Sunday, June 04, 2006

Gore Tells an Inconvenient Truth

Keywords: Al Gore; An Inconvenient Truth; glaciers melting; Thank You for Smoking; global warming; emotions; oil interests.

Today I saw ’s – a movie about his marvelous traveling slide show on . He’s given this show more than 1,000 times over the years, and I think everyone in the world needs to see it.

The problem is, knowing is one thing, while acting on that knowledge is quite another. About half his presentation deals with the factual information – with photos of melting ice fields that ought to shock anyone who watches it – but the other half deals with the to having people absorb the information and get involved in solving the problem.

The intermediate link in this logic consists of his observation that the problem is solvable. I’m not actually sure that it truly is solvable, but Gore is pretty persuasive in suggesting that it is, and for that I can only rejoice. Of course, even if catastrophe is now unavoidable, we need to do everything possible to minimize or reverse the impending doom. What has been happening so far is hardly anything – at least in comparison to what is required.

But Gore is personally so appealing here that he’s covering the motivational angle too. and are psychologically different processes, though of course both are required. The motivation is linked to our system of , preferences, emotions, and personal attachments. Unless someone presents information in a way that touches my , it will simply be a declarative statement that doesn’t mobilize us to get up and do anything about it. But the man is truly admirable and likeable, at least in this film. I wish those qualities had shone through more apparently during his political campaigning. I could imagine developing deep affection for him – which would be enough to get me motivated to help him. There will be others, of course, who approach this film with great resistance, and nobody can win over all those people. He even expresses a tolerant patience for such people, saying that it’s only human to need some time to make a drastic reversal of opinion and action.

Yet it’s more than simple psychological sluggishness involved here. The of this message is orchestrated politically, apparently under the direction, to some extent, of economic interest groups. Gore makes the comparison between the awareness of the deleterious effects of and of global warming. His family had raised tobacco, but then his sister died of lung cancer and his father stopped farming tobacco. That emotional event punctured the denial that had allowed them to continue in their customary way. His motivation was affected emotionally by her death and by the nearly fatal injury of his own son. are required to galvanize everyone.

Now he is tactful in addressing his political enemies, but it is clear that those enemies are economic blocs – especially big oil – and that they are linked politically to George W. Bush himself. If ever there was a disastrous political mistake made by a democracy, it has to have been Bush’s defeat of Gore under the direction of the US . If the court had not stopped the recount of the votes, the course of history would have been extraordinarily different. Gore does not go into the questions about electoral fraud, but simply notes that this outcome was a hard blow but he had made the best of it.

What do we do about people who are in denial? I suppose his good-natured patience is the best approach, but it would be wrong just to let others continue unchallenged. The denial is managed; it’s not just a matter of individual heads-in-the sand. Gore’s opponents call global warming a “theory,” as a matter of policy. The cynical manipulation of public opinion for financial gain can be matched only by the recent fictional movie, “Thank You for Smoking.”

Over 900 scientific papers on global warming were examined. Of them, not one questioned the factual nature of the warming trend. Yet of more than 600 articles in the popular press, 53 percent discounted it as a mere hypothesis or “theory.” This discrediting of scientific research is morally wrong, and Gore is doing exactly what needs to be done in naming it as .


Blogger tednichols said...

With regard to "Gore Tells and Inconvenient Truth" I would suggest it is a convenient truth for growing government, getting more government into peoples life and promoting more government jobs.

Yes there is Global Warming. Is it because of man? This is the egocentric view of many. There are a lot of scientist motivated by the government grants and liberal foundations which they eagerly seek. (Just as the oil companies argue the opposite side of this question.)

Global Warming is part of planet earth's climate evolving over the ages, Gore's thesis is like drawing a line in the sand at high tide and then an hour later declaring the oceans are drying up.

There is also a new theory among scientists that the green house gases are created by the worlds vegetation. That is why so much of this Global Warming hand- wringing seems to be more doctrinal than scientific.

There is an old saying; "Worry about the things you can control but not about the things you cannot control." The sun spots, mother nature and Krakatoa will control our climate. We can't even make it rain, so lets get on with our lives.

4:50 PM  
Blogger Annamarie said...

I disagree with Tednichols' view. Global Warming is a real issue, much of it created by 'Man'. These are our footprints. There is much credible scientific evidence to support this.

Professor Spencer, thanks for your wonderful post. I will go and see Al Gore's movie when it comes to my area of Brampton.

