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35 Inconvenient Truths: The errors in Al Gore’s movie – Part 2 of 5

This is the second of a 5 part series reviewing the comments of the Science and Public Policy Institute (SPPI) in regards to “An Inconvenient Truth” (AIT).

You can read Part 1 of 5 here.
You can read Part 3 of 5 here.
You can read Part 4 of 5 here.
You can read Part 5 of 5 here.

ERROR 10 – Actually, SPPI isn’t tough enough on AIT on this one. Mr. Gore says that 350ppm of CO2 is all that keeps a mile of ice off of the top of Cleveland, Detroit, and New York. The last time that happened was 2 million years ago during the Pleistocene era and Mr. Gore’s data doesn’t extend that far back so therefore he is making an unsubstantiated claim.

ERROR 11 – SPPI is correct that Caterina was caused by a cold weather phenomenon that created a situation similar to the warm weather hurricanes of the Atlantic. There is little evidence that global warming caused this to happen although since it is only one data point, it is difficult to make any interpretations. Gore was at least misleading by implying that global warming had something to do with this.

ERROR 12 – This is a bit of a spin. We have less data on typhoon activity than hurricane activity due to the lack of records and the lack of satellite coverage. According to comments by Science magazine, their has been an increase in typhoons but that increase is not statistically significant since the solid data only goes back 30 or 40 years. No inference on the number of typhoons can be made because we haven’t gathered enough data to establish a baseline.

ERROR 13 – SPPI appears to be correct in this one but Mr. Gore is referencing popular scientific belief based on climate models. It is difficult to ding AIT on this one and I have to say that SPPI may be spinning this issue a bit. The SPPI answer is that it hasn’t happened yet and Mr. Gore was saying it would happen in the future. We have a hard time predicting the future which I have written on before (here and here).

ERROR 14 – I was tempted to call this one a tie but since SPPI is calling out AIT, AIT should win ties. It is very subjective to discuss insurance losses increasing since there are so many different variables involved (population growth, population at the site of the disaster, cost of materials, inflation, etc.). If anything, Mr. Gore should not have mentioned it since it is so subjective but the data that he presented appears to be correct. SPPI’s data appears to be correct as well but does refute Mr. Gore’s data. This may be a case where statistics don’t lie but (you can fill in the rest of the old saying)! SPPI is spinning this one.

ERROR 15 – It did flood in Mumbai and the consequences were terrible. However, Mr. Gore didn’t make his case that global warming caused it and SPPI is correct that there doesn’t appear to be any change in the amount of rainfall in that area. In fact, the data is quite good having come from 306 monitoring stations for over a hundred years and a simple plot and linear regression shows that rainfall is actually decreasing in India.

ERROR 16 – Both are wrong. When the measuring device involved is constantly evolving, it is extremely tenuous to make any hard predictions based on history. One can try to factor out bias caused by better detection devices but this is only an approximation. Also, once again, we are in a situation where hard evidence is extremely small and therefore we simply do not have enough data to draw a conclusion. While I gave the tie to AIT above, I need to give this one to SPPI, AIT does not make a concrete argument that increased global warming will bring on more tornadoes when there are several studies that show that it is the cooling in off El-Nino years that the number of tornadoes increases.

ERROR 17 – This one is difficult since the climate models are still evolving. Most of the warming of the ocean due to the sun’s radiance occurs closer to the equator and then that heat is eventually transported to the poles in the form of current. Also, since the angle of incidence on Arctic waters is so low compared to equatorial waters, it’s influence is much less. However, Gore’s statement that the polar ocean absorbs 90% of the light that hits it is false, as far as I can tell. Though it will absorb more light than if it was covered by ice so the blanket statement that the sun would heat up the Arctic is true. SPPI is not totally correct in its explanation but Gore definitely exaggerated this claim.

