have an independent obligation to respect and present the truth
as they see it," Al Gore sensibly asserts in his film "An Inconvenient
Truth". 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
Here is a small sample of the side of the debate we almost never
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
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
The Antarctica has survived warm and cold events over millions
of years. A meltdown is simply not a realistic scenario in the
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
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.
Original article on the Canada
Tom Harris is mechanical engineer and Ottawa Director of High
Park Group, a public affairs and public policy company.