The Inconvenient Times

William Broad gave New York Times subscribers a surprise Tuesday, reporting that some scientists are "uneasy" with the soundness of Al Gore's science in his movie and book, that some think "Gore's central points are exaggerated and erroneous." Broad found that underneath all the hype and the glamour and the Oscar, "part of his scientific audience is uneasy. In talks, articles and blog entries that have appeared since his film and accompanying book came out last year, these scientists argue that some of Mr. Gore's central points are exaggerated and erroneous. They are alarmed, some say, at what they call his alarmism." For example:

"I don't want to pick on Al Gore," Don J. Easterbrook, an emeritus professor of geology at Western Washington University, told hundreds of experts at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America. "But there are a lot of inaccuracies in the statements we are seeing, and we have to temper that with real data."

For his part, Gore pleaded he's a simple man with a simple message: "I am trying to communicate the essence of it in the lay language that I understand." Broad underlined that while conservative critics pounced on the film, they were not alone:

Criticisms of Mr. Gore have come not only from conservative groups and prominent skeptics of catastrophic warming, but also from rank-and-file scientists like Dr. Easterbook, who told his peers that he had no political ax to grind. A few see natural variation as more central to global warming than heat-trapping gases. Many appear to occupy a middle ground in the climate debate, seeing human activity as a serious threat but challenging what they call the extremism of both skeptics and zealots.

Kevin Vranes, a climatologist at the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado, said he sensed a growing backlash against exaggeration. While praising Mr. Gore for "getting the message out," Dr. Vranes questioned whether his presentations were "overselling our certainty about knowing the future."

Broad balanced that out by adding that Gore is still a "rock star" to many scientists, which is an odd appellation for someone so famously stiff:

"He clearly has supporters among leading scientists, who commend his popularizations and call his science basically sound. In December, he spoke in San Francisco to the American Geophysical Union and got a reception fit for a rock star from thousands of attendees."

The oddest part of the article was this note on Dr. Easterbook:

Getting personal, he mocked Mr. Gore's assertion that scientists agreed on global warming except those industry had corrupted. "I've never been paid a nickel by an oil company," Dr. Easterbrook told the group. "And I'm not a Republican."

Wasn't Gore getting personal by suggesting that the only scientists who are skeptical of drastic warming scenarios are brainwashed or bribed by oil companies?