Saturday, May 27, 2006

Al Gore, an Inconvenient Man

Al Gore and global warming are not two subjects you'd expect to add up to the buzziest film at Cannes. But there's Al being celebrated in Cannes for his docudrama “An Inconvenient Truth,” doing the celebrity thing at the LA opening, power-walking a green carpet in Washington. Ana Marie Cox reports from Washington that “the wonky audience generated about much heat as Jennifer Lopez's little finger (a unit of measurement known as the ‘Gigli’).”

The movie is, essentially, a two-hour PowerPoint presentation, enlivened by periodic shots of Al Gore frowning contemplatively at computer screens, and full of dire predictions and horrifying scenarios for the Earth's future: rising sea-levels, hordes of refugees, parching draughts. But the crowd at the National Geographic Society saw it as the world's longest campaign ad.

Still Gore’s gone from media darling to the summer's most unlikely movie star, funny, vulnerable, disarming, self-effacing as NBC's Katie Couric called him. Gore is now a pop culture icon and bona fide member of the scientific intelligentsia.

It’s ironic to hear Gore pitching scientific accuracy. He earned a D and a C+ in his natural sciences courses at Harvard. Though Al got an undergrad degree in government, he dropped out of two graduate programs (in law and divinity). Now Gore has become a teacher/preacher on the subject of climate change.

That didn't stop him from demeaning respected scientists during his Today appearance. There's really not a debate. The debate is over. The scientific community has reached as strong a consensus as you will ever find in science. There are a few oil companies and coal companies that spend millions of dollars a year to put these pseudo-scientists out there pretending there is a debate, complained Gore. Apparently, anyone who disagrees with Gore is a pseudo-scientist in the pocket of the energy companies.

The “Inconvenient Truth” is that this guy could have been President.

Let’s take a closer look at a few of the facts of Gore’s non-debatable consensus.

The average temperature of the earth since it began being measured consistently (from 1880 to 2004) has been 14.0 +/- 0.7 Centigrade. During that time the temperature increased only 0.6 C. Thus the entire increase over 124 years is within the +/- error bars of the average temperature measurement.

Of the 0.6 C increase, about 0.45 C occurred before the end of WWII. Thus the increase during the last 60 years (of the most significant carbon emission from fossil fuel in history) is 0.15 C, or 0.025 C per decade. Based on that measured trend, in the next century we might expect to see a temperature increase of 0.25 C.

What causes the tiny warming then? Well the sun is the major culprit but the greenhouse effect has its way too. The major greenhouse gas is not carbon dioxide, as much as the global warming fanatics would have you believe it is. No, water is the major warming gas, accounting for 90-95% of the greenhouse effect. The other greenhouse gasses include carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane, ozone and traces of a few others.

There is no monotonic relationship between atmospheric carbon dioxide change and global mean temperature trend -- global mean temperature has both risen and fallen during the period atmospheric carbon dioxide has been continuously rising.

Of the carbon dioxide emission, humans produce only 3.4% of it by breathing, burning fossil fuels, etc, the remainder comes from natural sources such as volcanoes.

Furthermore the temperature effect of carbon dioxide is just logarithmic, not linear or super-linear. Thus, if we consider the heating since the Industrial Revolution due to carbon dioxide alone, the first half of the heating was due to an increase of only 20 parts per million (from 280 to 300) while the second half of the heating required an increase of another 260 parts per million. It is significantly diminishing returns.

And is this bad? We already saw that the temperature rise was tiny and it’s not obviously detrimental. In fact, a more measurable effect is the benefit of the increased atmospheric carbon on crop yields, accounting for a rise in food production of 15% since 1950. Then there is the benefit to forests and to the natural wildlife habitat and to the reduction of deserts.

Then where do the Inconvenient Truths come from if not from the data? Ah, this is where it gets rather contentious because the big warming numbers come not from measurements but from computer models that make an enormous range of assumptions. What’s more, the climate models include positive feedbacks (multiplier effects) so that a small temperature increment expected from increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide invokes large increases in water vapor, which produce exponential rather than logarithmic temperature response in the models. There is no evidence the planet includes any such feedback effects or behaves in a similar manner.

