[Illustrations, footnotes and references available in PDF version]
Scientific mistakes and exaggerations in
an interview in India Today, 17 March 2008
Error 1: “[‘Global warming’] is a planetary emergency. It is a crisis and we have to find ways to come to an agreement to reduce the carbon dioxide.”
The facts: There is no “planetary emergency”. Nor is there a “crisis”. If there is an “emergency” or a “crisis”, it is certainly not caused by “global warming”. The increase in global temperatures between 1980 and 1998, when “global warming” stopped, was only half of the small increase shown in the official temperature records (McKitrick, 2006, 2007 in press). In the decade since 1998 there has been no statistically-significant increase in global temperature (HadCRUt3, 2008; US NCDC, 2008; RSS, 2008; UAH MSU, 2008; etc.). In the seven years since early 2001, the trend of global temperature has been downward at a rate equivalent to more than 0.4 degrees Celsius (0.75 F) per decade:
Error 2: “Today we the people of this planet would put another 70m tons of global warming pollution into the earth’s atmosphere.”
The facts: “Global warming pollution” is Gore’s favorite phrase for “carbon dioxide.” However, CO2 is not a pollutant, but a naturally-occurring gas. Together with chlorophyll and sunlight, it is an essential ingredient in photosynthesis and is, accordingly, plant food. The reconstruction of palaeoclimatological CO2 concentrations below, taken from Berner (2001), demonstrates that carbon dioxide concentration today is almost at its lowest level since the Cambrian era 550 million years ago, when there was almost 20 times as much CO2 in the atmosphere as there is today, without any threat to animal or plant life, and without causing the “runaway greenhouse effect” that Gore likes to mention:
CO2 concentration (black curve) is plotted against global mean surface temperature from the respected Scotese reconstruction (blue curve). There is plainly no correlation between the two, and the absence of correlation demonstrates absence of causation. Furthermore, the Earth’s surface temperature seems to peak naturally at a little above 22 degrees Celsius, or 7 degrees C above today’s level, irrespective of the actual concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. The improvement in photosynthesis worldwide as a result of the recent elevation of CO2 concentration above the near-starvation levels that had been prevalent over the past million years is evident in the following satellite image:
Error 3: “If we keep putting off the day of reckoning, it is more difficult to solve the crisis.”
The facts: On the evidence of globally falling temperatures notwithstanding the continuing increase in carbon dioxide concentration, the supposed “crisis” is disappearing without any intervention from us. In any event, the notion that it is more cost-effective for us to spend scarce resources today on mitigating the imagined problem than to wait and then adapt to changes in the climate if and when they occur has been universally discredited in the economic literature. See, for instance, Henderson (2007).
Error 4: “They [energy corporations] are spending millions of dollars a year trying to confuse people. I think that is unethical. I think that it should not be seen as acceptable.”
The facts: Compared with the tens of billions spent worldwide on pushing the climate scare, the mere millions spent on investigating the truth that there is no “climate crisis” are negligible, as the following analysis by the Marshall Institute demonstrates:
? The study of climate change science and the policy ramifications of climate change is a multi-billion-dollar enterprise in the United States.
? Private foundations distribute a minimum of $35-50 million annually to non-profit organizations and universities to comment on or study various elements of the climate change debate.
? This support was significant for many of the receiving institutions. Climate change-related projects accounted for over 25% of the 3-year total reported grants and contributions received by 10 of the top-20 institutions. For 6 organizations, climate change grants accounted for 50% of their reported grants and contributions received.
? A cursory glimpse of the list of recipients of those private funds reveals that the vast majority are spent by groups favoring restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions and believe that climate change requires dramatic government action.
? The U.S. federal government spent nearly $2 billion to support climate change science programs in FY 2004.
? More than 2,000 separate climate change-related grants were distributed by federal departments and agencies in FY 2002, the most recent year for which comprehensive data is available.
? Federal support for R&D in the environmental sciences field has tripled in the past 20 years, rising from $1.2 billion in 1980 to $3.6 billion in 2002, according to data available from the National Science Foundation.
? In 28 of the top-30 performing institutions, federal financing accounts for more than 50% of the institution’s expenditures on atmospheric R&D.
