Al Gore: When Prophesy Fails.

Back in 2006 Al Gore made the following statement:

And politicians and corporations have been ignoring the issue for decades, to the point that unless drastic measures to reduce greenhouse gases are taken within the next 10 years, the world will reach a point of no return … A true Planetary emergency.”
[CBS News "Al Gore Does Sundance" 2006]

For those who doubt the CBS report and deny he actually said this, may I just refer you to this Al Gore Interview YouTube Video from 2017.

I’m actually not snarking at Al Gore. But clearly as it is now 2019, 10 years have been and gone.

What I’m interested in is his response (and that of others) to this failed prophesy. 

It looks to me that the responses fit (rather alarmingly well) with Leon Festinger’s concept of “Cognitive Dissonance” which he demonstrated with his interactions with a 1950's dooms-day cult in the USA. Its recorded in his book "When Prophesy Fails" (book link: Amazon HERE)

Festinger showed that under certain circumstances, rather than reducing belief, a failed prophesy (or disconfirmation as Festinger calls it) can not only significantly increase belief but also lead to enhanced proselytising on behalf of the belief.

Festingers rules for this to happen were as follows

1. The belief must be held with deep conviction and be relevant to the believer's actions or behaviour.

2. The belief must have produced actions that are arguably difficult to undo.

3. The belief must be sufficiently specific and concerned with the real world such that it can be clearly disconfirmed.

4. The disconfirmatory evidence must be recognized by the believer.

5. The believer must have social support from other believers.

Lets apply that to Al Gore.

1. I would suggest that he strongly believes in the righteousness of his cause.

2. He (and many others) had taken drastic and costly action.

3. The belief “10 years… point of no return” is clear.

4. In the video he clearly acknowledges the failure of the prophesy.

5. As the ad-hoc head of a movement, clearly he has lots of social support.

So rather than questioning the parameters of his failed prophesy, Al Gore (along with many of his supporters and co-followers) doubles down on his primary belief and pseudo-rationalises the disconfirmation.

Take Al Gore in the video interview above. When confronted with the disconfirmation he justifies the failed prophesy roughly as so:

“We have seen a decline in emissions (on a global basis) so they’ve stabilised and in some cases have started to decline.... Some of the responses of the last ten years have helped but unfortunately a lot of damage has been done…...”

His statement that somehow greenhouse gas emissions FELL from 2006 to 2016 is a palpable nonsense. But it fits with exactly what you would expect with cognitive dissonance from a true believer.

Incidentally Here’s the emissions graph 2006 -2017

Meanwhile others seek to minimise their cognitive dissonance by denying that Al Gore ever said such a thing!

It becomes “nasty” propaganda by “trolls”. See this Guest Piece on pro-AGW Skeptical Science blog. 

Ironically all the references the author rages at with a cut-paste from Facebook are in fact fairly accurate renditions of what Al Gore really did say on January 25th, 2006 in a speech, while at the Sundance film festival. 

The author identifies the original source as a  "Climate Denial Blog". I am sure CBS News would be mortified. (original CBS News story link: Here ) 

Unfortunately this cognitive dissonance seriously affects both out ability to continue improving the world and also prevents us from moving away from panic responses to Global Warming. It stops us taking a viable approach to reducing pollution and world emissions.

But I fear worse is to come. (though not from Al Gore who I believe is an honourable man)

As item 5 from Festingers list (social support grouping) gets more intense, Climate Emergency proponents are going into over-drive proselytising their extremist view. As each day goes by they look more and more like a dangerous cult.

With groups like Extinction Rebellion focusing on the most easily led in our society (i.e. children) I fear we may be in a deadly downward spiral.

As discomfirmation follows disconfirmation some of the less gullible may escape. But others will be held in an ever tightening grip of the cults fanaticism.

I fear that one day we may not wake up to just another silly protest in London or New York.

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