[Illustrations, footnotes and references available in PDF version]
The scare: In an interview on 21 April 2008 with a passively acquiescent and incurious Clodagh Hartley in The Sun , Britain’s top-selling tabloid newspaper, Al Gore said recent opinion polls had found that, while people rate climate change as a “serious problem”, some rank it lower than clearing up dog mess. Gore said the situation is ever more urgent; that world leaders must change laws “to stop pollution pouring into the atmosphere and affecting the climate”; that the US is the “worst offender” in the “crisis” and has “failed to live up to the Kyoto Protocol”; that “the entire North Polar icecap is melting … and is going to imminently disappear”; and that “long-life light bulbs, recycling, window treatments and extra insulation … can all help”. The Sun added that some scientists expect sea level to rise up to 34 inches by 2100; and that cows and livestock contribute two-fifths of methane emissions.
The truth: Gore said he was willing to “give advice to whoever asks me for advice on this.” However, Gore, a notorious “global warming profiteer ”, has no qualification in climatological physics or in any other relevant scientific discipline: therefore, taking advice from him, or interviewing him, in the hope of learning anything other than political propaganda about the climate is an instance of the informal logical fallacy of argumentum ad verecundiam – an appeal to the authority of one who is not an authority on the subject at hand. Since Gore no longer agrees to be interviewed by, still less to debate with, anyone who knows anything about the climate, Scarewatch is happy to provide the questions that a responsible and competent journalist would have asked, together with the scientifically-correct answers.
Scare 1: “Climate change is more important than cleaning up dog mess?” The Sun should have asked whether “global warming” is a problem at all. The truth is that temperatures began to rise in 1700, at the end of the 60-year Maunder Minimum, during which no sunspots had showed on the surface of the Sun.
Rising solar activity for 300 years: Solar activity, as inferred from sunspot numbers recorded by astronomers, has been rising for 300 years. Global temperatures have followed this increase. Source: Hathaway (2004).
Temperatures rose at a near-linear 0.5 C (<1 F) per century from 1700-1900, and at 0.7 C (>1F) from 1900-1998 (Akasofu, 2008). For the first five-sixths of these three centuries, humankind could not have had any significant influence on temperature. Since 1998, there has been no statistically-significant rise in temperature at all (Hadley Centre for Forecasting / Climate Research Unit, University of East Anglia, 2008). Since late 2001, global mean surface temperatures have been falling at a mean rate equivalent to 0.4 C (0.7 F) per decade (Hadley/CRU, op. cit.).
Unpredicted trend: Since late 2001, the trend of global surface temperatures has been downward. “Global warming” stopped in 1998; and, though it may resume in future years, the rate of warming is less than that which the models relied upon by the UN’s climate panel had projected. On this evidence, it is not easy to make out a case to the effect that “global warming” is what Al Gore calls a global” climate crisis”.
Dog mess, however, is certainly a problem. According to the UK Government’s official estimate, some 66 tons are deposited on the streets of London every day. On this evidence, it is legitimate to conclude that the general public are right in their belief that cleaning up tons of dog-mess is more important than stopping a “global warming” that has almost entirely occurred through natural causes and stopped of itself in 1998. Though it is possible that the warming may resume, it is now clear that the exaggerated projections of the computer models on which the UN’s climate change panel relies are not based on credible science , and are increasingly at odds with real-world temperature trends. End of scare 1.
Scare 2: “The situation is ever more urgent.” The Sun should have asked whether, since temperatures are falling, and have been doing so for six and a half years despite continuing increases in the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide, the situation was ever “urgent”. The truth is that the situation would indeed become urgent if the current global cooling trend were to continue. The current exceptionally-prolonged solar minimum – with very few sunspots – has continued since March 2006 and is not likely to end for at least a further year. If so, many solar physicists expect that in ten years’ time a period of solar inactivity and cooling will begin, and might last for most of the remainder of this century, at least offsetting and possibly altogether overwhelming the relatively small warming from greenhouse-gas emissions. End of scare 2.
Today’s spotless Sun: If “The Sun” had looked at the Sun today, it would have seen this image, with not a single sunspot visible. The 70-year Grand Maximum that has now ended, during which the Sun was more active and for longer than at almost any previous similar period in the past 11,400 years , may well have caused a significant fraction of the warming observed during the second half of the 20th century. However, the Sun now shows no sunspots, indicating less solar activity than usual. Though solar minima with no sunspots occur every 11 years, the present minimum that began in March 2006 has lasted well beyond the normal few months and is expected to last for as long as anther year, indicating that global cooling, rather than “global warming”, may become a problem in ten years’ time.
Scare 3: “World leaders must change laws to stop pollution pouring into the atmosphere and affecting the climate.” The Sun should have asked whether merely changing laws is likely to have any significant impact on carbon dioxide emissions, still less on the climate. The truth is that most countries signed the Kyoto Protocol: most, however, will fail to meet their obligations to reduce carbon emissions under the Protocol, notwithstanding that this instrument of international law requires them to do so. Carbon dioxide emissions show little sign of reduction. They have been increasing near-monotonically until this year, when the exceptional cooling of the planet caused the sea to take up more carbon dioxide, reducing the atmospheric concentration compared with the same month the previous year for only the fifth time in half a century. In fact, carbon dioxide concentrations are almost at the lowest level thought to have been present throughout the past half billion years. In the Cambrian era, 550 million years ago, the atmospheric concentration was almost 20 times today’s:
Absence of correlation necessarily implies absence of causation: Reconstructions of CO2 concentration (black curve) and of mean global surface temperature (blue curve) over the past 600 million years show no correlation between the two curves, demonstrating that neither is the dominant cause of the other. In the Cambrian era, CO2 concentration was almost 20 times today, for natural reasons. There was no “climate crisis” then; a fortiori, there will be none now.
