Right Wing Spin of A Gore Mistake

A story in the conservative Times of London shows how the right wing media spins the news to promote denialism of climate change. Whenever people outside of science popularize the work of scientists, regardless of the field, it is inevitable that we will see some over-simplifications and mistakes. Even Al Gore, who has  generally been accurate in popularizing the work of climate scientists, has made a mistake from time to time. As Matthew Yglesias points out, this right wing spin shows why it is dangerous for Al Gore to make any mistakes:

Al Gore, speaking at Copenhagen, cited the work of Dr Wieslav Maslowki to the effect that “there is a 75 per cent chance that the entire north polar ice cap, during the summer months, could be completely ice-free within five to seven years.” In fact, according to the Times (UK) “Maslowki, who works at the US Naval Postgraduate School in California, said that his latest results give a six-year projection for the melting of 80 per cent of the ice.”

Now it’s true that projecting a 75 percent chance of completely ice free in 5-7 years and projecting 80 percent ice loss in 6 years are different things. Gore seems to have gotten this slightly wrong. Still, Gore’s point was that arctic ice is melting at an alarming rate and that is indeed what Maslowki’s research thinks. It’s totally fair of the Times to point out the error, but what they did was do a whole long article with the headline “Inconvenient truth for Al Gore as his North Pole sums don’t add up,” leading with the assertion that “The former US Vice-President, who became an unlikely figurehead for the green movement after narrating the Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth, became entangled in a new climate change ’spin’ row.” The fact that Maslowki’s real figure is extremely close to Gore’s an supports the same overall point is suppressed all the way until the eighteenth graf of a story otherwise dedicating to implying that Gore in particular, and climate activists in general, are huge liars.

There’s a lot of shoddy reporting in the climate debate, but this is a reminder that all the way back to the 2000 presidential campaign there are some kind of special journalistic rules that apply to Gore.

While Gore’s error does not alter the real problem that the arctic ice is melting at an alarming rate, conservative bloggers are following the lead of the Times in trying to spin this to support their denial of the scientific consensus.

At least when Gore makes a mistake he is willing to admit it:

Mr Gore’s office later admitted that the 75 per cent figure was one used by Dr Maslowksi as a “ballpark figure” several years ago in a conversation with Mr Gore.

Instead of showing some journalistic integrity and reporting the facts, the Times further promotes the right wing spin on climate change:

The embarrassing error cast another shadow over the conference after the controversy over the hacked e-mails from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, which appeared to suggest that scientists had manipulated data to strengthen their argument that human activities were causing global warming.

This “appeared to suggest” manipulation of data only in the minds of global warming deniers who twisted and misquoted the hacked email. As noted in several recent posts, examination of the hacked email showed that the claims of those using it to try to cast doubt on the science were false and there was nothing in the email which alters the scientific consensus on climate change.

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2 Comments

  1. 1
    Networlddirectory says:

    I think you’ve misdiagnosed the situation. It’s not specifically Al Gore. If it hadn’t been him, the deniers would have picked some other person, or organization, to demonize. If you haven’t noticed, all facts are being politicized. Among certain people, the possibibility of non-political facts is in dispute.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    Networlddirectory,

    I did not “misdiagnose” the situation at all. I never said it is specifically about Al Gore. The politicization of the “facts” is what I’ve been writing about for quite a while. The right wing uses Gore as their target, but if Gore wasn’t there they would demonize someone else.

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