Editors' Cuts

It's Not About Al, Ara

Bill Kenealy
Insurance Experts' Forum, June 10, 2011

Well, this is odd. Through a concatenation of events I seem to have been drawn into a debate with my esteemed colleague, Ara Trembly. The casus belli was the keynote address of one Albert Gore Jr. at this week's IASA conference in Nashville.

I attended this keynote intending an objective news item on the speech, but as I was wrapping up my writing, I was asked to contribute a blog. Pressed for time, I changed the lede to something more subjective, sent the piece to a new editor of ours and moved on to the next session. So, imagine my surprise when the reference to a recent estimate by AIR Worldwide about storm-related damages appeared in my article. I have no issue with the study itself, it's just that if I was seeking to buttress Gore's points about climate change (which I wasn't) or had the time (which I didn't) I would have chosen something more comprehensive and germane, such as this

As for Ara’s take and subsequent riposte to my modest piece, suffice it to say, I was not surprised. Having Ara cover the Goreacle is akin to asking Hutton Gibson for his take on Elie Wiesel. Ara has written extensively on climate change and his take appears to be essentially, "there can't be a problem because I hate Al Gore." I'll grant that Ara usually makes nods toward the science before he moves to ad hominem attacks.  

"Some might say that there seems to be a correlation between man’s carbon-producing activities, high water vapor levels and severe storms—that is, that the three seem to occur together," Ara wrote, assembling a straw man device. Unfortunately for Ara, the "some" in this case is the near unanimity of the world's climatologists.

Elsewhere, when Ara writes that there is "no proof whatever" that human activity is impacting the climate, I could only think of Bob Dole's assertion on the campaign trail in 1996 that there was "no evidence" that smoking caused cancer. Actually, there is voluminous evidence regarding the role human activity plays in altering the climate. Ara either is unaware of this information or chose to ignore it.

For a self-styled "technology guru," Ara seems to place surprisingly little stock in the rapidly advancing field of computer modeling. "As I have previously said many times, weather patterns are hard enough to predict for the next week—much less for the next 100 years," Ara wrote last year. Besides conflating weather with climate (I'll let the good folks at NASA straighten Ara out on that one), for someone who covers insurance technology, Ara seems oddly unaware of the law of large numbers.

Thus, rather than processing the facts in an objective manner, Ara chose to expound an impressively vast conspiracy theory. In addition to the global scientific community, others victims/perpetrators of this theory might include prominent members of the insurance industry, including such notables as Swiss Re, Allianz, ING, Marsh & McLennan Companies and Munich Re, all of which have spoken out on the climate change subject.

Moreover, not only has Ara unmasked this conspiracy, he seems to have discovered its motive - profit.  Ara contends that a venture capitalist and man handsomely compensated for sitting on corporate boards such as Apple's "makes his living on making us believe that the blame rests entirely on human shoulders." Oddly, Ara appears less curious concerning how his fellow climate denialists and non-scientists, such as Marc Morano and Donald J. Boudreaux, earn their keep. Speaking of conflicts of interests, The Economist, (I began my career writing for a subsidiary of the Economist Group), does an extensive job on the issue here.

To me, this issue can be tidily summed up by Occam's razor. So... which of the following scenarios seem more likely to you, Ara? That releasing 30 billion tons of greenhouse gasses annually into our atmosphere may alter its chemical composition and increase the well-understood earth’s greenhouse effect?  Or that the notoriously charismatic Al Gore managed to seduce thousands of scientists, geologists, physicists and business leaders around the world into joining him in perpetrating a massive hoax solely for his own financial gain? Do you not find it remarkable that a man who failed to carry his home state in the 2000 presidential election now possesses the personal appeal to hold legions of scientists and business leaders under his sway?

Thus, Ara, your Gore fixation tends to make you come off less as a serious assayer of climate science and its associated risk management theories and more like an aggrieved blogger taking pot shots at a political enemy -- and impugning the motives of many, many bright and honorable people in the process. I'm not much of a fan of Gore's politics, but nor am I much a fan of conspiracy theories.

Bill Kenealy is an award-winning senior editor with Insurance Networking News.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Bill by using the “Add Your Comments” box below. He can also be reached at william.kenealy@sourcemedia.com.

The opinions of bloggers on www.insurancenetworking.com do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News.

Comments (8)

Thanks, Bill. Your note is much appeciated. And don't forget, I owe you a beer.

Posted by: Ara T | June 13, 2011 6:02 PM

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Ara,

Thanks for the thoughtful response. In retrospect, I did probably take your critique of my news/blog hybrid a bit too much to heart and now wish my riposte had been a bit less, shall we say, florid. The Gibson/Weisel shot was especially untoward shot and no doubt a rhetorical bridge too far.

Nonetheless, I do stand by my assertion that my views do align a bit more closely with the mainstream of scientific thought on this matter. For every Freeman Dyson or William Gray, there are many more scientists on the other side of the ledger.

Alas, I believe we must agree to disagree on this. I pledge to keep an open mind on the issue and if I see any findings that change my thinking on the matter I will be sure to pass them along.

Collegially yours,
Bill

Posted by: william.kenealy | June 13, 2011 5:29 PM

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Ara,

Thanks for the thoughtful response. In retrospect, I did probably take your critique of my news/blog hybrid a bit too much to heart and now wish my riposte had been a bit less, shall we say, florid. The Gibson/Weisel shot was especially untoward shot and no doubt a rhetorical bridge too far.