Also, CO2 is not “pollution”: it is a naturally-occurring substance that Gore breathes out every time he speaks. With sunlight and chlorophyll, it is an essential constituent in plant photosynthesis, on which all life on Earth depends. End of scare 3.
Photosynthesis is increasing worldwide thanks to carbon dioxide enrichment, as this satellite reconstruction graphically demonstrates. Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, but is essential to all plant and animal life on Earth. Currently its atmospheric concentration is close to the lowest level thought to have been present over the past half billion years.
Scare 4: “The US is the worst offender in the crisis and has failed to live up to the Kyoto Protocol.” The Sun should have asked why, during Al Gore’s term as Vice-President and Leader of the Senate, that Chamber voted unanimously, 95-0, not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol or any similar instrument that would not bind third-world countries to reduce their carbon emissions. The truth is that the US is not obliged to “live up to the Kyoto Protocol” because, to this day, it has not ratified the Protocol. Also, in 2007 the US reduced its carbon emissions, while Europe, which talks the talk but does not walk the walk on climate, increased them. Nearly all European countries will fail to comply with their Kyoto obligations by the 2012 closing date. Besides, even if the entire Western world were to shut down its economies altogether and revert to the Stone Age, without even the ability to light fires, within little more than a decade the growth in emissions from China and India would entirely replace all of our emissions. We are no longer the real problem – even if there were a problem. End of scare 4.
Scare 5: “The entire North Polar icecap is melting … and is going to imminently disappear.” The Sun should have asked why Gore concentrates on the North Pole, which contains less than 3% of the world’s ice, rather than the South Pole, which contains 90%. In Antarctica, there is now more sea-ice than ever before. In the summer of 2007, there was less sea-ice in the Arctic than at any time since records began – but records began only 30 years ago, when satellite imaging of the entire ice-cap became possible. And by the winter, the sea-ice extent in the Arctic, like that in the Antarctic, was at record levels. It is known that there was no ice in the Arctic or in Greenland 850,000 years ago, when there were no humans to cause “global warming”. It is also inferred that the Arctic must have been free of ice in each of the past four interglacial periods, when temperatures were up to 5 degrees K (9 F) warmer than the present; that it was probably free of ice in the Roman, Mediaeval, and Bronze Age warm periods (the last of which endured for 2000 years); that the North-West Passage was open in 1903, when Amundsen sailed through it; that the Arctic was warmer than the present as recently as the 1940s; and, finally, that the reason for the extensive polar ice-melt in the summer of 2007 was southerly winds driving currents moving warm water from the tropics towards the North Pole – a feature of the current temperature-positive phase of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (NASA, 2007). In short, the “record” North Polar ice-melt, which arose from natural causes and not because of manmade “global warming”, has been replaced by record ice-formation at the North Pole this winter; and sea ice in the cooling Antarctic is already at record levels. End of scare 5.
Scare 6: “Long-life lightbulbs, recycling, window treatments and extra insulation … can all help.” The Sun should have asked whether, even if there were a problem, which – on the evidence of plummeting global temperatures, there is not – replacement of proper light-bulbs with poison-filled alternatives, and recycling that uses more energy than it saves, are likely to make more than an infinitesimal, futile, and climatically-irrelevant contribution to the reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions. The truth is that, to achieve the 80% reductions in worldwide emissions that are demanded – on no scientific basis – by the very small clique of scientific extremists with whom Al Gore is politically and financially linked, it would be necessary to turn off all electricity, all motor transport, all factories, hospitals, shops, and industries altogether for almost six days every week. However, since carbon dioxide is not a pollutant and causes no more than a very slight warming that is entirely beneficial, there is no need for any such drastic actions at all. End of scare 6.
Scare 7: “Some scientists expect sea level to rise up to 34 inches by 2100.” The Sun included this supposed fact in a panel accompanying the interview with Gore. The truth is that, though the UN’s climate panel had previously predicted that sea level would rise this century by some 34 inches at most, its 2007 assessment report revised the upper limit downward by one-third to 23 inches – a maximum that is less than half of the mean rise of 4 feet per century during the 10,000 years since the end of the last Ice Age. The UN’s best estimate is 17 inches by 2100 – little more than a sixth of an inch per year. However, Nils-Axel Moerner, the world’s foremost expert on sea level, who has spent 30 years studying it worldwide, says that there is no reason to suppose that sea level will increase by more than the 8 inches observed in the 20th century. End of scare 7.
Scare 8: “Cows and livestock contribute two-fifths of methane emissions.” The Sun included this statement in a panel accompanying the interview with Gore. The truth is that, although methane is a greenhouse gas 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide, its concentration in the atmosphere is minuscule – less than one part per million by volume. Also, The Sun seems to be unaware that the atmospheric concentration of methane, that had risen following a curve similar to that of carbon dioxide during the past half-century, stopped rising from 2000 onward and is now slowly declining. The IPCC estimates that methane contributes only a small proportion of the manmade warming which it imagines, and that that proportion will decline considerably over the coming century. End of scare 8.
SPPI Note: For a more comprehensive look at false statements and exaggerations by Al Gore, see: