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Global Warming: Fact, Fiction and Political Endgame – February 26, 2007

This is a commentary article about Al Gore, his recent accolades for “An Inconvenient Truth”, and some of the background science of global climate change.  It is a very good read and I encourage my readers to click through to the source article (especially since the title is quite close to the URL of my blog). 

It is interesting that the author tries to draw a correlation between the Academy Awards that Mr. Gore received and the timing of the IPCC report.  I don’t think that this is anything but coincidence and all of my research indicates that the two are not tied together.  We know that the Academy Awards are always held the same time of the year and it appears that the IPCC was always trying to put their release out at that time of the year.  It does not appear that Mr. Gore’s very well made documentary had anything to do with it.

Some of my regular readers may be surprised that I typed that last sentence.  I do think that Mr. Gore had an excellent production crew and it is one of the best made, produced, and marketed documentaries I have ever seen.  My problem with it is that there are just too many conjectures that may be correct but should not be passed off as scientific fact.  They should be presented as theories and alternative explanations or inconsistencies with those theories should be explained.  Mr. Gore’s movie is the impetus behind this site – the desire to try and tell both sides of a complicated story.

Gore, whose failure to carry his “home” state of Tennessee cost him the 2000 presidential election, has recast himself as the populist pope of eco-theology and the titular head of the green movement’s developmentally arrested legions.

Now the darling of Leftcoast glitterati, predictably, Gore received two Oscars for a junk-science production called “An Inconvenient Truth,” a pseudo-documentary follow-up from the eco-disaster fiction, “The Day After Tomorrow.” Gore’s “Truth,” however, is about 10 percent substance and 90 percent fragrance.

The awards for Gore’s climate diatribe coincide, not coincidentally, with the much-ballyhooed release of a media summary of a report on global warming by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. These two events are a launch pad for the coming cavalcade of dire ecological predictions by Gore and his ilk.

Perhaps, too, if all goes according to plan, we’ll see another Gore presidential run.

Al Gore: “Never before has all of civilization been threatened. We have everything we need to save it, with the possible exception of political will. But political will is a renewable resource.”

Al Gore may be a comical dupe when it comes to climatology (in college, he collected a C+ and a D in his two natural-sciences courses), but the global-warming debate and the consequences of that debate are serious. To participate meaningfully, one must distinguish between fact and fiction ?- in addition to understanding the underlying political agendas.

In the inimitable words of the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY), “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” To that end, Al Gore’s “facts” are deserving of rigorous scrutiny.

For the record, most reputable scientists agree that we are in a period of gradual global warming (about 0.7 degrees Celsius in the last century), and that the greenhouse effect prevents our climate from becoming a deep freeze. Most also agree that the level of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased in the last century, and there is a growing consensus that global warming is due, in part, to the greenhouse effect.

However, there is no scientifically established correlation between global-warming trends and acceleration of the greenhouse effect due to human production of CO2 — only broad speculation. Although some politicians and their media shills insist that the primary cause of global warming is the burning of hydrocarbons here in the United States, that government regulation of man-made CO2 will curb this global warming, that our failure to limit CO2 output will have dire consequences, and that the costs of enacting these limitations far outweigh the potential consequences, there is no evidence supporting any of these assertions.

Nigel Calder, former editor of New Scientist, notes, “When politicians and journalists declare that the science of global warming is settled, they show a regrettable ignorance about how science works.”

In fact, there remains substantial doubt that the production of CO2 by human enterprise has any real impact on global temperature, and if it does, that such impact is, necessarily, negative. Human activity may contribute a maximum estimate of three percent of CO2 to the natural carbon cycle (the biogeochemical cycle by which carbon is exchanged between the biosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere of the Earth)

For instance, Gore insists that the increased incidence of hurricanes, tornadoes, drought and other weather phenomena is the direct result of global warming.  Renowned meteorologist Dr. William Gray takes exception: “The degree to which you believe global warming is causing major hurricanes,” he says, “is inversely proportional to your knowledge about these storms.”

In a recent issue of Discover Magazine, Gray, described by Discover’s editors as one of “the world’s most famous hurricane experts,” wrote, “This human-induced global-warming thing … is grossly exaggerated. … I’m not disputing there has been global warming. There was a lot of global warming in the 1930s and ’40s, and then there was global cooling in the middle ’40s to the early ’70s. Nearly all of my colleagues who have been around 40 or 50 years are skeptical … about this global-warming thing. But no one asks us.”

Gore preaches about the two percent of Antarctica that is warming without noting that temperature readings over the rest of Antarctica indicate the continent has cooled over the previous 35 years, or that the UN’s climate panel estimates net snow mass increases in Antarctica this century. Gore notes the increasing temperatures and shrinking ice caps in the Northern Hemisphere but does not note the decreasing temperatures and increased sea ice in the Southern Hemisphere.

Richard S. Lindzen, Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT, writes, “A general characteristic of Mr. Gore’s approach is to assiduously ignore the fact that the earth and its climate are dynamic; they are always changing even without any external forcing. To treat all change as something to fear is bad enough; to do so in order to exploit that fear is much worse.”

A venerable scientific journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society, published recent research done at the Danish National Space Center indicating that the impact of cosmic rays on the climate could be much greater than scientists estimated. The researchers put forth evidence that cosmic rays have a lot to do with cloud formation in the atmosphere, which in turn has a lot to do with shielding us from the sun’s warmth. Combining this discovery with evidence that our local star is experiencing historically high levels of solar activity, the researchers suggest that our sun is batting away cosmic rays from elsewhere in the galaxy and thus reducing our planet’s cloud cover. Imagine that: The sun is affecting our planet’s temperature.

In 1997, Dr. Frederick Seitz, past president of the National Academy of Sciences, invited colleagues to sign a petition based on Robinson’s work, which received more than 20,000 signers, most of whom hold advanced degrees in relevant fields of study. That petition stated, in part: “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.”

Clearly, some U.S. politicians understand the implications of Gore’s folly. Don’t expect that to stop Democrats from milking every last drop of political capital from this debate. Talk of carbon credits and other nonsense is really all about campaign coffers — holding out the threat of regulation as a means of financing campaigns and perpetuating office tenures.

In his recent book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism, Christopher Horner, Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, aptly describes Gore and his ilk as “green on the outside, red to the core,” noting that they are motivated by an anti-capitalist agenda.

Gore’s flawed analysis notwithstanding, however, sea level has risen, by best estimates, between four and eight inches in the last 150 years.  The annual rate of rise has remained relatively stable since the “big thaw” ended some 6,000 years ago. However, if current temperature trends continue, an increased rate of rise could pose significant challenges to nations around the world as millions of people now live only a few feet higher than current tides.

You can read this long but excellent article here.

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