VERY BROADLY SPEAKING! Don Easterbrook may not reed reel gudd. Ditto the Times William Broad: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 14, 2007
VERY BROADLY SPEAKING: Don Easterbrook may not reed reel gudd. Easterbook is a geology professor at Western Washington University; yesterday, he was prominently featured in William Broads ballyhooed New York Times piece about Al Gore and global warming. And uh-oh! At one point, were told that Easterbrook has hotly disputed something Gore says in his best-selling book, An Inconvenient Truth:
BROAD (3/13/07): In October, Dr. Easterbrook made similar points at the geological society meeting in Philadelphia. He hotly disputed Mr. Gore's claim that ''our civilization has never experienced any environmental shift remotely similar to this'' threatened change.As we said, Dr. Easterbrook may not reed reel gudd. In that statement, Gore doesnt say that our planet has never experienced such temperature shifts; instead, he speaks of our civilization. Many of you will see the difference in the problems encompassed by those different statements. (For Gores fuller text, see below.) So how about it? Has our civilization ever experienced environmental shifts like the shift which Gore is projecting? Were told that Easterbrook offered data dating back 15,000 years—but many of those data would presumably predate our civilization (see Gores text). True, that medieval warm period which Broad highlights certainly could contradict Gores statement. But uh-oh! Gore had addressed that point long before Easterbrook gave his hot speech! Gore writes this in his book:
GORE (page 64): The correlation between temperature and CO2 concentrations over the last 1,000 years—as measured in the ice core recorded by [Lonnie] Thompsons team—is striking.To see the chart, go buy the book. But as you can see, Gore discusses this standard objection in the pages of his well-known book (and in Davis Guggenheims film). Gores book and film came out months before Easterbrook flashed his own slide show.
But you wouldnt know any of that from reading Broads lengthy report, which appeared in our most famous newspaper. Instead, Broad seems to play dumb in this passage, as he does elsewhere in his piece. He quotes Easterbrook hotly disputing Gores statement—without noting that many of Easterbrooks data have nothing to do with Gores actual claim. And he fails to evaluate Gores pre-rebuttal to the part of the claim which is actually relevant. Indeed, he even fails to tell Times readers that Gore pre-answered this standard objection! But so it goes when our Pulitzer winners sit down for their long, detailed think jobs.
In principle, Broads report is extremely important. Its important for us to know the truth about warming science; its important to know the degree to which Gores book and film are right (or wrong). For those reasons, Broad could have performed a valuable service with his lengthy report in the Times. But his work is hapless, spotty, inept—a problem which we will explore in the next several days.
Are there serious flaws in Gores presentation? If so, what might those problem be? For our money, Broad hasnt been very helpful—except, in a fully predictable way, to those who enjoy spinning Gore. Last night, for example, a professor who may not reed reel gudd got his fifteen minutes on cable, engaging in inane discussions with such scholars as Tucker and Sean. (The professor may know what hes talking about. The inanity came from his hosts.) Last summer, the first of these lads was laughing and bragging about not having bothered to see Gores film (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/13/06). Last night, though, in his best inane way, he lectured us about the things crazy Gore has (supposedly) said.
Of course, anyone would have known that this clowning would occur when they put Broads flawed piece into print.
That professor may not reed reel gudd. But then, were not sure that Broad does either. For most citizens, this thought would likely be counterintuitive. But then, until we help them understand the problems of our mainstream press corps, they will never understand their age—this age of the press Antoinettes.
GORES FULLER STATEMENT: From his book, here is Gores fuller statement about what our civilization has experienced:
GORE (page 149): The average temperature worldwide is about 58 degrees F.In that passage, Gore isnt discussing changes which may have happened 15,000 years in the past. He is saying that our current civilization presumes a climate pattern which may change in this century. Eighty-five pages earlier, he has already said, correctly or otherwise, that the Medieval Warm Period doesnt compare with the changes which may come.
Is he right about that? We dont know. But Broad does a truly horrible job in sorting out Easterbrooks hot dispute—and in evaluating the pre-rebuttal which Gore had already offered last year. Indeed, readers of the New York Times dont even know that Gore has addressed this specific complaint! But in this very puzzling age, so it goes when our Pulitzer winners type their lengthy reports.
A STASI-BOYS QUESTION: Poor Tucker! Last night, he asked Easterbook about the very point weve discussed. And omigod! Despite his failure to throw out the chaff, he provoked a clarification:
CARLSON (3/13/07): You make the point in the New York Times today that Gore`s contention that weve never seen a climate shift like this ever in history is false, and, in fact, there have been lots of changes in climates down through the millennia. Can you explain that?Oh! So those really big changes fall well outside the time period Gore was discussing! Somehow, Broad managed to miss that point. Maybe the glint off his Pulitzer Prizes kept him from seeing it.
IN FAIRNESS TO THE PROFESSOR: In fairness to Easterbrook, heres an exchange with Alan Colmes about his outlook on Gore:
COLMES (3/13/07): Joining us now is an emeritus professor of geology at West Washington University, Don Easterbrook.More tomorrow on Broads attempts to get at those logical facts. Its important to sort out the science of warming. How well did our great paper do it?