Thursday, October 11, 2007

Gore, the Judge and the Nobel

It is strange that in the same week that everybody says Al Gore will win the Nobel Peace Prize, a British judge has drawn attention to inaccuracies in his film An Inconvenient Truth. The judge is right, of course, the film is a polemic by a politician that cleverly confuses truth and wild speculation. It is true, for example, that almost all scientists agree that global warming is happening and that humans are, to a greater or lesser extent, responsible. It is wild speculation to say that this entails an imminent 20 foot rise in sea levels. The bad end of the worst official estimates is about two feet by 2100. Nevertheless, Gore plainly thinks that his message is too important to be buried under uncertainties. Humankind, in the wisdom of contemporary politics, cannot bear very much uncertainty. But, to a rough approximation, everything is uncertain and, therefore, to an equally rough approximation, all current political rhetoric is meaningless. In the case of global warming this is an especially serious problem. Gore and the greens spout 'certainties', sceptics shoot holes in them and the public is left thinking it's like watching Hal and the boy David at the despatch boxes. But, of course, it's nothing like that. Either continuing to chuck 30 gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year is going to do us serious damage or it isn't. Intelligent sceptics like Bjorn Lomborg say it may do us some damage but not enough to cause panic. Intelligent deep greens Like James Lovelock think it may soon destroy our civilisation. (People who think it will do nothing do not qualify as 'intelligent'.) But the truth is we don't know - I'm nearer Lovelock, but only tentatively and I am fully aware that my temperament plays a part in this  - and the only real political issue is how we assess the risk. This is a fantastically complex subject and, if politicians want to tell the truth, they should admit that to the public. Merely taking a position, like Gore and the dumber sceptics, should not be a serious option. Having an opinion on global warming is about as meaningful as having an opinion on the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The law and the warming will go on no matter what you think. Personally, I think it's bloody obvious that we should cut emissions and develop green technologies. But it's equally bloody obvious that Gore would be a very odd choice for the Peace Prize.

17 comments:

  1. I have not seen the whole film, but it strikes me that it is part fact part fiction, rather like Supermarket Tabloids. I cannot in any way see how what Gore supports has to do with world peace. Perhaps it is a reflection on the state of the world that he is being considered. I cannot think of anybody who really stands out at the moment. Just make sure that it is not Tony.

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  2. Temperament?, nearer to Lovelock, or just a lack of willingness to lean anywhere by someone named Bjorn.
    I have wondered had our insular ancestors known that the Viking ships were crewed by men named Bjorn and Knut, would they have been more or less likely to stand their ground.

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  3. don't we want to do that anyway? I seem to remember a call for less reliance on burning fossil fuels way before we even heard of global warming.

    how is it decided who gets the honour? should we, perhaps, have a referendum? they seem to be the thing these days.

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  4. btw, Hal & Dave, no? Goliath and the boy David? sorry, I'm being picky this morning. you're doing a good job!

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  5. Quite worrying how easy it was for the government to slip blatant Green propaganda into the schools, but also, how easy it was for anyone equipped with forensic skills to drive a coach and horses through this alarmist guff. After repeatedly braodcasting David 'Jeremiah' Shukman's reports, the BBC seemed very sheepish as it covered the verdict last night. The Browns should scale down all the epic talk about ice caps, and concentrate on telling kiddies not to eat so much, not to drop litter, and not to kill each other with guns and knives, vide an uncharacteristically thoughtful intervention by Boris Johnson in today's Telegraph.

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  6. Gore's not as odd a choice as Henry Kissinger for bringing peace to mankind.

    i wouldn't go so far as to say that skeptics are unintelligent - just, perhaps, using their intelligence to deny what is probably the case.

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  7. Well, Gore did a better job than anyone else of bringing global warning to the forefront of our worries. Whether he deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, well, I kinda doubt it. Morgan Spurlock also did a good job of showing us that a diet of McDonald's food will kill us ("Supersize Me"), but no one is giving him a Nobel.

    The way we live now is just toxic, on so many levels. I prefer to:

    "...let the obscure man learn,
    in the ceremony of his business,
    to remember the earth and his duties,
    to propagate the canticle of his fruit."

    In vino veritas.

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  8. It is unwise, perhaps, to dogmatise in matters of life and death, but since nothing is gained by mitigating what is not an improving situation, this might indeed be the proper moment to acknowledge what can be clearly inferred from its terms: that the principle which conceives of the perpetuation of maximum growth inside a closed ecological system and which admits that the number of its occupants is increasing by the amount its space is diminishing, can never be accommodated within a non-ecocidal context. It must, quite obviously, prove itself the means to its own annihilation.

    Why Al Gore should be seen in the company of Nobel Peace Laureates is beyond me, but he’d do well on Mastermind: Special Subject = The bleedin’ obvious!

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  9. Gore might not be the most deserving winner ever but he certainly wouldn't be the least deserving either. I like Bryan's choice of the Burmese monks much better than Gore not least because it gives them some worldwide recognition.

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  10. The Moustache Brothers would be a good choice for this year, or even James Lovelock himself. Failed and/or superannuated politicians shouldn't be eligible at all, imho, unless they first agree to give away all their money and enter a monastery. This award should be something for the rest of us, for ordinary folks who really did make a difference.

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  11. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) says Gore just cancelled his appearance at her fund-raiser tonight because he has to go overseas "for an exciting and urgent mission that could result in a major breakthrough in the fight against global warming." Anyone care to bet if Gore and Tipper are flying coach or taking their regular private jet to Stockholm?

    Gore was was so insufferably self-righteous before this it is hard to imagine what he will be like afterwards. Personally, I think they should have given him the science prize - makes about as much sense.

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  12. The International Herald Tribune just ran an article, "Common misconceptions about the Nobel Peace Prize".

    Myth: The prize is awarded to recognize efforts for peace, human rights and democracy only after they have proven successful.

    More often, the prize is awarded to encourage those who receive it to see the effort through, sometimes at critical moments in a process.


    That would seem to point away from Gore and towards Burma.

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