Climate Skeptics' Unending Al Gore Bash Fest

By Chris Mooney | July 18, 2011 10:38 am

My latest DeSmogBlog piece reports on a recent study by Andrew Hoffman of the University of Michigan, analyzing the differences in rhetoric between those who want climate action and those who oppose it. Some of the findings weren’t that surprising, but one certainly dramatized things for me. As Hoffman writes, based on his survey of newspaper opinion pieces:

Similar to the terminology of the climate denier movement, nearly 25% of all skeptical articles refer to climate change proponents as “alarmists.” More specifically, the dominant political target of these arguments is Al Gore, who is blamed by skeptical authors for fabricating the problem of climate change for ideological and personal gain. A word count of all the skeptical articles showed that nearly 40% of them mention Gore in one fashion or another.

I knew they liked to bash Gore, but I didn’t know it was quite this dramatic.

More thoughts here; original study here.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Conservatives and Science

Comments (14)

  1. Mike H

    Al Gore displays nearly every trait imaginable that people find so abhorrent in public figures. He’s a hypocrite who constantly rails against overconsumption. He has a conflict of interest that is rarely mentioned. Gore’s net worth went from about $2 million in 2000 to over $100 million today and all of it has come from his “big green” business interests.
    None of these are particularly unique when it comes to our chattering classes and politicos but when it comes to Gore a good liberal is able to suspend all objectivity and completely ignore all the characteristics they abhors in conservatives.
    Oh yeah .. and he tried to rape his masseuse.

  2. Mike

    Regarding the excerpt:

    I’m inclined to say “Meh.”

    “alarmist” (with the obvious chicken little connotation) is what they call us.

    “denier” (with the obvious holocaust denier connotation) is what we call them.

    Its demagoguing in either direction.

  3. Mike

    Crud… I didn’t realize another of us “most common guys’ name evah” Mikes had posted already.

    Call me Mike C. Sorry for the confusion.

  4. TTT

    This just further proves that there are some people with whom you cannot discuss facts and issues, because all they care about (or all they are able to discuss) is personalities. It’s not Gore’s fault, it’s their own deficiency–if there were no Al Gore about whom they could say “global warming isn’t real because Al Gore is fat,” they’d be dismissing the problem because of an equally ego-driven fixation on somebody else.

    On the two biggest American policy issues in the last 30 years–the Iraq War and global warming–Al Gore was right. We hear so often about the people who mocked Winston Churchill as a warmonger, but at least they seemed to have the good decency to shut up later.

  5. Mike C

    To refute above comment. Forget Gore…focus on science

  6. Mike H

    @ TTT

    Even if we give first priority to the destruction of terrorist networks, and even if we succeed, there are still governments that could bring us great harm. And there is a clear case that one of these governments in particular represents a virulent threat in a class by itself: Iraq. As far as I am concerned, a final reckoning with that government should be on the table – algore

    Aint the internets a b!tch?

  7. Nullius in Verba

    Interesting paper. People need to read the whole thing.

    I found this bit interesting:
    “Unfortunately, much of our social science research either takes a relatively
    dismissive attitude toward those who challenge the scientific view that climate change is
    real – dubbed “climate skeptics” or “climate deniers” – or subscribes to them sinister
    motives and neglects their beliefs altogether (see McCright and Dunlap (2000) and (2003)
    for exceptions). This nearly complete neglect and/or dismissal of a challenger climate
    logic, however, has proven to be a significant oversight on the part of social science
    researchers in the organizational and policy fields.”

    I’d certainly agree with that! I don’t know if this paper will motivate any change, though.

    Some of the differences I found interesting:
    Sceptics refer to science 88% of the time, while the convinced do so 37% of the time. Not a big surprise – at least not to our side – but apparently yes we can discuss facts and issues.

    The convinced raised religious issues 35% of the time compared to sceptics 6%. I was aware that religion was not a big issue in sceptical circles, but hadn’t realised it was quite so pervasive amongst the convinced. (I’m guessing it consisted mostly of complaints about creationists…)

    In terms of author credentials, there seems to be rough parity between scientists, academics, and professional researchers; government people were few in number; the big groups appeared to be citizens on the sceptical side versus activists representing formal organisations on the convinced side. That has an interesting resonance with earlier discussions here on “grassroots” movements, and whether climate scepticism is primarily an organised, funded movement. They are, of course, going by self-identification here, so astroturf wouldn’t be distinguishable. Interesting, nevertheless.

    No doubt related to that, while we see 73% of articles counted as convinced, and 19% sceptical, roughly representative of the pre-Climategate split in public opinion, 72% of the convinced articles were op-eds and full articles, while 60% of the sceptical ones were in the form of letters to the editor. Newspapers apparently don’t hold the same views as their readers. From a commercial point of view, that’s an odd decision to have made. Presumably they have some higher priorities.

    I find their speculation that the “talking past one another” has reached the point where debate and engagement may have broken down, and negotiated solutions are no longer possible, to also be worth considering in more depth. I’ve found difficulties debating and engaging myself – some people would prefer to have no involvement with the opposition, and to hold their discussions entirely amongst themselves. Opponents are excluded, or strongly discouraged from partaking fully, which makes engagement difficult.

    Perhaps the most interesting aspect of that, therefore, is that they seem to regard debate, engagement, and negotiation with sceptics as a positive thing. It makes an astonishing and very refreshing change, especially as the authors remain firmly within the pro-AGW camp – and indeed don’t help raprochement themselves very much by using the term “deniers” throughout. Still, it’s a step in the right direction.

  8. bad Jim

    It’s not surprising that deniers attack Al Gore. They’re predominantly conservative, so a substantial proportion, perhaps a majority, are authoritarians for whom truth is decided by authority. For them, the obvious way to attack an argument is to attack the legitimacy of its source. Creationists find fault with Darwin or Haeckel and climate change deniers go after Al Gore.

    In scientific thinking, ad hominem arguments or references to an authority are considered illegitimate, but to an authoritarian they are decisive. It makes discussion difficult, and even at times surreal.

  9. Strange that you should happen to mention his goreanic magesty. Synchronisity I suppose …


  10. Chris Winter

    So, pointman, you say that Gore has fallen on hard times. Mike H above says he’s making out like a bandit. You two should get your stories together.

  11. Chris Winter

    Oh, and Mike H… about that rape story: It’s bogus.

    Why do you folks cling to such transparent falsehoods?

  12. Winter’s coming Chris …


  13. Johnny

    Lets see them do a study on how many times the word “denier” appears in pro-alarmist articles, and how many times they mention the Koch brothers.

    As always, anti-conservative studies are funded and published, while anti-liberal studies are suspiciously absent.


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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.


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