Facts and Fictions of Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth"
After Ponder the Maunder was first published, I received many emails from parents whose kids were required to watch Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth.” They were worried because Al Gore was a politician, an occupation that people just don’t trust.
I’ve watched his movie many times and researched most of his claims. The following essay is a summary of what I learned. I hope it helps.
Facts and Fictions of Al Gore’s
"An Inconvenient Truth"
By Kristen Byrnes
in a state of general retreat since 1850 (Mayewski & Jeschke 1979).
In this section he also claims that 40% of the worlds population gets half of their water from streams and rivers that are fed by glaciers. This is an easily confused claim. Rivers that are fed by the Himalayas get most of their run-off from the spring snowmelt. They also have many dams that ensure that water will be available during dry months.
Glaciers and firn fields have retreated continuously.
Second, they do not include solar activity, which is at an 11,000 year high. The graph below (Solanki 2006) shows solar activity for the past 12,000 years. In this graph you can see that there was an increase in solar activity during the same warming periods listed above.
What Al Gore did not mention, and what is very well known throughout the scientific community, is that higher resolution studies of the same ice cores revealed that the temperature changes came first then were followed by changes in CO2. (Mudelsee, 2001; Clark, 2003; Vakulenko et al., 2004)
When you consider the effects of the 11,000 year solar high and the very positive phase in the ENSO in the past 30 years, you should start to see the real trend and exactly why temperatures changed the way they have in the past 30 years. And before anyone tries to say ENSO conditions are related to global warming or CO2, the NOAA says no it does not. Also, the only person I am aware of who predicted ENSO events several years in advance used a model of solar changes with a hit rate of almost 90%. Al Gore never puts into consideration El Nino’s or solar variation as a part of global warming which is one of his most crucial mistakes.
According to the NOAA,“The primary explanation for the decline in hurricane frequency during El Niño years is due to the increased wind shear in the environment.”
“In El Niño years, the wind patterns are aligned in such a way that the vertical wind shear is increased over the Caribbean and Atlantic. The increased wind shear helps to prevent tropical disturbances from developing into hurricanes. In the eastern Pacific, the wind patterns are altered in such a way to reduce the wind shear in the atmosphere, contributing to more storms.”
The graph that Al uses to show the number of days that trucks can drive on the permafrost correlates with the ENSO phase shift explained above.
On the same point Al uses records from nuclear submarines that measured ice thickness, once again the ice begins to thin at the same time that the ENSO phase shift began.
The graph below is temperatures in Alaska for the since 1950. Note how
temperatures changed in 1976.
Al then speaks about how invasive species are coming into new areas and competing with native species. We have a similar problem here in Maine. Our lobster and crab industry is very important to our economy. We have two invasive species of crab, the European Green Crab and Asian Crab. But these crabs did not come here by walking across a global warming ocean bottom. They were brought here when they attached themselves to the bottom of boats hundreds of years ago. The same thing is happening to species all over the world; humans are moving them.
But in the process, she and hundreds of others have unknowingly created the perfect breeding ground for the Anopheles mosquito — a hot zone of infection.”
Bats – Most bats eat fruit or insects but a few species suck blood and spread diseases such as rabies. These bats are coming into contact with people due to deforestation and because humans are moving into areas where bats live.
Fleas—Are the only vectors that can spread due to global warming because they prefer warm, moist climate. The disease that it spreads, bubonic plague, is not on the rise. According to the CDC “in the United States, the last urban plague epidemic occurred in Los Angeles in 1924-25. Since then, human plague in the United States has occurred as mostly scattered cases in rural areas (an average of 10 to 15 persons each year).”
Lice- Al Gore’s claim that global warming causes the spread lice is a joke, because what actually spreads lice is contact with a person who is infested with the parasite.
Algae- (harmful algal blooms, HAB) According to the NOAA there has been an increase in harmful algal blooms in the oceans off of North America. NOAA says the cause of these blooms is unknown. Harmful algae produce toxins such as domonic acid; these toxins accumulate in shellfish that are eaten by humans. When people eat these infected shellfish, they usually experience mild side effects, but in extreme cases people have died.
Snails – Can spread several diseases, one such family of diseases is related to “rat lung” or “roundworm.” This disease is spread back and forth when rats and snails eat each other’s feces. There is one confirmed case in the United States that happened when a boy ate a snail “on a dare”. The boy suffered flue-like symptoms for about two weeks.
This family of parasites is more common in Asia and the Pacific Islands and usually is contracted when people eat undercooked snails, but also undercooked crabs and freshwater shrimp.
