Let's Put This Meme to Rest: Global Warming ≠ Al Gore


Image: NASA
Even If You Don't Like Carl Sagan, the Stars are Still Out There
There's a meme going around the net - and it pops up often in comments on TreeHugger - that really gets my goat. It has many variations, but it always comes back to trying to link anything that has to do with global warming/climate change (especially when it's things we don't quite understand yet) with Al Gore. "Ah! Because of X, I guess Al Gore was wrong!". There's a lot of subtext there, but the main goal is apparently to deny climate science via ad hominem on a single individual. Well, newsflash, Al Gore has been popularizing global warming science for a while, but it's not his theory. Thousands of scientists have been working on it for decades, and whether you like Gore or not has nothing to do with the validity of the science.

The reason why this meme (the word "meme", by the way, was popularized by Richard Dawkins to explain the spread of ideas and culture) is so popular sadly doesn't seem to have much to do with the search for truth.

If figuring out what's really going on was the true goal, the so-called skeptics would be discussing the science (and not just repeating sound-bytes about it). But since that's hard and there's an overwhelming scientific consensus, it's much easier to reframe this as "Al Gore's thing" since people who don't like Al Gore will be strongly predisposed to also dislike his ideas (which in itself isn't very rational -- if someone you don't like says the sky is blue, that doesn't make it yellow, and a good idea should still be a good wherever it comes from).

So the next time you see people trying to implicitly make global warming "Al Gore's thing", remind them that GW isn't anymore Al Gore's than stars and galaxies are Carl Sagan's, and no scientific field is owned by a single author who writes a book for the layman about it.

Our friends at Grist have a useful guide on How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic. That's a good place to start to get familiar with the science (and Al Gore isn't even mentioned in the index!).

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