Two words, more than any others, are apt to set climate-change skeptics' teeth a-grinding: "Al Gore."
The former vice president has been the front man on global warming – winning both an Academy Award and the Nobel Peace Prize last year in the process. The former vice president also refuses to publicly debate the issue with leading skeptics face to face.
But generating that loud and clear vox populi requires a new approach, environmentalists say. As reported in USA Today:
And as public anxiety grows about other domestic issues – the economy, the housing market, the cost of healthcare – this concern among activists (including Gore) that the issue is not getting the attention it deserves may be well founded.
Compared with Medicare, Social Security, and energy as sources of public apprehension, "Worry about global warming has declined somewhat in the minds of Americans over the past two years," according to a new study by the John Brademas Center for the Study of Congress at New York University.
Critics pooh-pooh Gore's new campaign as more of the same: alarmist pronouncements and unrealistic or ineffective steps. Steven Milloy, publisher of JunkScience.com and a columnist for FoxNews.com, opines in this way:
Proponents would counter that there's more to Gore's program and that, in sum, such measures could make a big dent in the greenhouse-gas emissions most scientists say are causing global warming.
Public opinion and the willingness – or unwillingness – to take personal steps to reduce one's "carbon footprint" are at the core of Gore's new effort. Most Americans are aware of and concerned about global warming.
But so far, it seems, there is not a critical mass willing to make major (or even relatively simple) lifestyle changes.
Gore's opponents have answered his PR challenge. The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) has just launched its own TV and Internet ad campaign "focusing on the threat to affordable energy posed by Al Gore's global warming agenda."
Meanwhile, the free-market think tank Heartland Institute keeps needling Gore over what they say is his refusal to publicly debate four prominent global-warming skeptics – Dennis Avery, Chris Horner, Mr. Milloy, and Scottish Peer Lord Christopher Monckton (the Third Viscount Monckton of Brenchley). "Why Won't Al Gore Debate His Critics?" its ad reads.
Lord Monckton recently lit into Gore over recent trends in global temperatures.
Such critics may take rhetorical ammunition from reports on this past winter's record cold temperatures and snow levels in some parts of the world, notably China. Scientists say this is due to La Niña ocean currents in the Pacific, which tend to cool the planet.