BTW, I just received the info about your CBC interview tomorrow evening (Wed. June 7) on their Ideas programme, from 9-10 pm, from our mutual acquaintance Bill Bhaneja in Ottawa. I posted a little about it, and also put in and introduction about you (which I took from your site) on my blog here: (hope you don't mind)

11:07 PM  
Blogger tednichols said...

For Annamarie: Here is some inconvenient scientific truth.

Global Warming Science Updates

These bi-weekly updates are courtesy of the The Cooler Heads Newsletter published by the Competitive Enterprise Institute in conjunction with the National Consumer Coalition.

You may also want to vist our Science Archive. Our archive has an extensive list of global warming politics articles and studies grouped by subject for easier research.

2500 minus one
World Climate Alert, Feb 02, 2005
Dr. Christopher Landsea of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hurricane Research Division at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, has withdrawn as an author of the Fourth Assessment Report under preparation by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for release in 2007.

Carbon sequestration archive, Feb 01, 2005

Science archive: Solar variations and climate, Feb 01, 2005 science archive

JunkScience: Antarctic warming, Jan 25, 2005
While the enhanced greenhouse hypothesis insists the Antarctic should demonstrate the most dramatic response to rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels due to its cold, dry atmosphere, the simple fact is the Antarctic is not cooperating.

Sarewitz says global warming not to blame for tsunami
Arizona State University, Jan 21, 2005
Some quickly suggested that an increase in the frequency of natural disasters such as the tsunami were a harbinger of what we have in store because of the increase of Earth’s greenhouse gases resulting from the burning of fossil fuels. Nothing could be further from the truth, says Daniel Sarewitz, a professor of science and society and director of the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes at ASU.

Stratospheric cooling?, Jan 17, 2005
One of the more interesting "Sky Is Falling" postulations made in recent years has been the claim that the apparently cooling stratosphere is masking observation of anticipated warming in the troposphere. Quaintly, such claimants point to satellite MSU (Microwave Sounding Unit) stratosphere data suggesting such cooling to try to invalidate satellite MSU troposphere data, data which obstinately declines to demonstrate the trend Big Warming requires to maintain the scare and nurture the cash cow.

Arctic warming update, Jan 15, 2005
Once again claims are flying thick and fast regarding dramatic, in fact, unprecedented Arctic warming. Once again, we look at the available data, now updated to the end of 2004. Once again, we find the claims to be dead flat wrong.

Consensus, truisms and straw men
CEI / Tech Central Station, Jan 12, 2005
An examination of the form the much-touted scientific consensus actually takes reveals that it does not mandate policy choices.

Satellite temperature data archive, Jan 12, 2005

"Global Warming" at a glance: December 2004, Jan 11, 2005
As determined by NOAA Satellite-mounted MSUs
This list is much bigger but it illustrates that the environmentalistism religious claims are not necessarily gospel.

8:42 PM  
Blogger Rex said...

Ted, I'm glad to see evidence that we humans can openly (& humbly?) disagree. But let's not forget that because we are human, let's, also, not forget that we are extremely limited in what we can know for sure! Let's invest a little more effort in open, honest, humble dialogue with those with whom we disagree. They are the folks who can help us get a fuller picture of our common reality. I humbly submit that arrogance is the primary stumbling block that tends to keep us from really hearing each other!

7:54 AM  
Blogger tednichols said...

My intent was not to be arrogant so I humbly sumit the following quotes:

Nothing is more deceitful than the appearance of humility. it is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast. ---Jane Austin

Humility has the origin in an awareness of unworthiness, and sometimes too in a dazzled awareness of saintliness. _____Colette

If I only had a little humility, I'd be perfect.
______Ted Turner

We are certainly limited in what we can know for sure with all the misinformation that is available. Is truth or just looking at the other side arrogance??

10:28 PM  
Blogger Metta Spencer said...

I'm glad to see such a lively discussion here. Thanks for contributing. But I have to urge Ted to see the film. I really don't think you could discount his argument if you were to see the whole thing.

Also I should say that I expect to go on a trip in a week to promote my book. I will be gone a month, and I may miss posting sometimes. In fact, I have missed quite a lot lately anyhow. This is the only one I wrote this week.

12:45 AM  
Blogger tednichols said...

You are right I should and will see the film.

7:55 PM  
Blogger tednichols said...

Now I wonder if I would be wasting my time?
This is the latest from Canada Free Press!!!

"The Inconvenient Truth" is indeed inconvenient to alarmists
By Tom Harris
Monday, June 12, 2006

"Scientists have an independent obligation to respect and present the truth as they see it," Al Gore sensibly asserts in his film "An Inconvenient Truth", showing at Cumberland 4 Cinemas in Toronto since Jun 2. With that outlook in mind, what do world climate experts actually think about the science of his movie?

