Law professor Glenn Reynolds calls Al Gore a fuddy-duddy:
How to be a 21st century fuddy-duddy.
Reynolds’ source is novelist Roger L Simon, who writes:
What fascinates about Al Gore is not – as this article from the Chicago Sun-Times shows so clearly – that he is full of hooey when it comes to his global warming “scientific” pronouncements. It is that so many people believe him and that he is more popular than ever.
As so much has changed in our society, fuddy-duddy “liberalism” has become the most conventional or, dare I say it, conservative of belief systems. It’s almost as if the novels of Sinclair Lewis have been resurrected in our times with Al as Babbitt or Elmer Gantry – actually a bizarre contemporary combination of the two. We have a public, most of which does not have any serious or formal scientific training in climatology – listening to the opinions of someone who may have even less.
Oddly enough, Simon’s supporting link goes to an article by the Heritage Foundation’s James Taylor, who has no serious or formal scientific training in climatology. Or for that matter in any area of science. Taylor has a BA and JD.
How well does the film handle the science? Admirably, I thought. It is remarkably up to date, with reference to some of the very latest research. Discussion of recent changes in Antarctica and Greenland are expertly laid out. He also does a very good job in talking about the relationship between sea surface temperature and hurricane intensity. As one might expect, he uses the Katrina disaster to underscore the point that climate change may have serious impacts on society, but he doesn’t highlight the connection any more than is appropriate
But hey, maybe Taylor identifies some science that Gore got wrong. Let’s see, Taylor writes:
For example, Gore claims that Himalayan glaciers are shrinking and global warming is to blame. Yet the September 2006 issue of the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate reported, “Glaciers are growing in the Himalayan Mountains, confounding global warming alarmists who recently claimed the glaciers were shrinking and that global warming was to blame.”
The September 2006 issue of the Journal of Climate does contain a paper about Himalayan Glaciers, but Taylor’s quote is a fabrication. What the paper actually says is:
The observed downward trend in summer temperature and runoff is consistent with the observed thickening and expansion of Karakoram glaciers, in contrast to widespread decay and retreat in the eastern Himalayas. This suggests that the western Himalayas are showing a different response to global warming than other parts of the globe.
So the glaciers feeding just one of the seven major rivers that flow from the Himalayas are expanding, but the rest are shrinking and global warming is to blame, just as Gore said. The IPCC WG2 recently concluded:
Glacier melt in the Himalayas is projected to increase flooding, rock avalanches from destabilised slopes, and affect water resources within the next two to three decades. This will be followed by decreased river flows as the glaciers recede.
So the scientists, even including the paper Taylor misrepresented agree with Gore.
Taylor then has:
Gore claims the snowcap atop Africa’s Mt. Kilimanjaro is shrinking and that global warming is to blame. Yet according to the November 23, 2003, issue of Nature magazine, “Although it’s tempting to blame the ice loss on global warming, researchers think that deforestation of the mountain’s foothills is the more likely culprit. Without the forests’ humidity, previously moisture-laden winds blew dry. No longer replenished with water, the ice is evaporating in the strong equatorial sunshine.”
But ice sheet expert Eric Steig points out:
The Heartland Institute’s propagation of the notion that the Kilimanjaro glacier retreat has been proved to be due to deforestation is even more egregious. They quote “an article published in Nature” by Betsy Mason (“African ice under wraps,” Nature, 24 November, 2003) which contains the statement “Although it’s tempting to blame the ice loss on global warming, researchers think that deforestation of the mountain’s foothills is the more likely culprit.” Elsewhere, Heartland refers to this as a “study.” The “study” is in reality no scientific study at all, but a news piece devoted almost entirely to Euan Nesbit’s proposal to save the Kilimanjaro glacier by wrapping it in a giant tarp. The article never says who the “experts” are, nor does it quote any scientific studies supporting the claim.
Steig also cautions that the retreat of the Kilimanjaro might not be due to global warming:
Kilimanjaro has attracted special attention not because it is an unusually important indicator of tropical climate change, but because it is well known through the widely read Hemingway short story. If anything, it is the widespread retreat of the whole population of tropical glaciers that provides the most telling story. Perhaps one can regard the Kilimanjaro glaciers as a kind of “poster child” standing in for this whole population. It is not yet clear whether this photogenic and charismatic poster child is a good choice for the role.
(See also this post from Mark Hoofnagle.)
Next Taylor has:
Gore claims global warming is causing more tornadoes. Yet the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated in February that there has been no scientific link established between global warming and tornadoes.
Gore did not explicitly claim that global warming causes more tornadoes, but he did imply it. Taylor has found a mistake that Gore has made but he also given the game away. If he cites the IPCC here, why doesn’t he cite the IPCC assessment, which presents the scientific consensus on the other points? The answer is because it supports Gore. The only other time Taylor cit
es the IPCC is here:
And the U.N. Climate Change panel reported in February 2007 that Antarctica is unlikely to lose any ice mass during the remainder of the century.
And that doesn’t fairly summarise what the IPCC reported, which was:
Current global model studies project that the Antarctic Ice Sheet will remain too cold for widespread surface melting and is expected to gain in mass due to increased snowfall. However, net loss of ice mass could occur if dynamical ice discharge dominates the ice sheet mass balance.
But why would Glenn Reynolds pay attention to the scientists when there are non-scientists telling him stuff he wants to believe?