In fact, a new study released this week by the National Center for Policy Analysis, Climate Science: Climate Change and Its Impacts
looks at a wide variety of climate matters, from global warming and hurricanes to rain and drought, sea levels, arctic temperatures and solar radiation. It concludes that the science does not support claims of drastic increases in global temperatures over the 21st century, nor does it support claims of human influence on weather events and other secondary effects of climate change.

The Climate Change study concluded that half the observed 20th century warming occurred before 1940 and cannot be attributed to human causes, and changes in solar radiation account for 71 percent of the variation in global surface air temperature from 1880 to 1993.

Yet there is a sense of hysteria permeating the media and intellectual circles driven by the former Vice-President and his movie. A Time Magazine cover story warns us to “be very worried.” A new television ad, sponsored by the group Environmental Defense, depicts global warming as a speeding train headed straight for a little girl standing on the tracks. An article in the San Francisco Chronicle states that scientists have long been warning that the world must cut back on greenhouse-gas emissions by as much as 70 percent, as soon as possible, if we're to have a fighting chance of stabilizing the climate. The Gore movie and web site predict a great many evil things: sea levels may rise by 20 feet, the Arctic and Antarctic ice will likely melt, heat waves will be more frequent and more intense, and deaths from global warming will double in just 25 years--to 300,000 people a year. Polar bears will drown. There is a proposal to create a $300 billion clean-energy fund for developing countries through a tax on international currency transactions.

At a time when millions in Africa and Asia are dying from malnutrition, bad water, AIDS, malaria and genocide while millions more in China and India are being raised from the depths of poverty by industrialization, Gore and his environmentalist friends simply ignore the former and impede the latter. They'd rather worry about global warming and spend enormous amounts of money on a potential future that if it comes will be so gradual that the people of the world will have generations to adjust to it. Have they no shame?

The world should thank President Bush for breathing new life into the stagnant climate-change debate when he announced in 2001 that he wouldn’t pursue ratification of Kyoto and then formed a coalition of the willing to pursue technological solutions. But that’s for another post.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bravo, Bill!!! You have laid out the facts so nicely regarding this so called global warming. If only your message could be effectively broadcast to the world.

10:04 PM  
Blogger gary daily said...

Readers should be aware that the National Center for Policy Analysis cited in this blog is a right wing think tank with programs devoted to privatization in the following issue areas: taxes, Social Security and Medicare, health care, criminal justice, environment, education, and welfare. It is not a recognized group of objective climate scientists engaged in research on global warming. It is a political entity with an agenda.

Here is a brief summary statement of the findings of scientists with no political axe to grind. (This is from a May 3, 2006, report in the _New York Times_).

“A scientific study commissioned by the Bush administration concluded yesterday that the lower atmosphere was indeed growing warmer and that there was ''clear evidence of human influences on the climate system.''

“The finding eliminates a significant area of uncertainty in the debate over global warming, one that the administration has long cited as a rationale for proceeding cautiously on what it says would be costly limits on emissions of heat-trapping gases. . . .

“The new study found that ''there is no longer a discrepancy in the rate of global average temperature increase for the surface compared with higher levels in the atmosphere,'' in the words of a news release issued by the Commerce Department and approved by the White House. The report was published yesterday online at

“The report's authors all agreed that their review of the data showed that the atmosphere was, in fact, warming in ways that generally meshed with computer simulations. The study said that the only factor that could explain the measured warming of Earth's average temperature over the last 50 years was the buildup heat-trapping gases, which are mainly emitted by burning coal and oil.”

I suppose it’s understandable (but not acceptable), that people resist the science pointing to global warming as a reality to be dealt with and not just an idle threat.

Global warming is a long term problem (though this is changing) so it’s easy to do nothing.

And to deal with global warming in an effective way it’s necessary to set up serious national and international standards and controls. (Not the National Center for Policy Analysis and their ilk’s way, for them the simplistic formulation of free markets solve everything holds sway, rocking them to sleep while problems grow to enormous size.)

Finally, there is also the steady beat of the cloudy disinformation campaign that rejects scientific findings for the short-run, profitable path of do nothingism, the let our grandchildren deal with it rationalization.