Professor Bob Carter of the Marine Geophysical Laboratory at James Cook University, in Australia gives what, for many Canadians, is a surprising assessment: "Gore's circumstantial arguments are so weak that they are pathetic. It is simply incredible that they, and his film, are commanding public attention."

But surely Carter is merely part of what most people regard as a tiny cadre of "climate change skeptics" who disagree with the "vast majority of scientists" Gore cites?

No; Carter is one of hundreds of highly qualified non-governmental, non-industry, non-lobby group climate experts who contest the hypothesis that human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are causing significant global climate change. "Climate experts" is the operative term here. Why? Because what Gore's "majority of scientists" think is immaterial when only a very small fraction of them actually work in the climate field.

Even among that fraction, many focus their studies on the impacts of climate change; biologists, for example, who study everything from insects to polar bears to poison ivy. "While many are highly skilled researchers, they generally do not have special knowledge about the causes of global climate change," explains former University of Winnipeg climatology professor Dr. Tim Ball. "They usually can tell us only about the effects of changes in the local environment where they conduct their studies."

This is highly valuable knowledge, but doesn't make them climate change cause experts, only climate impact experts.

So we have a smaller fraction.

But it becomes smaller still. Among experts who actually examine the causes of change on a global scale, many concentrate their research on designing and enhancing computer models of hypothetical futures. "These models have been consistently wrong in all their scenarios," asserts Ball. "Since modelers concede computer outputs are not "predictions" but are in fact merely scenarios, they are negligent in letting policy-makers and the public think they are actually making forecasts."

We should listen most to scientists who use real data to try to understand what nature is actually telling us about the causes and extent of global climate change. In this relatively small community, there is no consensus, despite what Gore and others would suggest.

Here is a small sample of the side of the debate we almost never hear:

Appearing before the Commons Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development last year, Carleton University paleoclimatologist Professor Tim Patterson testified, "There is no meaningful correlation between CO2 levels and Earth's temperature over this [geologic] time frame. In fact, when CO2 levels were over ten times higher than they are now, about 450 million years ago, the planet was in the depths of the absolute coldest period in the last half billion years." Patterson asked the committee, "On the basis of this evidence, how could anyone still believe that the recent relatively small increase in CO2 levels would be the major cause of the past century's modest warming?"

Patterson concluded his testimony by explaining what his research and "hundreds of other studies" reveal: on all time scales, there is very good correlation between Earth's temperature and natural celestial phenomena such changes in the brightness of the Sun.

Dr. Boris Winterhalter, former marine researcher at the Geological Survey of Finland and professor in marine geology, University of Helsinki, takes apart Gore's dramatic display of Antarctic glaciers collapsing into the sea. "The breaking glacier wall is a normally occurring phenomenon which is due to the normal advance of a glacier," says Winterhalter. "In Antarctica the temperature is low enough to prohibit melting of the ice front, so if the ice is grounded, it has to break off in beautiful ice cascades. If the water is deep enough icebergs will form."

Dr. Wibjörn Karlén, emeritus professor, Dept. of Physical Geography and Quaternary Geology, Stockholm University, Sweden, admits, "Some small areas in the Antarctic Peninsula have broken up recently, just like it has done back in time. The temperature in this part of Antarctica has increased recently, probably because of a small change in the position of the low pressure systems."

But Karlén clarifies that the 'mass balance' of Antarctica is positive - more snow is accumulating than melting off. As a result, Ball explains, there is an increase in the 'calving' of icebergs as the ice dome of Antarctica is growing and flowing to the oceans. When Greenland and Antarctica are assessed together, "their mass balance is considered to possibly increase the sea level by 0.03 mm/year - not much of an effect," Karlén concludes.

The Antarctica has survived warm and cold events over millions of years. A meltdown is simply not a realistic scenario in the foreseeable future.

Gore tells us in the film, "Starting in 1970, there was a precipitous drop-off in the amount and extent and thickness of the Arctic ice cap." This is misleading, according to Ball: "The survey that Gore cites was a single transect across one part of the Arctic basin in the month of October during the 1960s when we were in the middle of the cooling period. The 1990 runs were done in the warmer month of September, using a wholly different technology."