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9 Responses to “35 Inconvenient Truths: The errors in Al Gore’s movie – Part 2 of 5”

  1. […] Original post by admin […]

  2. […] can read Part 2 of 5 here. You can read Part 3 of 5 here. You can read Part 4 of 5 here. You can read Part 5 of 5 […]

  3. […] can read Part 1 of 5 here. You can read Part 2 of 5 here. You can read Part 4 of 5 here. You can read Part 5 of 5 […]

  4. […] can read Part 1 of 5 here. You can read Part 2 of 5 here. You can read Part 3 of 5 here. You can read Part 5 of 5 […]

  5. […] prove that.  Other sites will say that Mr. Gore is all wet – rather this only shows that he should never have talked about hurricanes to begin with. Other sites will try to spin this in just talk about the trend – the trend is meaningless with so […]

  6. ERROR 17 – This one is difficult since the climate models are still evolving. Most of the warming of the ocean due to the suns radiance occurs closer to the equator and then that heat is eventually transported to the poles in the form of current. Also, since the angle of incidence on Arctic waters is so low compared to equatorial waters, its influence is much less. However, Gores statement that the polar ocean absorbs 90% of the light that hits it is false, as far as I can tell. Though it will absorb more light than if it was covered by ice so the blanket statement that the sun would heat up the Arctic is true. SPPI is not totally correct in its explanation but Gore definitely exaggerated this claim.
    According to SPPI, Gore says that ice-melt allows the Sun to heat the Arctic Ocean, and a diagram shows the Suns rays heating it directly. It does not. The ocean emits radiant energy at the moment of absorption, and would freeze if there were no atmosphere. It is the atmosphere, not the Sun that warms the ocean. They then reference a paper #9, which has nothing to do with solar heating of the Arctic Ocean.

    SPPIs statement is patently ridiculous and any Junior High science student can figure that out. For the record, the annual average solar flux incident at the surface in the Arctic is on the order of 90-100 Watt/m^2, which dwarfs warming from the atmosphere (2 W/m^2) and re-emission in the IR (22 W/m^2). (See Measurements near the Atmospheric Surface Flux Group tower at SHEBA: A near-surface conditions and surface energy budget, Persson et al., J. Geophys. Res., Vol. 107, pages SHE 21-1 to 21-24, 2002). Because of the high reflectivity of sea ice (particularly snow-covered sea ice) most of the incident solar flux (about 72 W/m^2) is reflected back and does not heat the surface. If the ice is removed then the incident solar flux falls directly on the ocean where 95% will be absorbed. Yes, it will heat the ocean. This is referred to as ice-albedo feedback. This is essentially what Gore said. Here is the quote:

    When the sun’s rays hit the ice, more than 90 percent of it bounces off right back into space like a mirror. But when it hits the open ocean more than 90 percent is absorbed. As the surrounding water gets warmer, it speeds up the melting of the ice. Right now the arctic ice cap acts like a giant mirror. All the sun’s rays bounce off, more than 90 percent, to keep the earth cooler.

    I am afraid your comments add nothing to the issue. It isnt difficult if you actually know something about the subject before you start discussing it and the climate models are NOT involved. It is simple physics and direct measurements. Note, Gore did not say the polar ocean absorbs 90% of the light that hits it he said open ocean i.e., seawater with no ice on it. The mean albedo of seawater is 5%, so about 95 % is absorbed (I can furnish references if you think this is false). Gore actually understated it.

  7. Chris – Thank you for your comment. I appreciate your efforts in adding to the discussion.

    I believe that 80% of the light that hits sea ice is reflected. At least that is what the National Snow and Ice Data Center says when I quoted them in this article http://globalwarming-factorfiction.com/2007/09/07/why-is-arctic-ice-melting-50-years-too-fast/
    They also quote the absorption of sea water at 90%, not 95%. Your sources may be more correct and I am not going to argue about the exact percentage since we both appear to agree on the principle.