It’s a sign of progress that do-nothing-science-for-hire conservatives are even talking about Al Gore and his film. They’re getting uneasy as people begin to see through the smog they have created for so many years. Characterizing Gore as Chicken Little won’t fly; the Conservative Ostrich with its head in the sand is how the public is seeing Bush on global warming and a host of other issues.

11:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would also mention that one their spokesmen recently compared Gore to Joseph Goebbels. When will the right wing stop using Nazi analogies against their ideologic opponents. Bill, time to start looking at real science instead of getting your talking points from "think tanks". You should be embarrassed.

1:50 PM  
Anonymous Pamela Cleveland said...

So typical, huh? Any scientist who disagrees with Gore and his camp are merely demeaned.
Gee, I wish YOUR message would be broadcasted in the MSM to counter the erronous mesage of the GW fanatics.

2:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, if only the rest of the world could just ignore the real scientists and take their advice from right wing think tanks, we'd all be in much better shape.

6:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Any scientist who disagrees with Gore and his camp are merely demeaned"
They're not demeaned. They're held accountable when they distort information. They're held accountable when they do not reveal that major sources of their funding comes from Exxon Mobil.

7:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This man really disgusts me... I suppose he invented global warming like he did the Internet!!


7:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe you could offer a comment with a bit more substance than this tired old right wing smear against Gore? Here's what he actually said "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country's economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system." It's interesting that this is man who is concerned about the environment, yet he disgusts you? Do you put him in the same league as Saddam or Hitler? Get a grip.

8:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Bill,
Do you think Al Gore is liek Joseph Goebbels?

8:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it seems The right wing is slow to realize what most see as common sense.

global warming, Iraq was a mistake, Bush is incompetent, wait you haven't figured that one out yet. you will.

7:09 AM  
Blogger Free Agency Rules said...

Said: "The study said that the only factor that could explain the measured warming of Earth's average temperature over the last 50 years was the buildup heat-trapping gases, which are mainly emitted by burning coal and oil.”

"could explain"

Not "does explain."

Assumptions are made by Scientists that have not been able to duplicate in a test environment.

It is sad when many in the field of Science are afraid to speak out against their fellow scientist's conclusions for fear of being ostracized and black listed.

"scientists with no political axe to grind."

Now there is an oxymoron for you.

Do you think they might get grants to study this "sky is falling" stuff?

Look at the solutions suggested. China, and almost all other countries are excluded from the costly solutions in the Kyoto Protocol.

Just another "Screw America" group when you see how nobody else would have to ruin their economy to try to fix something that not everyone agrees is a problem.


9:45 AM  
Blogger Free Agency Rules said...

And here is a great review of his new film.

Gore wants to be Prez.

Funny, so do many other people who think that they know what is best for our citizens.

Who are we to doubt his "sky is falling" chicken little story.



3:46 PM  
Blogger ChinaLawBlog said...

I have heard Gore holds up China as having better emission standards than the United States. This is a joke.

China is an environmental disaster and it is not because of its laws. It is because of the lack of enforcement of the laws. China’s care emission laws may be better than the United States’, but that is basically irrelevant because there are a huge number of cars there whose emissions would probably not meet anyone’s standards.

12:40 PM  
Blogger Free Agency Rules said...

To reemphasize once again...the problem is....

Follow the money and we will see if the scientists are not biased.

Do you think they might get grants to study this "sky is falling" stuff?"

Conversley, How many research grants will be funded to research the "All is fine" project?


5:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Bottom line, you're an idiot.


8:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think its funny how every blog seems to have become a pissing match.

I think the most important thing about global warming is to realize that there is a possibility that we can cause enough pollution to negatively effect the planet. Now to the person who menionted all the terrible illnesses and under-developed countries - I ask you this. When we are trying so hard to cure fatal illnesses and industrialize nations to end poverty - why why why is it acceptable to turn a blind eye to the effects of pollution. This is nothing new....did you ever read Silent Spring in college? We have seen again and again the negative effects of pollution. I really don't understand what there is to argue about - do you own a gas guzzler and feel that you wouldn't be able to show your face in publice if you admitted that regardless of the "science" we should be responsible and find the most efficient levels of pollution. Meaning that we can't have a world without it .... it would drastically alter the lifestyle of everyone. but we can limit it.

10:10 PM  

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