Katayama’s Fever is another disease spread by snails in tropical countries. Some locals call this infection “swimmer’s itch,” you may have seen movies where people in the jungle were told not to urinate while swimming, because “the bugs will swim up your ding-dong.” Katayama’s Fever usually results in severe urinary tract infections, but some forms of the disease enter the nerves system where they lay eggs in the brain. While this disease has a low mortality rate, life for the infected human host is usually extremely uncomfortable. There are many species of snails all over the world, I have found several articles on the Internet about snails and global warming and they all talk about global warming killing snails, not spreading them. Nevertheless, if you do not want a disease spread by snails, then be careful of what you eat and what you do when you swim at the local waterhole.
In what was another laughable scare tactic, Gore noted global warming worsens various diseases. Below is a list of each disease, their causes and some tips on prevention.
· West Nile Virus – Al gore showed a map of the United States, and how quickly the West Nile Virus spread across the country. Mosquitoes first brought the West Nile Virus to the United States aboard airliners that were not treated with insecticides. Once in the United States the disease spread quickly by native birds and mosquitoes that are plentiful in the United States.
· Dengue fever- A disease spread by mosquitoes, and was a serious problem until the 1950’s. Between 1950 and 1970 a worldwide eradication program significantly reduced the disease by killing the mosquitoes until the use of DDT was stopped in the 1970’s. Dengue fever has been on the rise ever since, and again is becoming a serous problem worldwide.
· Ebola virus - Contracted by eating or coming into contact with infected monkeys. Avoid local delicacies when traveling abroad.
Planet Ark : FEATURE-Monkey brains off the menu in central Africa
· Aona virus- Contracted by inhaling dust particles related to the feces of rodents.
· Hanta virus- Contracted by coming into contact with mice droppings.
Mousetraps, pet cats and precautions when camping.
· Pulmonary Syndrome- The only listing I could find was for Hanta Virus Pulmonary Syndrome so I guess Al was slightly repetitive.
· SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome)- A respiratory/ gastrointestinal virus that spreads like the common cold. In 2003 the outbreak began in Asia when two lab workers contracted the disease after handling laboratory urine and stool samples. Eight people in the United Stated were infected with this virus after traveling to other countries where there was an outbreak of the virus. There are no known cases of the disease in the world at this time.
CDC Fact Sheet: Basic Information About SARS
· Multi Drug Resistant Tuberculosis- Caused by inadequate treatment or improper use of the anti-tuberculosis medications.
If you get TB, do what your doctor tells you to do.
· E. Coli- Caused by poor food handling and eating uncooked meat.
The best prevention is education and practice of safe food handling and cooking as suggested by public health professionals.
· Lyme Disease- Spread to humans by ticks. More people are becoming infected because more people are moving into the wooded areas where ticks live. Lyme Disease is also common among hikers and people who spend time in the outdoors, especially those people who do not take the proper precautions. If you live in a wooded area or spend a lot of time in the outdoors, take precautions and educate yourself about the symptoms of Lyme Disease.
· Avian Flu- The outbreaks of avian flu that have been recorded have mainly been started in China. Most people in developed countries buy chicken that is packaged and processed, but in China, people usually buy their chickens live and process them at home. This is how avian flu usually gets started; when an outbreak of avian flu is detected the Chinese government quarantines the sick people, then kills millions of chickens in markets and on farms. Avian flu is also spreading around the world by birds and has nothing to do with climate.
Al brought up the coral bleaching issue, an issue that is often cited in global warming debates. Coral has an interesting relationship with algae that is required for coral to survive. Coral does not actually bleach, the colorful algae dies causing the coral to die.
Researching the coral bleaching was interesting. When reading reputable sites, I noticed that coral bleaching due to global warming normally followed words such as “maybe,” “possibly,” “potentially,” “could be” and “might be.”
Now let’s see what was actually observed.
