I wrote yesterday that there is little unanimity concerning global warming and man’s role in it. Given that Al Gore’s new film, An Inconvenient Truth is making the rounds, hyping the cause, it is worth devoting more attention to this issue.
Concern for the environment is of course incumbent upon all of us. We all should be good stewards of the world we live in. But concern must be matched with right understanding. It is easy to scare-monger on various environmental issues, and over-hyping something may be as dangerous as the thing being hyped about.
Climate change has been a common feature of life on earth. And scientists can and do get things wrong. I recall in the 70s how scientists were warning us that a new ice age was about to descend upon planet earth. They were convinced about this, and were insistent that we act immediately. They said this cooling was due to human activity, especially industrial emissions.
Oddly, many of these same scientists, just a few years later, hopped on the global warming bandwagon. They now were telling us that the world was heating up. Why? Because of human activity, especially industrial emissions.
Such flip flops must make us all just a bit suspicious. Indeed, many are. Andrew Bolt is one such sceptic. Like me, he is not a scientist, but he tries to keep up on some of the literature, and follow the debate. Thus we both realise that there is some room for doubt on the global warming scenario.
Writing in today’s Herald Sun (September 13 2006), he has an opinion piece entitled, “Bullied by a Gore.” Says Bolt, Gore has been getting a pretty good run by our media, especially those who tend to be PC anyway, who dislike global capitalism, and are happy to hype a cause if it means more bashing of the West. And many Australian scientists seem intimidated by the Gore train as well.
“How sad that even our scientists are too cowed or too evangelical to note more than a flicker of concern that Gore in his film tortures truth to scare the be-Gaia out of our youngsters. In the United States, scientists as eminent as Richard Lindzen, professor of atmospheric science at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have denounced Gore’s film as ‘shrill alarmism’ or simply wrong in critical parts.”
Again, the science of global warming is hotly debated: “Yes, it is true, the planet warmed until 1940, then cooled until around 1970 before warming again until 1998 – producing a net warming of around 0.6 degrees. It is also true that carbon dioxide tends to trap heat, and that over the past half century (since the worst of this warming) we’ve pumped out a lot of it. And it’s true most climate scientists think this is one cause – probably the biggest, say many – of global warming. But even on that there is no agreement. And the rest is even more strongly debated.”
Bolt goes on to list ten major shortcomings, errors or problems in the Gore film. For example: “Gore claims that a survey of 928 scientific articles on global warming showed not one disputed that man’s gasses were mostly to blame for rising global temperatures. Only dumb journalists and bad scientists in the pay of Big Oil pretended there was any genuine debate.”
But the truth is otherwise: “In fact, as Dr Benny Peiser, from Liverpool John Moores University has demonstrated, Gore relies on a bungled survey reported in Science. Peiser checked again and found just 13 of those 928 papers explicitly endorsed man-made global warming, and 34 rejected or doubted it. The debate is real.”
Or consider the prospect of rising sea levels: “Gore shows scary maps of how New York and Shanghai would drown under 20 feet (600cm) of water if all Greenland’s ice melted. In fact, various studies say Greenland’s snow cover – and Antarctica’s – is increasing or stable. The scientists of even the fiercely pro-warming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predict seas will rise (as they have for centuries) not by Gore’s 600cm by 2100, but by between 14 and 43cm.”
Here is another: “Gore claims warming is causing new diseases and allowing malarial mosquitoes to move to higher altitudes. In fact, says Professor Paul Reiter, head of the Pasteur Institute’s unit of insects and infectious diseases: ‘Gore is completely wrong here.’ Reiter says ‘the new altitudes of malaria are lower than those recorded 100 years ago’ and ‘none of the 30 so-called new diseases Gore references are attributable to global warming’.”
Not only are there numerous holes to be found in Gore’s film, but the idea of global warming itself continues to be debated by many leading scientists. “Some even predict we’re about to suffer a new bout of global cooling. Says Professor Bill Gray, world hurricane authority from Colorado State University: ‘My belief is that three, four years from now, the globe will start to cool again.’ Or as Khabibullo Abdusamatov, head of the Russian of Sciences astronomical observatory, warned last week: ‘On the basis of our (solar emission) research, we developed a scenario of a global cooling of the Earth’s climate by the middle of this century’.”
Concludes Bolt: “I’m sorry to raise these inconvenient truths just when so many of our scientists seem to prefer the certainties of faith over the uncertainties of evidence. But can we please have an adult discussion about global warming without the usual shrieks of outrage from people who think demanding this evidence is blasphemous? We are talking about science, right? But too much of this talk now sounds far too religious to me.”
Indeed, as I have written elsewhere on this site, many of the more extreme environmentalists have all the fervour and zeal of any religious fanatic. Environmentalism has become for many a new religion, and more sober assessments are needed to separate the facts from the hype.