Nonetheless, I do stand by my assertion that my views do align a bit more closely with the mainstream of scientific thought on this matter. For every Freeman Dyson or William Gray, there are many more scientists on the other side of the ledger.

Alas, I believe we must agree to disagree on this. I pledge to keep an open mind on the issue and if I see any findings that change my thinking on the matter I will be sure to pass them along.

Collegially yours,
Bill

Posted by: william.kenealy | June 13, 2011 5:25 PM

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Hello, Bill. Sorry for the delay in responding to this, but my previous attempt was somehow not posted.

First, let me say that my response to your Gore posting was in no way critical of you personally, so the intensity and personal nature of the response above baffles me. But since it is there, let me offer some thoughts.

It is interesting that I get compared to an individual who minimizes the horrors of the Holocaust; that really was way over the top.

I also appreciate that some reputable scientists believe that mankind is doing horrible things to the planet that will eventually cause significant climate shifts that could result in disasters, famine and other negative consequences. Others however (including Prof. William Gray, the world's foremost hurricane expert, as well as some scientists at NOAA--some of whom I have personally interviewed) have a different view. They see climate change as a process that has been occurring for millions of years without mankind's help, and they believe that while some of the current climate shifts that are occurring (including cooling of some areas of the planet) may be affected by us, the overall influence is minor at best. They also point out that the rate of climate change predicted by some computer models (and there are many)is not matched by the actual climate data of the past 10 years or so.

This is my position on climate change--not "there can't be a problem because I hate Al Gore." It is preposterous, in my view, to believe that we can accurately forecast what the world will be like in 90 years (Think of the numerous variables: technological developments, political actions, wars, the population, etc.--all of which may affect the climate). No one back in 1921, for example, was predicting the incredibly rapid rise and prominence of computing technology that we see today.

The evidence offered in your blog for mankind's culpability in current climate shifts does indeed demonstrate that the rate of release of carbon into the atmosphere today is nearly 10 times as fast as 55.9 million years ago. This is hardly surprising, given that there are 7 billion people on the planet today, not to mention lots of animals like cows (which have actually been implicated by some climatologists as global warming causers due to their gaseous emissions). But the article doesn't prove, nor does it claim to, that as a result of this current carbon release, the climate will disastrously change.

I am referred to as a "self-styled technology guru." Actually, that moniker was given to me by the late Tom Slattery, then publisher of National Underwriter. The name seems to have stuck, but I don't take it too seriously.

I am said to have unmasked a "conspiracy" against those who do not buy anthropogenic climate change. That's news to me. While it is true that some academics have lost jobs and research funds due to their views on this issue, my blogs were only about one man, Mr. Gore.

"Climate denialists and non-scientists" are interesting terms that seek to marginalize those who hold views contrary to climatologists on the pro-warming side of things. Calling names (on either side) really seems inappropriate to a debate of serious issues, however.

No, I don't think Al Gore is swaying any scientists to agree with him, but I do think he is attempting to influence the public in service of his newly-built career as climate evangelist. It is a widely publicized fact that Mr. Gore has had business relationships with organizations that sell carbon offset credits. And why would anyone want or need those credits unless they were buying what Al is selling as a crisis?

Finally, the only person whose motives I am questioning in my blogs is Mr. Gore. And sure, I'd be happy to have that beer with you (I'll even buy). We obviously won't agree about climate change, but may I suggest that we keep the discussion focused on issues, rather than personalities?

Respectfully yours,
Ara

Posted by: Ara T | June 13, 2011 12:50 AM

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Lorna, I appreciate the kind words.

Mark, I appreciate your point off view and the links.

David, we do agree on one point - Ara is a good guy. Next time our paths cross, my guess is we are much more likely to have a beer together than draw pistols at 40 paces.

Thanks for reading,
Bill

Posted by: william.kenealy | June 11, 2011 1:02 PM

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I, too, have known Ara a long time. I, too, have engaged in some written sparring with him. We don't always see eye to eye. We can't. We're different human beings.

But I don't believe Ara's goring Gore is undertaken for political purposes, let alone ideological ones. Given the extent to which Global Warmists continue to be discredited by the very science they manipulated and misrepresented for entirely political purposes, taking Ara to task for his ostensible politics seems a convenient untruth, if you'll pardon the expression.

Besides, it seems no more than fair to ask: what are the Warmists hiding?

http://spectator.org/blog/2011/05/25/court-orders-u-of-virginia-to

Further reading here:

http://www.amazon.com/Red-Hot-Lies-Alarmists-Misinformed/dp/1596985380/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1307802361&sr=1-3

Posted by: Mark OB | June 11, 2011 9:35 AM

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Bravo, Bill, on your insight regarding this issue and Ara's opinions that seem to be biased based on politics.

Posted by: Lorna M | June 10, 2011 6:17 PM

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Wow Bill, is this a commentary on climate change; or do you just want to take Ara to the parking lot and beat him up. I know Ara and have read his work for 20 years, he is a good guy. I don't know you Bill, but I know I did not care to read your whole post.

Posted by: david w | June 10, 2011 3:37 PM

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