By Todd Wynn
Last month, Al Gore gave a speech in Washington, D.C. about the country’s obligation to rely on 100% renewable energy by 2018. Al Gore has had quite a career in politics. Yet his influence over public policy as an elected official wasn’t as great as he now wields as a staunch environmental activist. His influence mainly stems from his 2006 film “An Inconvenient Truth,” in which he frequently states, “This is not a political issue, it is a moral issue.” Gore uses catch phrases and hyperbole to rivet the attention of the public and politicians alike and to incite alarmism rather than to raise awareness.
His recent speech uses similar phrases: “The survival of the United States of America as we know it is at risk,” “”¦the future of human civilization is at stake,” and “”¦hundreds of millions of climate refugees destabilizing nations around the world.” These statements catch the public’s attention and call for a suspension of judgment by all who disagree with him, demanding people’s blind faith in his dire environmental predictions.
Al Gore operates on the precautionary principle, meaning that, in terms of the environment, scientific uncertainty should not prevent governments from taking regulatory action against activities that pose a potential risk of significant harm. The very definition of the precautionary principle states that the science is not clear. Thus, to close off the scientific debate, Gore has come to rely on making global warming an ethical issue to convince others to join him in his moral crusade.
Scientific uncertainty should not imply that we necessarily must fear drastic environmental changes. Rather, uncertainty indicates the need for sustained research aimed at gaining a deeper understanding of the Earth’s climate and how human actions may or may not translate into negative environmental effects or climate change. Science and economics should drive public policy toward solutions. Alarmism, hyperbole, and blind faith shouldn’t.
Todd Wynn is the climate change and energy policy analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research center.