Besides, whether Gore likes it or not, the US Constitution guarantees the right of free speech to any citizen or group, whether or not the opinion expressed is one that Gore finds congenial. The attempts by Gore and others to suggest that legitimate scientific enquiry into whether the climate scare has any real scientific foundation ought to be suppressed is an indication of his true motive, which is to bring to an end the freedoms of the West and to enrich himself prodigiously while doing so, via his “green” investment company, whose objective is to profit by the scare which he has himself falsely and dishonestly whipped up. Lest the word “dishonestly” seem too strong, the UK High Court found nine errors in Gore’s sci-fi comedy horror movie about the climate that it ordered the UK Government to publish corrections before circulating the film to innocent schoolchildren. Gore, however, has not corrected any of the errors in the movie, which continues to be shown to schoolchildren worldwide. A politician who is recklessly willing to continue to mislead schoolchildren is a dishonest politician.
Error 5: “I went to Kyoto personally, …, and helped to bring about the breakthrough there. But then, when I returned to Washington and tried to convince the US Senate to ratify that treaty, I was only able to convince only one Senator out of the hundred.”
The facts: Al Gore, as Vice-President, was Chairman of the US Senate when it voted, 95-0, to reject the Kyoto Protocol on the sensible ground that the Protocol did not impose carbon-emissions restrictions on the countries of the Third World, such as China and India. Not even one of the 100 Senators voted in favor of Kyoto. And most of the countries bound by Kyoto – notably the European Union – are not in fact complying with their obligations under the Protocol. Even if they were to do so, the impact on the climate would be negligible:
Let the final word on this point go to Gerhard (2004): “Although politicians offer simplistic remedies, such as the Kyoto Protocol, climate continues to change naturally.”
Error 6: “Of course the United States has done so much more to create the problem in the first place, the per capita emissions are so much higher. But neither is it fair to have developing and advanced developing countries completely outside the world’s effort to solve this.”
The facts: Since there is no problem, the United States can scarcely be blamed for having done more to create the problem than the Third World countries. Nor is it appropriate or statesmanlike for Gore to attack his own country in an overseas news medium, especially when his attack is based on the false argument that it is emissions per capita that are the benchmark. It would be more justifiable for a US statesman to argue that India, China, Brazil and other fast-overpopulating countries ought to increase the prosperity of their citizens by giving them the same freedoms that are enjoyed in the US, for it is only when the general population of a nation becomes prosperous that its population trends move away from exponential growth and towards stability. Gore’s proposal to reduce carbon emissions even in the poorest countries would keep them poor and hence keep their populations rising, creating a greater environmental footprint in the medium to long term: the very opposite of what he presumably intends.
Error 7: “India has millions of people living in the low-lying areas that are getting threatened by the increasing sea level.”
The facts: The UK High Court Judge who considered Gore’s movie was particularly critical of his exaggerations of imagined sea-level rise. He said: “The Armageddon scenario which he depicts is not based on any scientific view.” Gore himself does not believe his own predictions. In 2005, the year when his alarmist movie was issued, he bought a $4 million condominium in the St. Regis Hotel, just feet from the ocean at Fisherman’s Wharf on San Francisco Bay:
Gore fantasizes that “global warming” will melt the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets and cause sea level to rise 20ft, imminently threatening existing populations worldwide. There is no truth in any part of this scenario. First, the Greenland ice sheet thickened by 2 inches per year in the decade from 1993 to 2003 (Johannesen et al., 2005). Secondly, Antarctica has been cooling for half a century (Doran et al., 2002), so there is little danger of a sudden disintegration of the West Antarctic ice sheet through “global warming”, since the main influence on it is regional cooling. Thirdly, the main source of sea-level rise, now that the vast land-based ice sheets that existed in the last Ice Age have almost gone, is not ice-melt but thermosteric expansion, of which Gore appears not to have heard. However, thermosteric expansion can only occur if the oceans are warming, which they are not (Lyman et al., 2006). Nor are they likely to warm, because globally the atmosphere is cooling, and the oceans take their heat chiefly from the atmosphere.