    The first part of my statement is also correct because it is not purely the direct sunlight that is melting the ice rather some scientists are theorizing the water current change underneath the ice is causing much of the melting. While that current change may be the result of global warming, that is a hypothesis I have yet to see adequately discussed. If the ice melt is caused by currents and not atmospheric temperature then the reduction of arctic ice is not caused by man but instead caused by nature.

    Perhaps I should have been more clear in my analysis. Mr. Gore gives the “feeling” in his movie that the reduction of ice in the arctic is caused by man-made global warming. He then points out that this will cause the waters to warm more dramatically. There is no question that open sea water absorbs more energy than sea ice and I apologize if you thought I was saying that.

  8. I admit to being mystified by your response. I was responding to the justification of characterizing this section as an ERROR from a technical standpoint. I thought we were discussing significant scientific errors rather than your feeling about the movie. Al Gore made two simple statements of fact: Arctic sea ice is decreasing and two studies suggest summer sea ice could be gone by 2050. He then asks “Why is that a problem? and follows with a physically correct explanation of the importance of ice albedo. His explanation is identical to the one you furnished in your own link!!! The only difference is he claimed 90% ice reflectivity vs the better system estimate of 80% you give (although I can assure you there is plenty of sea ice out there with 90% albedo). If it makes you feel better to quibble with that number, go right ahead. However, SPPI claim that this is an ERRROR because the sun doesnt heat the Arctic Ocean. SPPI is wrong (that is W-R-O-N-G) and their explanation indicates they should not be commenting on the scientific accuracy of Family Guy much less a movie about global warming. In your original analysis you stated SPPI is not totally correct in its explanation but Gore definitely exaggerated this claim. Please explain how SPPI is correct in any way whatsoever? Should you not have said, SPPI is totally INCORRECT in its explanation and Gore probably would have been more accurate if he had used 80% for the reflectivity of ice, but at least he has his Nobel Prize.

    A Google search for Al Gore 35 Errors now reveals hundreds of websites and links screaming about Al Gore errors and lies (that is how I came across yours). Yet, I have completely discredited the first two I looked at. You could have done the same but chose not to. When confronted with this, you quibble about 80% vs 90% albedo or whether the Arctic has warmed 1 C or 0.7 C (as opposed to cooling 1 C as claimed by SPPI). You can paint all the lipstick you want on that pig, but on ERRORs 17 and 18 SPPI is WRONG (that is W-R-O-N-G). Maybe you should ask yourself why it is so difficult to admit that.

  9. Chris –

    I thought I did say they were WRONG. Maybe by saying that they used spin, I was misunderstood. Or by saying “not totally correct”. Either way, it was my intention to say that SPPI appears to be wrong.

    To reiterate:

    Since they didn’t point to a study that says the Arctic is warming and I can’t find anything to support this statement, it appears that SPPI is wrong (unless they can point out a study that disputes this).

    It is not apparent to me what the correct albedo for the Arctic Ocean is as I have not seen a study for this. Any statements to the contrary would be either conjecture, assumptions, or wrong (or maybe a combination of the three).

    The air does influence the ice but I cannot follow the logic of SPPI that it is the only influence, which is what they infer, and that solar energy doesn’t influence it as well.

    The whole point may be moot though. Mr. Gore created a movie that discussed global warming and mankind’s influence on the climate. He spent many minutes discussing the Arctic which by its inclusion implies that the reduction of ice in the Arctic is mankind’s fault. Multiple studies have been written to question this assertion and have blamed water currents and wind currents for some, much or all of this change. By including statements about the Arctic but not discussing that humans do not appear to affect ocean currents and therefore may not have anything to do with the ice in the Arctic is at best SPIN and quite possibly WRONG.

    If Mr. Gore would have been more complete in his explanations then perhaps SPPI wouldn’t have made the mistakes. Regardless of his Nobel prize status, he still is trying to incite some degree of panic by, in some cases such as this, giving incomplete information.