McCain Fighting to Recapture Maverick Spirit of 2000 BidThere you have it! Once again, McCain is fighting for that maverick spirit. Indeed, right in his opening paragraph, Spear revisits other favorite imagery, even as he describes the problem the sainted solon now faces:
SPEAR (3/15/07): In the seven years since John McCain and his "Straight Talk Express" nearly derailed George W. Bush's White House ambitions, the blunt-spoken senator from Arizona has become the very picture of the highly managed presidential candidate he once scorned.According to Spear, McCain has become the very picture of something he once scorned—the highly managed candidate. But Spear recalls the name of that famous bus—and he semi-calls McCain blunt-spoken. Soon, Spear quotes two GOP activists who no longer support McCain. Here are the nugget paragraphs in which Spear describes McCains current problem:
SPEAR (pghs 6-7): Their defections raise a question: Can the man who waged what Time magazine labeled "The McCain Mutiny" in 2000 do it again?According to Spear, McCain is hoping to rekindle the insurgent spirit of Campaign 2000; hes trying to wage another McCain Mutiny. Lets just go ahead and say it—in the language of modern politics, these are quite friendly frameworks.
As McCain departs today on a five-day jaunt across Iowa and New Hampshire in his campaign bus (actually four buses, two in each state), he is hoping to regain the front-runner status that has slipped away from him and rekindle the insurgent spirit of his first presidential bid.
FRUIT TRUCK DOWN: Note: For part one of this report, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/14/07.
Are there shortcomings—imperfections, even errors—in An Inconvenient Truth? We can assume that shortcomings do exist—they always do in this life, after all—and it would be a very good thing if William Broad, a New York Times science writer, could help us understand them. Indeed, we pretty much know there are some imperfections in Gores work. In Tuesdays lengthy, woeful report, Broad quotes warming wizard James Hansen, a major supporter and admirer of Gore. And Hansen cites a part of Gores work which he thinks could be better:
BROAD (3/13/07): Some backers concede minor inaccuracies but see them as reasonable for a politician. James E. Hansen, an environmental scientist, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and a top adviser to Mr. Gore, said, ''Al does an exceptionally good job of seeing the forest for the trees,'' adding that Mr. Gore often did so ''better than scientists.''According to Broad, Hansen says Gore should be more careful in describing the hurricane story (while noting that Gores bottom line is right). But what exactly does Hansen mean? What has Gore said that is inaccurate or misleading? In keeping with the intellectual squalor of his piece, Broad doesnt ever manage to say. Instead, he includes that utterly silly—and utterly irrelevant—sentence about the number of hurricanes in the Atlantic last season. No, Gore didnt predict nine storms—and only a fool would think that these data have any real relevance to the questions raised in Gores book and film. But throughout this report, Broad writes like a fool—much as he does in that sentence. And omigod! This is the caliber of work that is now being down at the very top of our national press corps.
Still, Dr. Hansen said, the former vice president's work may hold ''imperfections'' and ''technical flaws.'' He pointed to hurricanes, an icon for Mr. Gore, who highlights the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and cites research suggesting that global warming will cause both storm frequency and deadliness to rise. Yet this past Atlantic season produced fewer hurricanes than forecasters predicted (five versus nine), and none that hit the United States.
''We need to be more careful in describing the hurricane story than he is,'' Dr. Hansen said of Mr. Gore. ''On the other hand,'' Dr. Hansen said, ''he has the bottom line right: most storms, at least those driven by the latent heat of vaporization, will tend to be stronger, or have the potential to be stronger, in a warmer climate.''
GORE (page 196): If Greenland melted or broke up and slipped into the sea—or if half of Greenland and half of Antarctica melted or broke up and slipped into the sea, sea levels worldwide would increase by between 18 and 20 feet.This is the part of the film where we see what would happen to certain land-masses if this catastrophe were to occur. (The land-masses in question include those of Florida, the San Francisco Bay Area, the Netherlands, Beijing, Shanghai and Calcutta and Bangladesh. In Manhattan, the site of the World Trade Center would be under water, Gore says, as we look at the visuals.) Again, this is perhaps the most striking moment in Gores film. On TV, these are the excerpts which were used most often to promote (and highlight) the film.
Tony Blairs advisor, David King, is among the scientists who have been warning about the potential consequences of large changes in these ice shelves. At a 2004 conference in Britain, he said: The maps of the world will have to be withdrawn.
BROAD: Some of Mr. Gore's centrist detractors point to a report last month by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [the IPCC], a United Nations body that studies global warming. The panel went further than ever before in saying that humans were the main cause of the globe's warming since 1950, part of Mr. Gore's message that few scientists dispute. But it also portrayed climate change as a slow-motion process.Good God! According to Broads presentation, Gore says sea levels may rise 20 feet—and the IPCC says 23 inches! From that presentation, you might well find yourself thinking that Gore is scare-mongering. In the process, you will have been vastly misled about the nature of those two dueling estimates.
It estimated that the world's seas in this century would rise a maximum of 23 inches—down from earlier estimates. Mr. Gore, citing no particular time frame, envisions rises of up to 20 feet and depicts parts of New York, Florida and other heavily populated areas as sinking beneath the waves, implying, at least visually, that inundation is imminent.
Bjorn Lomborg, a statistician and political scientist in Denmark long skeptical of catastrophic global warming, said in a syndicated article that the panel, unlike Mr. Gore, had refrained from scaremongering. ''Climate change is a real and serious problem'' that calls for careful analysis and sound policy, Dr. Lomborg said. ''The cacophony of screaming,'' he added, ''does not help.
