Albert Einstein once said, “Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of truth and knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.”
While the gods must consider An Inconvenient Truth the ultimate comedy, real climate scientists are crying over Al Gore’s new film. This is not just because the ex-vice-president commits numerous basic science mistakes. They are also concerned that many in the media and public will fail to realize that this film amounts to little more than science fiction.
If you are going to claim that Gore makes numerous basic science mistakes, it’s not a good idea to make numerous basic science mistakes in just one paragraph. Harris writes:
Similarly, the fact that water vapour constitutes 95% of greenhouse gases by volume is conveniently ignored by Gore. While humanity’s three billion tonnes (gigatonnes, or GT) per year net contribution to the atmosphere’s CO2 load appears large on a human scale, it is actually less than half of 1% of the atmosphere’s total CO2 content (750-830 GT). The CO2 emissions of our civilization are also dwarfed by the 210 GT/year emissions of the gas from Earth’s oceans and land. Perhaps even more significant is the fact that the uncertainty in the measurement of atmospheric CO2 content is 80 GT — making three GT seem hardly worth mentioning.
Let’s count how many basic scientific mistakes and omissions Harris makes.
The CO2 percentage of greenhouse gases by volume is irrelevant. What is important is the contribution of CO2 to the greenhouse effect.
Humanity is increasing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere by 3.8 billion tonnes per year. That is not the same as increasing the CO2 content by 3.8 billion tonnes, since it just counts the carbon in each C02 molecule.
The natural emissions of CO2 are more than balanced by natural absorption of CO2, so nature is, on net, absorbing CO2. Human emissions are significantly more than 3.8 GT. Fortunately natural sinks are absorbing some of the CO2 we produce so the net increase is only 3.8 GT. It is wrong to compare total natural emissions with the net change from human emissions.
Nowhere does Harris mention that human emissions of CO2 have increased the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere by 30%.
Harris tries make it look as if the dispute is between “liberal arts graduate” Al Gore and “leading experts” in climate science. But as we have seen before, the genuine experts in climate science say that Gore basically, got it right.
Harris’ “leading experts” are the sixty scientists who deny global warming is happening and include such non-experts as Vincent Gray. Twelve of the fourteen scientists that Harris cites are amongst those sixty scientists.
Not surprisingly, the rest of the evidence Harris presents is the usual misleading collection of cherry picked facts. For instance, on extreme weather Harris has:
Gore fails to note that the only region to show an increase in hurricanes in recent years is the North Atlantic. Hurricane specialist Tad Murty, former senior research scientist Department of Fisheries and Oceans and now adjust professor of Earth sciences at U of O, points out, “In all other six ocean basins where tropical cyclones occur, there is either a flat or a downward trend.” Murty lists 1900, 1926 and 1935 as the years in which the most intense hurricanes were recorded in the United States. In fact, Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, has stated that global warming has nothing to do with the recent increase in hurricane frequency in the North Atlantic. Murty concludes, “The feeling among many meteorologists is that it has to do with the North Atlantic oscillation, which is now in the positive phase and will continue for another decade or so.”
What got left out? The fact that there has been a global increase in the number of the most intense hurricanes. And of course, it the most intense hurricanes that we are most concerned about.
“We find no alarming sea level rise going on, in the Maldives, Tovalu, Venice, the Persian Gulf and even satellite altimetry, if applied properly.” — Dr. Nils-Axel Morner, emeritus professor of paleogeophysics and geodynamics, Stockholm University, Sweden.
“Our information is that seven of 13 populations of polar bears in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago (more than half the world’s estimated total) are either stable or increasing….. Of the three that appear to be declining, only one has been shown to be affected by climate change. No one can say with certainty that climate change has not affected these other populations, but it is also true that we have no information to suggest that it has.” — Dr. Mitchell Taylor, manager, wildlife research section, Department of Environment, Igloolik, Nunavut.
With the warming we have seen so far, we would only expect polar bears at the southernmost extreme of their range to be affected, and Taylor has actually confirmed this.
“The oceans are now heading into one of their periodic phases of cooling…. Modest changes in temperature are not about to wipe them [coral] out. Neither will increased carbon dioxide, which is a fundamental chemical building block that allows coral reefs to exist at all.” — Dr. Gary D. Sharp, Center for Climate/Ocean Resources Study, Salinas, Calif.
What? The oceans are going to cool? Looks like we have another bet candidate.
“Both the Antarctic and Greenland ice caps are thickening. The temperature at the South Pole has declined by more than one degree C since 1950. And the area of sea ice around the continent has increased over the last 20 years.” — Dr. R.M. Carter, professor, Marine Geophysical Laboratory, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia.
“The MPB (mountain pine beetle) is a species native to this part of North America and is always present. The MPB epidemic started as comparatively small outbreaks and through forest management inaction got completely out of hand.” — Rob Scagel, M.Sc., forest microclimate specialist, Pacific Phytometric Consultants, Surrey, B.C., comments on Gore’s belief that the mountain pine beetle is an “invasive exotic species” that has become a plague due to fewer days of frost.
Millions of acres of Canada’s lush green forests are turning red in spasms of death. A voracious beetle, whose population has exploded with the warming climate, is killing more trees than wildfires or logging.
The mountain pine beetle has infested an area three times the size of Maryland, devastating swaths of lodgepole pines and reshaping the future of the forest and the communities in it.
“It’s pretty gut-wrenching,” said Allan Carroll, a research scientist at the Pacific Forestry Centre in Victoria, whose studies tracked a lock step between warmer winters and the spread of the beetle. “People say climate change is something for our kids to worry about. No. It’s now.”
Scientists fear the beetle will cross the Rocky Mountains and sweep across the northern continent into areas where it used to be killed by severe cold but where winters now are comparatively mild. Officials in neighboring Alberta are setting fires and traps and felling thousands of trees in an attempt to keep the beetle at bay. …
“It’s a rapid warming” that is increasing the beetles’ range, said Carroll. “All the data show there are significant changes over widespread areas that are going to cause us considerable amount of grief. Not only is it coming, it’s here.”
“We are seeing this pine beetle do things that have never been recorded before,” said Michael Pelchat, a forestry officer in Quesnel, as he followed moose tracks in the snow to examine a 100-year-old pine killed in one season by the beetle. “They are attacking younger trees, and attacking timber in altitudes they have never been before.”