Dedicated to the balanced discussion of global warming
RealClimate – October 15, 2007
I have suggested that my readers visit RealClimate before as I consider it a fairly well written site. The site has contributions from many people that study the weather for a living (as authors and as commenters) and so they tend to really dig into the scientific details. You can learn a lot from reading the site and the comments are typically quite insightful. They have a direct link to IPCC so they are fairly staunch defenders of that organization and so sometimes they are not quite fair and balanced. They also tend to love their computer models, a devotion that I don’t share.
Two of their authors teamed together to respond to the judgment of Justice Burton of the UK regarding the film “An Inconvenient Truth”. Justice Burton found several of the claims of the movie to be unsound. Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Mann of RealClimate analyze Justice Burton’s points.
You should read the RealClimate article to get a good counter-point to the judge’s comments (link at the bottom). I must admit that I don’t feel this article steps up to the same level of excellence you will usually find on this site. Some of the points felt more like “political spin” than scientific analysis. To defend RealClimate (RC) though, many of the blogs out there are using this judgement to call for the canceling of Mr. Gore’s awards and stopping just short of him being tarred and feathered. Neither extremism is warranted or justified and logical people can hopefully see through the fog.
I will point out the specific points that I think RealClimate dodged the issue and could have stopped the spin.
Ice-sheet driven sea level rise – while Mr. Gore didn’t give a timeframe for the sea to rise he definitely made it seem like it was imminent. He compared the sea level rise to the rebuilding of World Trade Center and preparing for terrorism which are activities that happen today. So while the spin answer is that Gore never said it was immediate, he made people feel like it was immediate.
Pacific island nations needing to evacuate – this was a spin as well. RealClimate even says that Gore was wrong but then they say that he wasn’t wrong but was just ahead of his time. SPIN!
Climate impacts on the ocean conveyor – RC kind of dodges this one. Their answer really doesn’t refute the judge so I am still trying to understand why they just don’t come to a point. Gore implies that Greenland melting has the potential to cause the conveyor to stop again and RC says that their models don’t show this. Why not say Gore was wrong?
CO2 and Temperature connections in the ice core record – this was another spin answer. Mr. Gore correctly chose the words “fit together” and didn’t bother to explain which one came first. Did Gore lie? Probably not. Did he tell the whole truth? To paraphrase the words of his old boss – that depends on your definition of truth. Allowing people to believe an untruth in my mind is the same as lying. People came away from the film thinking that CO2 caused the temperatures to increase. Gore never said that, but he sure led them to the trough and encouraged them to drink.
Kilimanjaro – I am going to give RC a break on this one. There is a fair amount of discussion on the ice on Kilimanjaro and why it is receding. There is no doubt that Gore blames the recession on global warming as he says a few sentences earlier. Mr. Gore definitely didn’t say that other possible scenarios didn’t include greenhouse gases – he just blamed humans for it. On second thought, no I don’t give RC a break – this is a spin answer.
Drying up of Lake Chad – Gore definitely tries to make the connection between Chad and global warming (he doesn’t mention any of the other factors that caused this lake to shrink). RC is trying to put a spin on this as well saying that this was only an example of bad droughts. Give me a break. If the shrinking of Lake Chad was not caused by global warming then it shouldn’t be used. This had so much spin I am getting dizzy.
Hurricane Katrina and global warming – What is a “legitimate illustration”? Showing scary pictures of a hurricane? Mr. Gore obviously used Katrina as a scare tactic even though he never said the storm was specifically caused by global warming. He just made the viewer feel like it was. RC is a very scientific blog with a lot of really smart people – they should not have fallen for this one. Spin.
Impact of sea ice retreat on Polar bears – More spin. RC claims that the argument is not about Polar bears it is just that they are a representative species. Well that isn’t what the movie said. It said that polar bears are drowning TODAY! Here to find that it wasn’t about global warming but rather a storm that drowned the bears.
Impact of ocean warming on coral reefs – RC says it correctly. There are a lot of factors influencing coral reefs. Mr. Gore says that as well but he implies that global warming is the strongest influencer by listing it first and then only saying “…and other factors” like they are inconsequential. More spin.
It really pains me to beat up RealClimate so much. They are usually quite good. The article actually doesn’t make factual mistakes but it also doesn’t call out the truth. I would appreciate their comments much more if they would call out Mr. Gore when he makes a mistake and explain it. Giving the spin answers that they give is really not helpful to the overall discussion.
I leave it to you, the reader, to decide for yourself if my characterization is correct or wrong. You can comment here or you can go to RealClimate and comment there.
You can read the original article here.Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth, CO2, coral, EPA, GM, Greenhouse gas, Greenland, IPCC, Kilimanjaro, melting, ocean, polar, Polar bear, RealClimate, temperature, weather