A really inconvenient truth

Congratulations to Al Gore for winning an Oscar for An Inconvenient Truth.

And congratulations to Al Gore for spending about as much as I earn (net) in a year on his energy bills – and his own personal quest to prove that fairies global warming does exist.

Please bear with me because I do have a point with this rant.

Al – science doesn’t mean creating what you predict. If I predict a document won’t be done in time, it doesn’t make me a visionary, it makes me lazy.

From the Tennessee Center for Policy Research (which may or may not itself be a lobbying group for “Big Oil” but whatever, they give good quote):

Al Gore’s Personal Energy Use Is His Own “Inconvenient Truth”

Gore’s home uses more than 20 times the national average

Last night, Al Gore’s global-warming documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, collected an Oscar for best documentary feature, but the Tennessee Center for Policy Research has found that Gore deserves a gold statue for hypocrisy.

Gore’s mansion, located in the posh Belle Meade area of Nashville, consumes more electricity every month than the average American household uses in an entire year, according to the Nashville Electric Service (NES).

In his documentary, the former Vice President calls on Americans to conserve energy by reducing electricity consumption at home.

The average household in America consumes 10,656 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, according to the Department of Energy. In 2006, Gore devoured nearly 221,000 kWh—more than 20 times the national average.

Last August alone, Gore burned through 22,619 kWh—guzzling more than twice the electricity in one month than an average American family uses in an entire year. As a result of his energy consumption, Gore’s average monthly electric bill topped $1,359.

Since the release of An Inconvenient Truth, Gore’s energy consumption has increased from an average of 16,200 kWh per month in 2005, to 18,400 kWh per month in 2006.

Gore’s extravagant energy use does not stop at his electric bill. Natural gas bills for Gore’s mansion and guest house averaged $1,080 per month last year.

“As the spokesman of choice for the global warming movement, Al Gore has to be willing to walk the walk, not just talk the talk, when it comes to home energy use,” said Tennessee Center for Policy Research President Drew Johnson.

In total, Gore paid nearly $30,000 in combined electricity and natural gas bills for his Nashville estate in 2006.

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­­­­­­­­­­The Tennessee Center for Policy Research is an independent, nonprofit and nonpartisan research organization committed to achieving a freer, more prosperous Tennessee through free market policy solutions.

Just last week the National Post ran an article that asked some tough questions of environmentalist David Suzuki from Michael Crichton’s book State of Fear. The questions included –

– Why was climatologist James Hansen — the father of global warming–off by 200% in his prediction that temperatures would increase by 0.35 degrees Celsius by 2008 (the actual increase has been .11 degrees); and why did he (and colleagues) say in 2001 that “the longterm prediction of future climate states is not possible”?

– Of the world’s 160,000 glaciers, some are shrinking. But many –in Iceland, for example –have “surged” in the last few years, while most of Antarctica is getting colder; if warming is “global,” why?

– Why haven’t sea levels risen to the extent predicted? Why have the waters off the Maldive Islands in the Indian Ocean not only experienced no rise over several centuries, but an actual fall in the last 20 years?

– Where is the predicted “extreme weather?” There has been no global increase, and in many cases a decrease, of extreme weather patterns.

– From 1940-70, carbon dioxide levels went way up, but temperatures went down so abruptly that a new Ice Age was the prevailing fear; wherefore this disparity?

– The Sahara Desert is shrinking–purportedly due to the greening effects caused by man-made global warming; but isn’t the greening of the desert a good thing?

The point

My point, and I do have a PR related one, is that your spokesperson could be the most influential person in the world. The most charismatic, the one with the highest IQ or the wettest kisses but that doesn’t mean they’re the right person for your campaign.

For all the things Al Gore is, and he is a lot of things to a lot of people, he is not a scientist, a weather expert or, as we can see, an environmentalist.

And even if you do find the right person for your campaign, make sure they’re prepared; not just for the softball three-pitch lobs you’ve message trained them on, but for the hard asks.

An example

David Suzuki stormed out of a radio interview because his interviewer had the temerity to suggest global warming isn’t the cut and dried issue some people insist it is. The interviewer suggested that many accredited scientists, like Al Gore, some professors from top universities, including Nobel Prize winners and a former president of the National Academy of Sciences, would argue that global warming is at best unproven and at worst pure fantasy.

Follow Up

Al retorts to this claim with the announcement that he is buying carbon offsets. People are skeptical about a rich guy just throwing money at the problem, instead of fixing the behaviour behind the problem. That’s a whole different post about the value of an outside marketing consultancy.