Besides, the UN climate-change panel says that the Greenland ice sheet would only melt after several millennia, and then largely from natural causes. On past evidence, we are already 5 millennia overdue for another Ice Age, so it is likely that the Ice Age will recur long before Greenland melts. Also, Gore seems unaware that the Greenland ice sheet has melted before, for natural reasons. This occurred about 850,000 years ago. At present rates of sea-level rise, the two ice sheets which Gore says will imminently add 20 feet to sea level will, between them, add no more than two and a half inches over the whole of the coming century. In the original draft of the UN’s 2007 climate assessment, bureaucrats tried to maintain – in a table inserted after the scientists’ draft had been signed off – that the two great ice sheets would cause ten times this rate of increase, but they were compelled to correct this exaggeration, which had presumably been intended to make Gore’s still greater exaggeration seem less ridiculous than it is.
Error 8: “India has hundreds of millions of people that depend on melting seasonal water coming from the Himalayas in the great rivers of the sub-continent.”
The facts: Gore is here trying to imply that the melting of mountain glaciers will jeopardize the water supply of hundreds of millions of people who depend on the water flowing down from the Himalayas into India and China. In his movie, he says: “In the Himalayas there is a particular problem because more than 40% of all the people in the world get their drinking water from rivers and spring systems that are fed more than half by the melt water coming off the glaciers. Within this next half century those 40% of the people on earth are going to face a very serious shortage because of this melting.” All of this is nonsense. Nearly all of the water from the Himalayas comes not from ice-melt but from snow-melt. Therefore the key variable is the total Northern Hemisphere or Eurasian snow cover, not the recession rate of the 9,575 glaciers which debouch from the Himalayan plateau into India, and which show no acceleration in the recession rate since 1780, when the British Raj first began to keep records (M.I. Bhat, personal communication, 2007).
Eurasian snow cover in fact shows no trend whatsoever in the crucial winter months since systematic records began half a century ago (Rutgers University Snow Lab, 2006):
Likewise, there has been no decline in Northern Hemisphere snow cover as a whole. Far from it. NASA satellite records show that the greatest extent of winter snow cover occurred in 2002/3:
However, that record was itself easily beaten in the very cold winter of 2007/8. On the facts, therefore, there is not the slightest evidence for the shortage of water caused by “global warming” fancifully imagined by Gore.
Error 9: “India is affected by the seasonal monsoons from south-west and from north-east and particularly in south India. And as those patterns change with sixty per cent of the people involved in agriculture, the vulnerability of India to the kinds of harm that can come from global warming, if it is not addressed, is unthinkable.”
The facts: Given that global temperatures have been increasing by 0.5 degrees K (1 F) per century since at least 1800 and arguably since 1700 (Akasofu, 2008; Central England Temperature Record; etc.), by now some adverse effect on the reliability of the South-East Asian monsoon rains ought to have become apparent. However, there has been no trend whatsoever:
Error 10: “Now … there is an increasing preference in much of the world, including in my country, for the kinds of renewable energy sources that are cleaner and cheaper, they don’t take so long to build and they don’t carry all other problems of potentially running out of fuel and potentially contributing to a more dangerous world.”
The facts: Gore made these remarks in answer to a question about nuclear power. A recent report by the UK Government explains that the abatement cost of fashionable but useless renewable energy sources such as wind power is $100 per ton of CO2 saved, compared with just 60 cents per ton for nuclear power. So no serious policymaker anywhere in the world believes that renewable technologies will make a cost-effective contribution to CO2 abatement, even if abatement were necessary.
Footnote: A Tale of Two Houses
House #1: Designed by an architecture professor at a leading national university, this house incorporates every ‘green’ feature current home construction can provide. The house has 4 bedrooms and is nestled on a high prairie in the American southwest. A central closet holds geothermal heat-pumps circulating water through pipes sunk 300 feet deep. The water (usually 67 degrees F) heats the house in the winter and cools it in the summer. The system uses one-quarter of the electricity used by a conventional system. Rainwater is collected in a 25,000-gallon underground cistern. Wastewater from showers, sinks and toilets goes into underground purifying tanks, then into the cistern, from which the garden is irrigated.
House #2: A 20-room mansion with 8 bathrooms, a pool and poolhouse, and a separate guest house, all heated by gas. In one month this residence consumes more energy than the average American household does in a year. The average bill for electricity and natural gas runs to over $2,400. In natural gas alone, this property consumes more than 20 times the national average for an American home. This house is not in the Northern or Midwestern snow-belt. It’s in the South.
House #1, near Crawford, Texas, belongs to President George Bush. House #2, near Nashville, Tennessee, belongs to Gore.