March 21, 2007
New York Sun Editorial
Vice President Gore returns this afternoon to the Senate in which he represented the Volunteer State and served, as vice president, as the tiebreaking vote. He will be testifying before the Committee on Environment and Public Works, which has scheduled a full committee hearing titled, “Vice President Al Gore’s Perspective on Global Warming.” With speculation afoot that Mr. Gore could yet enter the Democratic presidential field in 2008, his appearance will probably attract as much press attention as his appearance at the Oscars, which is to say, a lot.
So it is a small point worth mentioning in advance that at a recent debate here in New York City on the question “Global warming is not a crisis,” an audience of hundreds of reasonably sophisticated New Yorkers started out pretty much in agreement with Mr. Gore. The Tennessean has been warning of the danger posed by global warming since at least the publication of his 1992 best-selling book “Earth in the Balance.” His latest sally is the movie “An Inconvenient Truth.” According to the debate’s sponsor, Intelligence Squared U.S., before the debate, 57% of the audience was against the resolution — that is, they thought global warming is a crisis. By the end of the debate, support for the “against” camp had eroded to 42%, while a plurality of the audience, 46%, agreed with the proposition that “Global warming is not a crisis.”
On the one hand, this audience may not be representative of overall scientific or even American opinion. On the other hand, as New Yorkers living on low-lying islands, members of the audience would stand to lose a lot from the sort of rise in sea levels that is warned of by Mr. Gore’s movie and other global warming prognosticators. The audience at the event, which was an initiative of the Rosenkranz Foundation, was exposed to an hour and 45 minutes of debate by some of the top experts on the topic, with writer Michael Crichton and MIT meteorology professor Richard Lindzen arguing “not a crisis” and Richard Somerville of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Gavin Schmidt of NASA arguing that it is a crisis.
It may be prudent to act pre-emptively to avert a threat before it rises to the level of a crisis, though for some reason those who favor such actions in respect of global warming tend to oppose them in the case of rogue states such as Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and vice versa. And it may be that, because the potential effect of a crisis is so dire, some pre-emptive action is sensible even if the onset of the crisis is uncertain. But the suggested preemptive actions have costs, too, some of them quite extensive, others of them less so.
The ranking Republican on the Senate environment committee, Senator Inhofe, has featured on his Web site an account of the New York debate that reports, “The New York City audience laughed as Gore became the butt of humor during the debate.” If the global warming alarmists displayed more of their own sense of humor, they might find themselves winning more debates, a fact that Mr. Gore has no doubt had plenty of time to reflect on in the long years since President Bush bested him in the debate for the presidency.