Follow Up Part Two

Now the PETA folks are having a pop at Al. Who else will jump on the bandwagon?

11 Responses to A really inconvenient truth

  1. ren25 says:

    On the flip side, one could argue that the majority of scientists wouldn’t discredit global warming and many would support the theory and be able to show findings that substantiate their position? Furthermore, if there isn’t global warming, there’s evidence to show the ill effects of pollution and the ever-decreasing energy resources. One may argue that the ‘there is no global warming’ argument could possibly, in a Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory moment, come from think tanks that support the petrochemical industries? Just being devil’s advocate to your devil’s advocate….

  2. Ed,
    Let me get this straight:
    1) You don’t believe in global warming!
    2) You don’t like non-scientists who do.

    Is that the gist of your post?

  3. Judy Gombita says:

    Have you had a chance to listen to episode six (the final one) of Ira Basen’s Spin Doctors series on CBC Radio, Ed? (Spinning into the 21st Century) A fair chunk of that show is devoted to PR and global warming.

    From the show notes on the dedicated web page:
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/spincycles/index.html

    “Jim Hoggan runs his own PR shop in Vancouver. He has been in the business about 30 years, which makes him an unlikely candidate to be an anti-PR crusader. But that is precisely what he is when it comes to the public relations firms that are behind the groups denying the validity of global warming. Hoggan believes passionately in the fight to save the planet. The PR firms on the other side are, in his mind, behaving unethically, and he uses words like “criminal” to describe their behaviour. Hoggan oversees a lively climate change blog that contains lots of useful information on the groups leading the fight against the Kyoto Protocol and global warming.”

    I’d really recommend you give it a listen, if only to spur you on to further research finding reputable, alternative viewpoints on the issue.

    Cheers,
    Judy

    P.S. You can download/play the MP3 file for now. Alternatively, Judy McAlpine from the CBC promised me that the entire series was being edited into a podcast format (removing copyrighted music, etc.), with the target of being available at the end of February.

  4. Ed,

    Here’s a few other points worth considering:

    1. Al Gore is a multi-millionaire and, not surprisingly, lives in a very large mansion. It is also, therefore, not entirely surprising to note that his very large mansion uses much more power than “the average American household”. That’s fairly simple maths, and not really news.

    2. What the Tennessee Center for Policy Research fails to point out is that Gore’s family have taken numerous steps to reduce the carbon footprint of their private residence, including signing up for 100 percent green power through Green Power Switch, installing solar panels, and using compact fluorescent bulbs and other energy saving technology.

    3. They also fail to note that Gore has had a consistent position of purchasing carbon offsets to counteract the family’s proportionally larger carbon footprint.

    4. The Tennessee Center for Policy Research is, as you intimated, linked with Big Oil. Their president, Drew Johnson, comes from the well-known Exxon lobbying front organization AEI

    You’re entirely within your rights to dispute the validity of global warming research – that’s your prerogative. But stating that Al Gore is “not…an environmentalist”, on the basis of a rather inept smear from a right-wing lobbying group is demonstrably wrong.

  5. Ed Lee says:

    Joe (if I can call you that):
    I don’t like anything that’s lapped up by the masses without further thought or consideration to the contrarian point of view. Global warming is not the cut and dried issue people make it out to be. I think that I’m well within my rights to be skeptical about a prediction of what *will* happen in the future based on an algorithm (no pun) that has been proved to be based on a false premise.

    Judy:
    I’m more than willing to find reputable alternative viewpoints and to provide them to my readers as well. I welcome debate as long it is debate and not people trying to make me believe something that hasn’t been proved.

    Sidebar:
    I’m also against the sort of hypocrisy that lauds a failed politician as some sort of eco-warrior when he can’t even get his house in order. Does he need an 8 bed mansion in the first place? He’s in Tennessee, can’t he use geo-thermal energy like Malcolm Gladwell’s dad does?

  6. Judy Gombita says:

    Is Malcolm Gladwell’s dad in Tennessee?! (I could have sworn he lived somewhere in the Golden Horseshoe.)

    I look forward to hearing (online or offline) your impressions of segment six of the Spin Doctors series after you give it a lesson…and whether it changes your mind even “just a leetle bit” about “reputable alternative viewpoints” on the issue.

    I’m constantly amazed to discover groups that I thought were partisan actually have a distinct agenda. Just yesterday in my office we were talking about Ducks, Unlimited…the organization may purport to be about the preservation of wetlands, but the group behind it are (duck) hunters….

