New York Times Slams Gore...

i-f688a9beb2e070ce3bc7c0caee70094f-inconvenient_truth poster.JPG ...and frankly, I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner.

Let me be clear: I have seen An Inconvenient Truth, and I found it almost entirely accurate. Gore has done a tremendous job of drawing attention to this issue and he gets the science right by and large. But my question as a point of strategy has always been: Why include the 1 to 5 percent of more questionable stuff, and so leave onself open to this kind of attack? Given how incredibly smart and talented Al Gore is, didn't he see this coming?

Alas, I've already shown how Gore overstepped on the relationship between global warming and tornadic activity (something the Times piece curiously omits, as this is a clear cut-case and an obvious opportunity to show the IPCC itself contradicting Gore). The treatment of hurricanes in An Inconvenient Truth is also problematic, as James Hansen himself notes in the current Times piece:

Still, Dr. Hansen said, the former vice president's work may hold "imperfections" and "technical flaws." He pointed to hurricanes, an icon for Mr. Gore, who highlights the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and cites research suggesting that global warming will cause both storm frequency and deadliness to rise. Yet this past Atlantic season produced fewer hurricanes than forecasters predicted (five versus nine), and none that hit the United States.

"We need to be more careful in describing the hurricane story than he is," Dr. Hansen said of Mr. Gore. "On the other hand," Dr. Hansen said, "he has the bottom line right: most storms, at least those driven by the latent heat of vaporization, will tend to be stronger, or have the potential to be stronger, in a warmer climate."

I recently picked up a print copy of An Inconvenient Truth. Paging through the section on hurricanes and global warming, I also found some problematic passages. If I get time, I may have more on this....

P.S.: For contrary views, see Real Climate and Dave Roberts at Gristmill. I have to say, I'm a bit surprised that these blogs do not explain why James Hansen himself might be questioning how Gore depicts the hurricane issue--which, unless the quote is wrong, Hansen is indeed doing.....

P.P.S.: John Horgan, writing over at the Stevens Institute of Technology Center for Science Writings blog, points out something else interesting: Andy Revkin is the Times' global warming ace, but he didn't write this story. William Broad did. "What fascinates me about Broad's stories is that they seemed to at least implicitly contradict the view of global warming purveyed by his Times colleague Andrew Revkin," writes Horgan. He wants to have the two over to debate....

AND YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Nisbet also has an entry you should read on this. Meanwhile, let me add a point of my own: If I'm a bit critical of Gore, even though I think he's almost 100 percent accurate on global warming, it's because I really do approach the hurricane subject differently in Storm World. I can't say any more about that yet because it's still a good while until the book is out. But perhaps this helps explain my approach....

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I agree that Gore should have been very careful about implying things not fully supported by the science, but I'd also have to say that when a journalist uses a single season to "disprove" a statement regarding a possible hurricane trend related to climate, they are guilty of the very same thing:

"Yet this past Atlantic season produced fewer hurricanes than forecasters predicted (five versus nine), and none that hit the United States."

I have never been impressed with the Times' science writing -- and lately, I have not found their other writing (eg, on WMD) particularly compelling either. They really need to get their act together as a newspaper, but that's a topic of discussion for another post (or perhaps a book... or two, or 3).

By Dark Tent (not verified) on 13 Mar 2007 #permalink

Dark Tent,
You're right, that was lame on William Broad's part, I should have said something about it but with such a diligent commenter, I guess I don't need to....

I find it amazing that there has been a well documented campaign to discredit the science of climate change and not a single article in the New York Times pointing this out.

Yet, Gore makes few misstatements on debatable issues and he gets a hit piece. I'm trying to understand where the balance is on that.

The NY Times is often guilty of mixing it's political judgments into its definition of "what is news" and how should a story be told. Journalist / blogger Norman Oder appears to have made it his life's mission to continuously point out the mistakes made by the Times. Consider the report that was the beginning of Oder's blog

I could go to town on Broad, obviously his piece is very reliant on "skeptics"...but it wouldn't matter if you didn't also have people like James Hansen in there saying they're a tad uncomfortable too. The critique wouldn't stick if there wasn't a shard of credibility to it.

If An Inconvenient Truth did not have some minor flaws would that stop the criticism? No, it would not. If there is no controversy the critics would manufacture it.

Broad manufactures controversy in this article (although op-ed would be a more accurate description). He quotes people who manufacture controversy.

By Joseph O'Sullivan (not verified) on 13 Mar 2007 #permalink

Saw the article in my local paper this morning. Complete waste of column-inches. There was simply no story there.

"I find it amazing that there has been a well documented campaign to discredit the science of climate change and not a single article in the New York Times pointing this out."

Nothing really remarkable there. Until very recently, the guy writing about global warming for the Times (Gregg Easterbrooke) was a "skeptic" (in the non-traditional sense).

When I said above that the Times "needs to get its act together", what I really meant is that they need to hire some new people (lots of them) -- and fire the ones who do not make the grade.

