Update and correction: Several readers have pointed out to me that Al Gore was not arrested regarding his encounter with the Oregon masseuse. I regret the error.
As a Lukewarmer I cheerfully accept the science explaining how our high emissions of CO2 have contributed to the current warming period. As a liberal progressive I support large-scale (government and NGO) efforts to address the pressing problems of today. And as someone who has worked in the solar power industry and reported on green technology for over a decade, I believe that green energy can provide a partial solution to some of those problems.
But as a Lukewarmer I see flaws in what has become a Great Cause–to me it seems to often be an excuse for NGOs to ask the public for more money, for politicians to gain easy support and to replace the stock prayer from beauty pageant contestants for world peace.
Climate change is real. The political struggle over acknowledging the scope and impacts is full of unreality.
When a political cause gains traction among those in power, a curious thing happens. Conventional ideas about right and wrong slip in priority and winning becomes so important that criminal activity and sexual impropriety become forgivable by those in service to a Cause.
Addendum: I want to be clear that there are two dangers–it is a commonplace that power tends to corrupt and those who gain or seek power within any organization or group are susceptible–we’ve seen similar cases in politics, religion, lobbyists and NGOs. But the other danger is a relaxation of standards amongst the members of these organizations, a failure to hold their leaders to account, to excuse human frailty in a desire to advance a cause they believe in. This to my mind is more pernicious, as it affects so many more and is ultimately more destructive of worthwhile goals.
Peter Gleick stole documents and forged another to attack his political opponents. Despite the gravity of this crime he was welcomed back into the fold of those promoting worst-case scenarios about the impacts of climate change as if he were a hero, not a criminal. This is not unusual in political movements. The cause becomes more important.
Al Gore was one of the first who promoted global warming as an imminent threat to human safety. His sybaritic lifestyle was evident from the first–private planes, living in a mansion, conspicuous consumption. None of that was sufficient to cause the Cause to disavow him. It still is unclear whether it was his
arrest for pressuring a masseuse for sex encounter with a masseuse or his sale of his television channel to a fossil fuel organization was the cause of his fall from grace–but that fall was apparently temporary, as he still speaks on global warming before green groups the world over. The rules don’t apply.
And now it is the turn of Rajendra Pachauri. Women are now speaking of a decade-long pattern of sexual harassment. Even before this revelation, Pachauri was involved in misconduct, ranging from suppressing dissent to hiding the income from his foundation. He showed incredibly poor judgment in publishing a bodice ripper of a novel while head of an organization that had been criticized by the IAC–with many of those criticisms calling into question his leadership. But it doesn’t matter. He was a champion of the Cause.
Currently, some bloggers and mainstream media sources are reviving decade-long questions about the funding of a scientist named Willie Soon, that he received funding from fossil fuel sources.
It doesn’t matter that institutions ranging from the CRU and Stanford University have received funding from fossil fuel sources, or that BEST’s Richard Muller actually got money from the Koch Brothers. It doesn’t matter that this information is old.
What matters for the Cause is that headlines of supposed misbehavior hit the news at the same time as Pachauri’s disgrace.
Because none of this is about science. It is about controlling the levers of power, making sure the right message is fed through the media channels and that funding for the right issues is uninterrupted.
Oh for the days when we talked about science.