It's Not About Al, Ara
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.
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