What I find difficult to believe is that, with such a large (and presumably talented) pool of journalism candidates to select from, papers like the NY Times actually choose people like Jason Blair and Judith Miller.

It's like having an NBA draft with a choice of Michael Jordan and Peewee Herman -- and selecting Peewee over Michael.

By Dark Tent (not verified) on 13 Mar 2007 #permalink

I related this story as a comment on a blog some time ago but have forgotten whether it was this one. In any case, I think it illustrates the deterioration of the Grey Lady as the newspaper of record.

Many years ago, when I was employed by the US Federal Highway Administration I received a call from a James Gleick who was a science reporter for the New York Times (yes, the same James Gleick who has written a biography of Issac Newton and on Chaos). He wanted to ask me some questions about traffic congestion for an article he was writing for the Times Sunday Magazine. I answered his questions and thought nothing more about it until a month or two later when I received a call from a woman who identified herself as Mr. Gleicks' editor at the Times. He had written the article and she was calling to verify that I was being quoted correctly. She also asked some questions about other aspects of the article and as to whether Mr. Gleicks' interpretation was correct (it was a very good article by the way). Eventually I told her that I was somewhat amazed at the phone call and that I couldn't imagine our local paper, the Washington Post acting in the same way. This probably made her day as this was post Watergate and the Times and the Post were in fierce competition as to which was Americas' premier paper. The point of this rather lengthy reminiscence is how far the Times has sunk from the days of Walter Sullivan and later James Gleick to the type of second rate journalism we see in this article and previous ones on the evolution/ID controversy.

Not that it makes any difference, but you don't suppose Don J. Easterbrook is any relation to NY Times Science writer Gregg Easterbrook (sorry about the above misspelling), do you?

"I don't want to pick on Al Gore," Don J. Easterbrook, an emeritus professor of geology at Western Washington University, told hundreds of experts at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America. "But there are a lot of inaccuracies in the statements we are seeing, and we have to temper that with real data."

From a Rapt Audience, a Call to Cool the Hype - New York Times

By Dark tent (not verified) on 13 Mar 2007 #permalink

Chris, it looks to me as if Jim's quotes are a little more consistent with him saying that scientists need to be more nuanced in their statements; i.e., they cannot summarize and simplify the way a non-scientist like Gore can. Certainly that sentence Broad threw in distorted Jim's meaning considerably. Somehow I suspect we will see a clarifying statement very, very soon.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 13 Mar 2007 #permalink


I have read your book and enjoyed it thouroughly, many kudos from a former Slidell bayou boy! Ironically, I was watching the Al Gore update to Inconvienent Truth on Showtime only to then flip over to the news on Fox News (God Help Us) to listen to Don J. Easterbrook views on Al Gore's movie. I asked myself, like many others, who is this guy! (which in turn led me to this blog) If FOX News along with the Times is backing this guy, then it only adds more to the credibility of Gores and 95% or more of the scientific communities argument! If partisan politics, media, and the christian right destroy the earth, God help them if they believe they will not be LEFT BEHIND! It's a damn shame that we cannot approach this global issue and leave politics at the door. It makes me believe that politicians are the most dangerous element befalling mankind itself and global warming is just a CONVIENENT sideshow for them to propagate their control of ignorance! I pray we do WAKE UP before it is too late and regain control of both our earth and political system!!

By Scott Lewis (not verified) on 13 Mar 2007 #permalink

Jackie, in David's piece over at Gristmill you'll find a link to a very recent Easterbrook abstract wherein he promotes solar as a much more likely cause for global warming than CO2. His reasons are the same ones that have been thoroughly debunked in the past (see RealClimate). Let me put it this way: Anyone who promotes that particular line of thinking is essentially a denialist crackpot.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 13 Mar 2007 #permalink

Broad's piece is a "cherry picker's cherry tree", if I have ever seen one (and a particular variety at that).

By Dark Tent (not verified) on 14 Mar 2007 #permalink

somerby slams mooney...

i'd love to see a response.

"Weird! Mooney's the type of fiery liberal who will pen 'a diatribe' against 'the Right.' But isn't it odd! He doesn't have a word to say about the New York Times! No, we can't mind-read this fiery young fellow's motives. But in trashing the right--and whitewashing the Times--Mooney does set up a lucrative mainstream writing career. In the future, when you see his by-line appear in the Times--he has already published for the Los Angeles variant--remember the knives he put in Gore's back to keep his own career hopes alive. Remember the knives he put in the back of you and your ongoing interests."

"Almost entirely accurate": I'm shocked, shocked, that Al Gore is not 100% perfect. No wonder the voters rejected him. Oh, wait...

By Hedley Lamarr (not verified) on 20 Mar 2007 #permalink


I agree with Somerby- you'll go far in this world if you keep on writing posts like this.

"Almost entirely accurate": I'm shocked, shocked, that Al Gore is not 100% perfect. No wonder the voters rejected him. Oh, wait... ...they did: 5-4!