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Invited guests weigh in on Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project

24 hours.pngFormer US Vice President and global warming ambassador Al Gore wrapped up his 24 hours of reality in New York this evening. The final presentation, much like the 23 that preceded it, sought to reinforce the link between extreme weather and global warming in order to make the case that greenhouse gases are not a distant and amorphous threat to our grandchildren but a clear and present danger to pretty much everybody on the planet.

The question we at Nature and many others are asking is whether the event will have an impact. What was the goal? To convert hard-core sceptics or inform viewers who have honest doubts and are simply seeking good information upon which to base an opinion? Did Gore overstate the certainty of the science? Although it’s true that scientists are increasingly talking about extreme weather in the context of climate, that does not mean that all extreme weather can be attributed to climate (as noted here) nor that all scientists are on board with the idea.

In the end, the question is what happens now that these 24 hours of reality are over. Al Gore has said he is hoping for a “new era of activism”, but opinions vary sharply on whether this particular event advanced that cause. We invited a panel of reviewers from around the world to share their thoughts. Here are their responses:

Barry W. Brook, director of climate science, Environment Institute, University of Adelaide, Australia

Overall, I don’t think this initiative will do much good. For one thing, Al Gore is now as much a hindrance as a help on climate change advocacy, as he’s been characterized (probably unfairly) as a highly partisan figure, and so immediately gets about half of all folks offside. Second, there has been a campaign to paint him … [click here for complete response]

Mike Shanahan, press officer, International Institute for Environment and Development, London, United Kingdom

I actually avoided the Gore-athon, and I guess that says something in itself. I think it was a bad idea to ask people to let his project take over their Twitter / Facebook accounts for the day. I’m sure people are more likely to listen to their … [click here for complete response]

Bob Ward, Policy and Communications Director, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, London School of Economics and Political Science, United Kingdom

Al Gore and the other participants in the Climate Reality project deserve huge credit for attempting to raise public awareness about the risks posed by climate change. It is very clear that explaining the link between climate change and trends in the frequency, intensity and distribution of extreme weather help the public to understand more clearly the potential impacts of rising atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases. One could complain … [click here for complete response]

Candis Callison, assistant professor, Graduate School of Journalism, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

It’s not clear to me what work the Climate Reality Project is doing, nor who it’s directed at. Al Gore has done a great job of ‘galvanizing the faithful’, (i.e. those who already care about climate change) so if it’s about that, and if the Twitter feed is any indication, then it seems to be succeeding wildly. There is merit in that. Just look at the way … [click here for complete response]

Julian Landgrave, doctoral student, National Autonomous University, Mexico City, Mexico

It is less than a year before the presidential elections, and Mexico is facing major problems including security, economics, education and health. The reality is that the project didn’t get enough media coverage and that the majority of the population … [click here for complete response]

Judith Curry, chair, School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, United States

If the intent of Al Gore’s telethon is to garner broad support for climate and energy policies such as proposed by the UNFCCC (e.g. the Kyoto protocol), I anticipate that this effort will backfire and energize the opposition to such policies. As a scientist I find the mantra “remove the doubt, reveal the deniers” to be objectionable … [click here for complete response]

Hans von Storch & Werner Krauss, Helmholtz Centre for Materials and Coastal Research, Geesthacht, Germany

We want to present three observations on the basis of our selected viewing of Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project. First, we address the political and scientific legitimization of the message; second, we criticize the form of representation, and finally we discuss the dilemma of the global–local nexus. [click here for complete response]


  1. Report this comment

    sinz54 said:

    Polls show that American support for doing something about global warming has declined significantly, as the poor economy has taken precedence.

    If you want to explain the need to deal with global warming to those who aren’t already convinced, Al Gore is a terrible choice.

    Al Gore is no Carl Sagan. He’s a Democratic Party politician, Vice President and attack dog for President Clinton (Gore took down Perot over NAFTA)—and Democratic Presidential candidate in 2000, a reminder of the disastrous and divisive Florida election recount fiasco.

    Both Independent and especially Republican voters have good reason to think that anything that comes out of Al Gore’s mouth is intended to boost the Democratic Party. Because Gore’s entire past career was that way.

    Al Gore cannot appeal to non-Democrats (like me) because of his partisan political background.

    It’s true that the message should count more than the messenger. But that’s only if you are willing to let the messenger deliver the message. Lots of folks who weren’t fans of Al Gore back when he was a Democratic Party partisan, won’t even tune him in to listen to anything he says.