Karlén explains that a paper published in 2003 by University of Alaska professor Igor Polyakov shows that, the region of the Arctic where rising temperature is supposedly endangering polar bears showed fluctuations since 1940 but no overall temperature rise. "For several published records it is a decrease for the last 50 years," says Karlén

Dr. Dick Morgan, former advisor to the World Meteorological Organization and climatology researcher at University of Exeter, U.K. gives the details, "There has been some decrease in ice thickness in the Canadian Arctic over the past 30 years but no melt down. The Canadian Ice Service records show that from 1971-1981 there was average, to above average, ice thickness. From 1981-1982 there was a sharp decrease of 15% but there was a quick recovery to average, to slightly above average, values from 1983-1995. A sharp drop of 30% occurred again 1996-1998 and since then there has been a steady increase to reach near normal conditions since 2001."

Concerning Gore's beliefs about worldwide warming, Morgan points out that, in addition to the cooling in the NW Atlantic, massive areas of cooling are found in the North and South Pacific Ocean; the whole of the Amazon Valley; the north coast of South America and the Caribbean; the eastern Mediterranean, Black Sea, Caucasus and Red Sea; New Zealand and even the Ganges Valley in India. Morgan explains, "Had the IPCC used the standard parameter for climate change (the 30 year average) and used an equal area projection, instead of the Mercator (which doubled the area of warming in Alaska, Siberia and the Antarctic Ocean) warming and cooling would have been almost in balance."

Gore's point that 200 cities and towns in the American West set all time high temperature records is also misleading according to Dr. Roy Spencer, Principal Research Scientist at The University of Alabama in Huntsville. "It is not unusual for some locations, out of the thousands of cities and towns in the U.S., to set all-time records," he says. "The actual data shows that overall, recent temperatures in the U.S. were not unusual."

Carter does not pull his punches about Gore's activism, "The man is an embarrassment to US science and its many fine practitioners, a lot of whom know (but feel unable to state publicly) that his propaganda crusade is mostly based on junk science."

In April sixty of the world's leading experts in the field asked Prime Minister Harper to order a thorough public review of the science of climate change, something that has never happened in Canada. Considering what's at stake - either the end of civilization, if you believe Gore, or a waste of billions of dollars, if you believe his opponents - it seems like a reasonable request.

Tom Harris is mechanical engineer and Ottawa Director of High Park Group, a public affairs and public policy company. He can be reached at

miracle 2

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5:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh please. Canada Free Press? That's like saying Fox News has proven conclusively that King Bush II is the most popular president in US history.

I think it's worth just browsing around the Canada Free Press site, if you have any doubts about the absurdity of citing that as a source.

And the author's credentials? He's from the "High Park Group" which is evidently a lobby firm representing the energy industry. Yep, that's who I want writing news articles -- lobbyists. Uh-huh. His views on what constitutes an objective opinion are bound to be more well-founded than your average journalist who is actually schooled in such matters.

Of course, that didn't prevent the National Post from running a similar article from this same Tom Harris.

And here's a fun website featuring some of his contributions to this discussion (perhaps from before he was a lobbyist):

And as cited on the Canadian Nuclear Association's website, his not-so-illuminating article "Clean air answers point to nuclear power"

And try this for more fun:

11:25 PM  
Blogger Tim said...


I am sure that Gore, in his movie, like any other documentary (JFK, Fast Food Nation, Fahrenheit 9/11), bends the scenes to create emotional effect and to drive for change. I don't see a problem with that. The question that need to be answered is "is global warming real?" and I think that the answer is fairly clear. Yes it is.

Back in my U of T days 18 years ago, as part of a second year paper, I linked global warming trends to sunspots and volcanic activity. I simply made the graphs large enough to make it look significant. And sure, a Krakatoa like explosion would cool the earth - significantly. So would a giant asteroid, or some nuclear explosions, for that matter.

I don't think we should be relying on a catastrophe or the sun to cool us off. Rather, I would think that we would do something on our own to control our destiny.

Clearly, science has shown that there is a direct link between the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, that we create them, and that the gases effectively traps solar radiation and heats the earth.

To me, in my opinion, there is reticence on government's part to reduce greenhouse gases because of the fear that industries will be hurt and that economic productivity will be hurt substantially. Rather than bluntly state that fact, they would rather claim that the science is false.

So what are we going to do about it?

9:55 AM  
Blogger Rex said...

Tim asks: So what are we going to do about it? That's a good but unanswerable question! 'We' can never answer any such question, except as individuals! So I ask myself instead, "What am I going to do about it?"
And here is my answer: I hope to hold a heap of happy, humorous humility down in my heart as I truly try to track the truth, tenderly, tenaciously, because I intend to integrate intelligent intellegence (also down in my heart) as I celebrate my cozy, caring commitment to cosmic community!
How about you? Let's keep asking ourselves until our 'we'self comes into existence & we truly become 'we the people'!

8:46 AM  

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