  7. […] A really inconvenient truth « Blogging Me Blogging You Ed Lee takes Oscar winner Al Gore to task for his home energy bill (tags: InconvenientTruth AlGore) […]

  8. tamera says:

    Ed, regardless of what you think of his environmental initiatives, this seems to be quite harsh and inaccurate: a failed politician

    He was a US Congressman from 1977-85, a Senator from 1985-93, and Vice President from 1993-2000. He also just narrowly lost the Presidency by 5 Electoral College votes in 2000 with the majority of votes cast.

    23 consecutive years in elected office hardly seems to qualify as a “failed politician”.

    That being said, in terms of your PR lesson in the post, I fail to see how it is applicable to Gore since no one has hired him to be the spokesperson for climate change? He is self-directed and has been since he wrote “Earth in the Balance” while a Senator, in 1992.

    For all the things Al Gore is, and he is a lot of things to a lot of people, he is not a scientist, a weather expert or, as we can see, an environmentalist.

    If I were to take this at face value, are you stating that no company should use a spokesperson unless they are an acknowledged expert in their field?

  9. Omar Ha-Re says:

    Ed,

    Public relations as an industry has a tendency to have poor public relations, often due to the perception that we are involved in “spin.” I would suggest that coming against global warming is probably a poor strategy for us to engage in for some of the following reasons.

    The scientific consensus is clear that human activity has contributed to global warming. What the longitudinal effects and how to measure the impact is the only source of controversy among experts. I’ve had the opportunity to converse with some of the most senior Canadian delegates to the Kyoto Accord, and they clearly confirm that there is no “fuzzy science” involved.

    The Canadian public has overwhelmingly expressed concerns for the environment in recent Ipsos Reid polls. All major political parties have understandably paid some service (if even token) to the issue. The only ones currently questioning global warming continues to be large industries, and unfortunately, the PR firms that represent their interests. This is NOT best practices for our field, and only does us further disservice.

    To address the specific issues you raised:
    – Long-term predictions are impossible because we have never in the history of the Earth experienced such rapid rise in temperatures
    – We don’t know fully why some icebergs are growing, but global warming can ironically lead to an ice age; Iceland and most of northern Europe would be covered with glaciers if the northern Atlantic stream was disrupted (due to arctic ice melting), so this trend only seems to confirm global warming concerns
    – Water level rises will be unpredictable and not follow specific patterns; those worst affected in the short term will be developing nations, which is why relatively little consideration has been given by Industrialized countries. Two islands in Kiribati have already been submerged, and in 2005 others were contaminated by high tides that flooded the nation.
    – Extreme predicted weather is already being observed. The frequency and intensity of disasters are steadily increasing when observed over long periods of time, especially hydrological disasters. My background in disaster and emergency management has provided countless scientific data on the subject if you are interested.
    – Major fluctuations have occurred, as this is the way the biosphere attempts to adapt to changes. These adaptations will not equalize indefinitely, and we are well beyond the threshold of normal fluctuations for the entire human history.

    – The Sahara is only reportedly shrinking along the south-western edge near Burkina Faso. The rest is still steadily expanding. The Darfur crisis has been created more by global warming than by genocidal intentions, as the pastoral Baggara have been displaced into Dafur in search of new grazing lands as their former ones succumb to desertification. Also, some longitudinal predictions of global warming do include an eventual greening of the Sahara. But this is the result of shifting weather patterns that will result in desertification of many other regions in the world, including the bread basket of the Mid-West. We forget that the Sahara was once a lush savanna, with lakes and streams, but only during a period of time where much of the areas where Western civilization resides was entirely uninhabitable.

  10. I’ve got a conspiracy-style thought to this Al-Gore story. Yes he probably does spend as much energy in a month as most people do in a year.

    However, the timing of this story is a little too convenient. Shortly after he won the oscar many media began speculating that he might make a late bid to be the president again. Now straight after this story hits the news? Did the press really only just find this information out? Or has someone been sitting on it for a while on the off-chance someone with such increasing popularity might run for president?

  11. What really pisses me off about this is that the underlying message is that only the rich have to be environmentally conscious. The rest of us can’t buy carbon offsets, and it’s not like anyone actually expects us to change out behaviour, so let just wait for the rich to buy a solution for the rst of us. It’s like telling us that the oil companies will have to find an alternative to fossil fuel because oil is running out. Gore should be drawn and quartered for trying to capitalize on an image opportunity when he took on this campaign.

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