ROSENTHAL/REVKIN (2/3/07): Even a level of warming that falls in the middle of the group's range of projections would be likely to cause significant stress to ecosystems, according to many climate experts and biologists. And it would alter longstanding climate patterns that shape water supplies and agricultural production.Wow! Theres that maximum of 23 inches. Its the data point which makes Gore sound like a scare-mongering dope—if youre willing to trust William Broad. But a bit later on, the two Times writers explained a key (and elementary) distinction. Five weeks later, Broad deep-sixes this part of his papers report:
Moreover, the warming has set in motion a rise in global sea levels, the report says. It forecasts a rise of 7 to 23 inches by 2100 and concludes that seas will continue to rise for at least 1,000 years to come. By comparison, seas rose about 6 to 9 inches in the 20th century.
ROSENTHAL/REVKIN (2/3/07): Should greenhouse gases continue to accumulate in the atmosphere at even a moderate pace, average temperatures by the end of the century could match those last seen 125,000 years ago, in the previous warm spell between ice ages, the report said.Lets make this simple: In his 20 feet estimate, Gore was talking about what will happen if the Greenland and Antarctic ice shelves break loose. In its 23 inch estimate, the IPCC is discussing what will occur if that doesnt happen. Rosenthal and Revkin explained this fairly clearly in their initial, page-one news report. (For the Washington Posts explanation, see below.) But five weeks later, the distinction is gone as Broad types up his lengthy think piece. Result? New York Times readers get baldly misled—are left uninformed—about the real issues involved in this matter. Instead, they are given a pie in the face—a silly, apples-to-kumquats comparison which serves little purpose except to encourage ridicule of Crazy-man Gore. And make no mistake—kooky, script-reading pseudo-con talkers were quick to seize on this misleading point, using it as the latest club with which to bang Stupid Gore.
At that time, the panel said, sea levels were 12 to 20 feet higher than they are now. Much of that extra water is now trapped in the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, which are eroding in some places.
The panel said there was no solid scientific understanding of how rapidly the vast stores of ice in polar regions will melt, so their estimates on new sea levels were based mainly on how much the warmed oceans will expand, and not on contributions from the melting of ice now on land.
Other scientists have recently reported evidence that the glaciers and ice sheets in the Arctic and Antarctic could flow seaward far more quickly than estimated in the past, and they have proposed that the risks to coastal areas could be much more imminent. But the climate change panel is forbidden by its charter to enter into speculation, and so could not include such possible instabilities in its assessment.
Michel Jarraud, the secretary general of the United Nations World Meteorological Organization, said the lack of clarity should offer no one comfort. The speed with which melting ice sheets are raising sea levels is uncertain, but the report makes clear that sea levels will rise inexorably over the coming centuries,'' he said. ''It is a question of when and how much, and not if.''
BROAD: [The IPCC report] estimated that the world's seas in this century would rise a maximum of 23 inches—down from earlier estimates. Mr. Gore, citing no particular time frame, envisions rises of up to 20 feet and depicts parts of New York, Florida and other heavily populated areas as sinking beneath the waves, implying, at least visually, that inundation is imminent.Gore impl[ies], at least visually, that inundation is imminent! Presumably, that fruit-truck wreck of a sentence means something like this: Since Gore cites no particular time frame, a viewer of his film might walk away thinking that this inundation could come at any time. But how about it? Could the inundation come at any time? What time frame might we sensibly expect? Here at THE HOWLER, we have no idea. In part, thats because Gore doesnt offer such time frames in his film, as Broad notes. But in much larger part, its because Broad makes such a total joke of this part of his own report.
EILPERIN (2/3/07): The authors concluded that Earth's average temperature will increase between 3.2 and 7.8 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century, while sea levels will rise between seven and 23 inches.RESISTING THE COUNTERINTUITIVE: At The Plank, Noam Scheiber also criticized Broads inclusion of the number of Atlantic hurricanes. He notes the irrelevance of these data. But we were struck by one thing he said:
IPCC scientists also said that global warming will not trigger a shutdown within the next 100 years of the North Atlantic ocean current that keeps Northern Europe temperate, though they do not predict whether it might occur in future centuries. In a similar vein, the authors said they did not have sophisticated enough computer models to project how much melting of the Greenland ice sheet would boost sea levels over the next century, but they suggested that over several centuries the ice sheet's disappearance could raise sea levels by a devastating 23 feet.
SCHEIBER (3/13/07): I know almost nothing about global warming science, so that last line could be meaningful in a way I'm not seeing. But I do know a little bit (okay, a very little bit) about statistical inference. And everything I've been taught tells me that trying to draw inferences from a sample size of one is a pretty hopeless exercise. Which is to say, I have a hard time imagining how this past year's hurricane season matters one way or the other to any serious analysis of global warming. It reminds me of all the laughs conservatives had when a congressional hearing on global warming recently got cancelled on account of snow. Get it? It snowed one day this winter so global warming must be a myth.But why? Why on earth would such a smart liberal expect a little more from the Times? The Times has been playing the fool for decades, especially in its political work. Broads work is exactly what we have come to expect, especially when political figures are involved. It is worth saying that others at the Times do quite capable work.
Anyway, I'd expect that sort of thing from The Corner. I expect a little more from the Times. Maybe it's worth pointing out, though, that The Corner doesn't expect more from the Times, for whatever that's worth.