    Get another spokesperson.

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    jimg662 said:

    From: The Struggling Masses

    To: Environmental Activists

    Subject: Hush

    We’re all struggling to make ends meet and to get our feet back underneath us. We’ve lost jobs, homes, and retirement funds.

    Please hush up, sit down, and quiet the prattle.

    Come back and talk to us when we’ve gotten back what we’ve lost. We’ll have the time and patients to listen then.


    Almost Homeless

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    Philip Makowski said:

    The people Al Gore is trying to convince have by now built up an armor impenetrable to science, plate by plate.

    The sun is a major driver of climate – chink, one plate added to the armor

    30,000 scientists sign a petition – chink, another plate

    This is a UN global government conspiracy – chink, and another

    Glaciers are growing – chink

    Big snowfalls last winter – chink

    Climategate – chink

    Solyndra – chink

    CERN – chink

    Al Gore is a hypocrite – chink

    And slowly, a  strong armor, literally two layers of plate thick, is built up, where even the biggest crowbar of facts cannot dislodge. And Al Gore, being such a divisive figure, is unfortunately not helping.

    What is needed is a new way of communicating with skeptics, be it with conservative presenters to get around the us-vs-them identity politics, or a focus on frames that they can accept, such as energy independence, local energy production, eliminating corporate welfare for oil producers, etc.

  4. Report this comment

    Ralph Gizzip said:

    It amazes me how much AGW proponents want to place the blame (if there really is any) on human activity. It seems to me there’s a great big heat source about 93 million miles away that has a much more significant impact on our weather and climate than anything we can do. I also seem to remember about 40 years ago the “scientists” had their shorts in a knot over the coming Ice Age. Here’s an idea … let’s rescind some of the pollution regulations so we can pump a whole lot more particulate matter into the air and arrest this “Global Warming” and start a new “Ice Age.”

    The bottom line is this: climate changes and the Earth abides. Humans must adapt or die. There is no control over the weather. Anyone who thinks otherwise is suffering from delusions of grandeur.

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    tardoloid said:

    My problem with climate change is that it’s ALWAYS viewed as NEGATIVE. There are always benefits. I mean, growing citrus in Alabama and Georgia. Peaches in Virginia. Tomatoes year round in Florida and Texas. Longer Summers in the North. I mean, its always doom and gloom. And, how does taxing me more ,money cool down the SUN!

  6. Report this comment

    rgcheek said:

    No AGW skeptics?


    Since when does science stop re-evaluating what we think we know?

    Good thing for Kepler, Newton and Einstein that things weren’t like this in their day.

  7. Report this comment

    Anon said:

    Why do you only display one or two sentences of each response and then make the user click a dozen times on each entry to read the entire answer? How hard would it be to simply display each response in its entirety?

  8. Report this comment

    Harry Taft said:

    I pay no attention to Mr.Gore as a representative of a scientific point of view (AGW). He has a commercial interest in promoting this idea and the conflict of interest is too strong to ignore. If this hypothesis is so important, where is the scientist (or group of scientists) who will present their ideas in an adversarial presentation so that skeptics are allowed a voice in the room ? Any reference to modeling the future reliably will never be respected until the same models reliably reflect what is already history. OT, I stopped reading Nature after your organization started promoting AGW based on inadequate information.

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    OPUS said:

    Isaac Asimov said Climate in extreems staves off both Global Warming and Global Cooling in his 1979 book “Catastrophes!”. So, if we are in a summer of high heat (it is all relative) and very cold winters then we are relatively safe. The “Climate Change” folks say that is just what we are having and I believe Asimov so, then we are safe from desaster for the time being!

  10. Report this comment

    Ted Berner said:

    I challenge any columnist to write about global warming with no mention of Mr. Gore and no political connotations.

    Now surprise me and publish this comment.

  11. Report this comment

    Clive Perring said:

    Politicizing scientific debate is like dumping ketchup on your filet mignon. Increasingly public discourse on climate change is coming to resemble the arguments over abortion or gay marriages, with dedicated believers and outraged opponents. When polarizing figures such as Al Gore or George Bush try to speak about the evidence behind climate science, whether it is their intention or not, they only heap fuel on a political war which should have been figured out in labs and under microscopes instead of with rhetoric and microphones.

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