Former Vice President Al Gore issued a scathing attack against the discourse surrounding climate change and criticized President Obama for failing to take a stronger stance on the issue, in an essay Gore wrote for Rolling Stone magazine.
Much of Gore's critique is directed against the media for legitimizing what he sees as disingenuous and politicially motivated attempts to discount data on climate change by discrediting climate scientists, drawing a parallel to scientists hired by cigarette companies who denied the adverse health effects of smoking. Citing a strong scientific consensus on climate change and record floods, temperatures and droughts, Gore charges that media coverage has given disproportionate weight to those who question the science behind climate change.
How do we drive home that fact in a democratic society when questions of truth have been converted into questions of power? Gore writes. When the distinction between what is true and what is false is being attacked relentlessly, and when the referee in the contest between truth and falsehood has become an entertainer selling tickets to a phony wrestling match?
Gore also blames the ascendance of television and decline of traditional media for stifling debate, as politicians reliant on business lobbies for campaign money spend an average of 80% of their campaign budgets on TV spots.
As with the invasion of Iraq, some are hyperactive cheerleaders for the deception, while others are intimidated into complicity, timidity and silence by the astonishing vitriol heaped upon those who dare to present the best evidence in a professional manner, Gore writes. Just as TV networks who beat the drums of war prior to the Iraq invasion were rewarded with higher ratings, networks now seem reluctant to present the truth about the link between carbon pollution and global warming out of fear that conservative viewers will change the channel - and fear that they will receive a torrent of flame e-mails from deniers.
While Gore praises some of Obama's early support of policies to combat climate change -- inserting climate-friendlty intiatives in his stimulus package, helping to guide legislation with a carbon cap measure through the House, and instructing the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate global warming emissions under Clean Air Act -- he charges that Obama has been too timid in the face of stiff resistance from Congress and the business lobby.
Without presidential leadership that focuses intensely on making the public aware of the reality we face, nothing will change, Gore writes. Yet President Obama has never presented to the American people the magnitude of the climate crisis. He has simply not made the case for action. He has not defended the science against the ongoing, withering, and dishonest attacks. Nor has he provided a presidential venue for the scientific community - including our own National Academy - to bring the reality of the science before the public.