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CEI responds to blogger criticism of Gore ad

James Hynryshyn condemns the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) as “enemies of reason and democracy” and, worse (in his estimation), “liars.” What provokes his ire are CEI's recent advertisements arguing that abundant, affordable energy is a blessing and, hence, that coercive energy-suppression schemes like the Kyoto Protocol endanger public health and welfare.

The ads also skewer the hypocrisy of Al Gore and other celebrities who advocate an energy diet for an energy-starved world while they enjoy the high-energy lifestyle of the super-rich. Our point was not that Gore is a bad man because he fails to practice what he preachers, but that he is a preacher of sham virtue. His lifestyle refutes his message. Not even Gore, one of the world's richest and most powerful men, can afford to live “beyond petroleum” for even one minute.

Hynryshyn first tries to damn our current ads by casting aspersions on our previous ads: “It was bad enough when the CEI produced a couple of ads touting the health and environmental benefit of carbon dioxide and arguing that ice sheets aren't really melting.”

Not so fast, James! We did not argue that the ice sheets aren't really melting. Our glacier ad cited studies indicating that Greenland's glacier is thickening in the interior and Antarctica overall is gaining ice mass. Our point was that people only hear about ice melt. They get a one-sided picture—a falsely scary picture.

“Technically, of course, CO2 is essential to life on earth, being the raw material of photosynthesis and all,” Hynryshyn concedes. He ought also to acknowledge that rising CO2 levels boost agricultural productivity and, thus, help alleviate world hunger. “But one of the ads went to on cite two peer-reviewed climate science papers as evidence that the Earth is not warming,” he alleges.

Really, James, if you're going to call people “liars,” then you shouldn't make stuff up! Our earlier ads did not dispute the reality of global warming. Rather, the glacier ad questioned the claim that global warming is a catastrophe in the making—a claim most useful to those who, for reasons of profit, ambition, or ideology, seek to control how America and the world produce and use energy.

“Anyone who had actually read the papers [cited in one of CEI's earlier ads] would know that the authors, and their studies, support the anthropogenic global warming consensus,” Hynryshyn says. Again, our ads did not challenge the reality of anthropogenic global warming, just the associated hype and fear-mongering.

Hynryshyn continues: “Given the complexity of the subject—one of the papers, for example, discussed increased snowmass in central Antarctica, and reading only the title would probably have left you confused—you could, in theory, ascribe the error to intellectual laziness, rather than mendacity,” says Hynryshyn.

What error? Our point was that dire warnings of catastrophic sea-level rise from a collapse of the great ice sheets are science fiction, not science.

Hynryshyn quotes Curt Davis, lead author of the Antarctica paper we cited, who condemned our ad as “a deliberate effort to confuse and mislead the public about the global warming debate.” Yes, Davis said that, but it proves nothing. In a debate as politicized as global warming, even scientists sometimes spout political rhetoric. Contrary to Hynryshyn, there is no discrepancy between the title of Davis's paper and the substance of the paper. Hynryshyn apparently has not read Davis's paper. Davis found that Antarctica overall is gaining ice mass, and that's what CEI reported. A more detailed explanation for the curious is available here.

Incidentally, CEI's non-alarmist view of Antarctica and sea-level rise finds confirmation in the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report: “Current global climate model studies project that Antarctic ice sheet will remain too cold for widespread surface melting and gain mass due to increased snowfall” (IPCC, AR4, Summary for Policymakers, p. 12).

Hynryshyn says that CEI's “new ad, instead of challenging the conventional understanding of the science of climate change, focuses the CEI's wrath on one of the movement's leading spokespeople, Al Gore.” He adds: “I guess last summer's disappearing north polar ice made that argument look silly even to those unfamiliar with the science.” Does Hynryshyn have any familiarity with the science? Unlike the grounded ice locked up in Antarctica and Greenland, north polar sea ice floats and already displaces an equivalent amount of water. Therefore, the melting of north polar sea ice is largely irrelevant to the issue of sea level rise.

Hynryrhyn next asserts that DeSmog Blog refutes our ad's claim that Al Gore's Tennessee home uses 20 times the average home's electricity. Well, no, it doesn't. According to CNN, DeSmog Blog's source, Gore made a “host of improvements” to make his home more energy efficient, such as installing solar panels, a rainwater-collection system, geothermal heating, and replacing all incandescent lights with compact fluorescent or light-emitting diode bulbs. These modifications “cut the home's summer electrical consumption by 11 percent compared with a year ago, according to utility records reviewed by The Associated Press,” says CNN. Note, that's not 11% below the average household, but 11% less than Gore's home used to consume, which was about 2000% more than the average home.

How much did the Gores have to spend to achieve that 11% reduction? Gore spokesperson Kalee Greider declined to say, but she remarked, “The Gores decided to take a series of steps over time that might be logistically or financially out of reach for many Americans.”

Okay, so the investments required to achieve an 11% reduction might be “logistically or financially out of reach for many Americans,” but Gore and his political allies advocate an 80% reduction in U.S. energy-related emissions over the next several decades. Do you think that might mean real hardship for real Americans, James, or do you just want to curse CEI for pointing out the inconvenient truth?