic scenario," and Gore responds by outlining a political and rhetorical strategy:
Well, I think the most important part of it is winning the conversation. I remember as a boy when the conversation on civil rights was won in the South. I remember a time when one of my friends made a racist joke and another said, hey man, we don't go for that anymore. The same thing happened on apartheid. The same thing happened on the nuclear arms race with the freeze movement. The same thing happened in an earlier era with abolition. A few months ago, I saw an article about two gay men standing in line for pizza and some homophobe made an ugly comment about them holding hands and everyone else in line told them [sic] to shut up. We're winning that conversation.
The conversation on global warming has been stalled because a shrinking group of denialists fly into a rage when it's mentioned. It's like a family with an alcoholic father who flies into a rage every time a subject is mentioned and so everybody avoids the elephant in the room to keep the peace. But the political climate is changing. . . . The deniers are being hit politically. They're being subjected to ridicule, which stings. The polling is going back up in favor of doing something on this issue. The ability of the raging deniers to stop progress is waning every single day.
Let's go through Gore's list of topics about which he claims his side has "won" or "is winning" the "conversations": racism, the nuclear arms race, slavery, apartheid and homosexuality.
The bit about nuclear arms seems out of place. It's true that the arms race has essentially ended. But that isn't because the "freeze movement" won, it's because the Soviet Union collapsed before reaching the finish line. The "freeze movement" was a mid-1980s flash in the pan. Does anyone even remember the "Great Peace March"? Suffice it to say it wasn't exactly the march on Washington.
When we toss that example, we're left with the "conversations" about racism (of which slavery and apartheid are subcategories) and homosexuality. Suddenly Gore's strategy is clear: He wants the global warming debate to follow the civil-rights model--or, perhaps more precisely, the identity-politics model of the post-civil-rights era.
You can understand the appeal of this approach. Identity politics has enormous cultural influence. If you belong to a group that acquires accredited victim status, influential people will tie themselves into knots to satisfy whatever demands you make. The reductio ad absurdum is the kerfuffle over what pronouns to use in reference to Bradley Manning, who following his sentencing on espionage charges declared that he is now a "woman" named "Chelsea."...
Gore's strategy for "winning the conversation" about global warming is to stigmatize and demonize the opposition, just as the left attempts to demonize and stigmatize those who express politically incorrect views about race, sex, sexual orientation and other elements of identity politics.
It won't work. To the extent that identity politics make any claim on the moral imagination, it is because of the compassionate element of it--the appeal to the human dignity of victims of discrimination or bigotry. Such appeals, and the attendant claims of victimization, are often taken to absurd and unjust extremes or used, as in Walsh's case, to justify one's own bigotry. But global warmism cannot even claim to have at its core a concept of human dignity. It has nothing to offer but fear and hatred.
We Blame Global Warming