Former Vice President Al Gore is in a new push to get people to fight global warming. On September 15, he’s going to be broadcasting “24 Hours of Reality” in the hopes of “convincing climate change deniers and driving action against global warming among households, schools and businesses”.
Trewin Restorick, chief executive of Global Action Plan, an environmental charity that is participating in the show, says it will involve “a full-on assault on climate skeptics, exploring where they get their funding from.” Gore himself says: “24 Hours of Reality will focus the world’s attention on the full truth, scope, scale and impact of the climate crisis. To remove the doubt. Reveal the deniers. And catalyze urgency around an issue that affects every one of us.”
In other words, Gore’s “24 Hours of Reality” is going to “reveal the deniers” by pointing out that they get funding from suspicious groups, meaning oil or coal companies. Gore will then point out that these companies stand to lose money if we act against global warming, because acting against global warming involves moving away from carbon-based energy and fossil fuels such as oil, coal, natural gas, etc.
And then, Gore will make some form of this basic argument:
Premise 1: Global warming skeptics and/or deniers get their funding from oil and/or coal companies.
Premise 2: It is in the financial interest of oil and/or coal companies to not take action against global warming.
Conclusion: Therefore, we can ignore the opposition of these skeptics and/or deniers to taking action against global warming, as their position is self-serving and false.
This, of course, is a classic example of ad hominem reasoning, and ad hominem reasoning is a form of flawed reasoning (that is, reasoning that fails to preserve truth from its premises to its conclusion). We might also question the truth of the premises in this argument (for instance, some skeptics and deniers don’t get any such funding, and some oil and coal companies are in the business of energy in general, fossil, “green”, or otherwise). But, even assuming the premises are true, they don’t prove the conclusion.
And that’s because you can’t disprove an assertion or a position — in this case, opposition to the global warming agenda — based on who is saying it. In particular, just because it’s in a certain person’s interest for us to believe what he says doesn’t prove that what he says is false. It might be in my interest for you to believe me when I say I’m the best candidate for a job, because then you’ll hire me. Does that prove I’m not actually the best candidate? No.
In fact, you can use ad hominem reasoning against just about every position under the sun, which is an indication of the fact that it’s not valid reasoning. If this sort of reasoning was valid, it could just as easily be applied to groups that advocate alternative, “green” energy. After all, global warming activist groups are often funded by solar, wind, tidal, and other “green” power companies that stand to gain financially if governments decide to subsidize or mandate these alternative energy sources. Since it’s in their financial interest to get us to believe in climate change, climate change must be false, right?
Wrong. Ad hominem reasoning — whether it’s used against global warming proponents, skeptics, deniers, or any other position on any other topic — is faulty reasoning.
As I’ve laid out previously, the basic components of the global-warming-climate-change debate are as follows:
1. What should we compare current temperatures to, and are current temperatures warmer?
2. If there is warming, did humans cause it, and (more importantly) can humans reverse it?
3. Are the costs of reversing global warming less than the costs of living with global warming?
Whether someone with an opinion on these matters gets funding from this or that organization is irrelevant. Gore’s “24 Hours of Reality” sounds like it’s going to be “24 Hours of Ad Hominem Reasoning”.