The New York Times and Al Gore's science

Climate change bloggers go on the warpath against a NYT article reporting that scientists are taking issue with "An Inconvenient Truth."

Published March 13, 2007 7:44PM (EDT)

This is why the Internet rocks.

William Broad, a science writer for the New York Times, writes an article asserting that "rank-and-file scientists" are criticizing Al Gore's presentation of climate change science in "An Inconvenient Truth."

Michael Mann and Gavin Schmidt, at RealClimate, and David Roberts, at Grist, take Broad apart, sentence by sentence.

I'm not sure that Broad's piece is as bad as Mann, Schmidt and Roberts make it out to be, although their critique has some compelling points. I did find it odd that Broad never sees fit to mention that the lead scientist quoted in his article, Don Easterbrook, doesn't appear to believe that carbon dioxide emissions generated by humans are largely responsible for recent global warming. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt, and suppose he might be correct. Even so, his opinion is far outside the mainstream of current climate science, and I would think relevant to appreciating his position on Gore.

But never mind that. Broad includes a smattering of scientists who do support Gore, and say he gets it mostly right. Which makes his article a classic example of the false objectivity so common in mainstream journalism. "Balanced quotes" from both sides, with little clue as to whom the reporter deems trustworthy.

Which brings us back to Grist and RealClimate. Mann et al. make no bones about what they believe -- indeed, Michael "hockey stick" Mann is a central player in the politics and science of climate change. But I don't mind that, because I can easily subtract for bias, if I know what it is. What I find invaluable is the added context, the background provided on the interview subjects chosen by Broad, the in-depth analysis of why they think various assertions of "scientific fact" have been misinterpreted, twisted or outright bungled.

Ten years ago, I would have read Broad's piece and thought, hm, maybe Al Gore ain't all that. Today, I read the New York Times and wonder, what does the blogosphere have to say?

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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Al Gore Environment Global Warming Globalization How The World Works The New York Times