“Coral bleaching events worldwide have been attributed to sea surface temperatures (SSTs) rising and staying as little as 1°C higher than the usual average monthly maximum SST during the hottest months of the year (Goreau and Hayes 1994). In Jamaica, significant coral bleaching and death occur when SSTs remain at 29.3°C or higher for one month (Hoegh-Guldberg 1999).” NOAA
“Until the 1980’s, the only coral bleaching event recorded was due to flooding from Hurricane Flora that resulted in a large drop in salinity that bleached and killed many corals in Jamaica (Goreau 1964).” NOAA
“Mass coral bleaching was first recognized on the Pacific coast of Panama following the 1982-83 El Nino event (Glynn 1984). The warm SSTs associated with the El Nino event were identified as the cause of death of over 99% of corals and the complete loss of reef structures in the Galapagos Islands and the death of over 50% of corals in Panama (Glynn and D’Croz 1990; Glynn 1993).” NOAA
“The 1997-98 El Nino event is the strongest on record to date, resulting in unprecedented coral bleaching and death across the globe (Wilkinson et al. 1999).” http://www.coral.noaa.gov/cleo/coral_bleaching.shtml
“The frequency and scale of bleaching disturbances has increased dramatically since the late 70’s. This is possibly due to more observers and a greater interest in reporting in recent years.” Buscheim
I also found that bleaching is related to predation by Acanthasters (sea stars). “Like most sea stars Acanthasters are carnivorous. Their feeding mechanism is almost notorious; averting their stomach outside the body over "poor, defenseless" living coral polyps, doing the old extra-cellular digestion right then and there. Oftentimes Crown of Thorns population explosions/"infestations" are attributed to human removal of predators, most notably the Giant Triton Charonia tritonis L. 1758, as well as "Cod" and some large Groupers. There are stop-gap measures in place in several countries restricting the taking of these controlling influences.”
Next, Al talks about the “second canary in the coal mine;” Antarctica. He points to the break up of large ice shelves on West Antarctica. He also warns that if the ice on West Antarctica and Greenland melted there would be sea level rise that would flood many areas of the world. I have already discussed how ice around Greenland is melting near the ocean. This is because of the warm ocean water, but that water evaporates faster and precipitates faster on the center of Greenland and is causing the snow pack in the center of Greenland to increase. But what about West Antarctica? Can you guess why Al only talked about West Antarctica and not East Antarctica? Maybe because West Antarctica is melting and East Antarctica is not. Not only is the larger ice sheet on East Antarctica not melting; it is increasing in mass. This may have something to do with the Antarctic Circumpolar Current that moves water of different temperatures around Antarctica.
Davis, C. H., et al., 2005. Snowfall-driven growth in East Antarctic ice sheet mitigates recent sea-level rise. Science, 308, 1898-1901.
The next segment discusses how China is developing and using more coal to produce energy. I agree. But I think Al missed a chance to show new technologies such as cleaner burning methanol that is made from coal and natural gas. This fuel can run automobiles and power plants and is produced for about 40 cents per gallon.
Al talks about overpopulation in the next part of the movie. I strongly agree with him on this subject but I do not agree that it is a problem causing global warming but the other way around. Human population has exploded for many reasons; especially better technology and warming climate. Since the climate began to change over 100 years ago, humans have been able to settle more land. Humans have been able to cultivate more crops in high latitudes than when the climate was cooler.
Many of the problems related to vectors and disease are from over population, not global warming.
Many of the problems he stated such as pressure on water supplies, agriculture and energy are a result of overpopulation. It is important to recognize this point because some day we will experience cold climate, whether it is another little ice age or a major glaciation era. What will happen to all of the people in Canada and Russia who will be pushed from their homes and countries by ice sheets that are a mile high? How many people will starve when another Tambora or Yellowstone erupts causing two to three years without a summer? These are not things that might happen, they are things that will happen, and just like Katrina and New Orleans, it is just a matter of time.
Al Gore is also correct in his next segment about how man can have an impact on the Earth’s surface when we use new technology. Diverting rivers is an easy thing for humans to do, just build a dam and a canal. The results of diverting rivers are controversies all over the world because lakes disappear. But what is important here is that Al does not identify the problem. You will not stop malaria or other diseases by reducing atmospheric CO2. But if you spend all of your resources on reducing CO2 then all of the other environmental problems created by man will not be resolved.
After a brief explanation of how Al Gore and his family moved away from the tobacco business, he spoke about scientific consensus. He says that of 928 peer reviewed articles, none of the scientists disagreed that most of global warming is man made or a serious problem. This is one of the rhetorical tools that Al and his friends on one side of the debate never cease to use. This statement is very carefully worded and intended to mislead. To say that scientists disagree is different than saying they agree. Very few scientists will agree that the science is settled and those are usually scientists who have a political bias.
This brings Al to his next point; that opposition to global warming is a fossil fuel industry conspiracy using the same tactics as big tobacco used in the past. He uses the example of Phillip Cooney, a former oil industry lawyer who was changing environmental science documents until exposed by a government scientist. He also used the example of James Hansen, a senior NASA scientist who was urged by his managers not to make alarming public statements. These instances are both true. But what Gore does not talk about are the many senior scientists who are constantly harassed by Al’s very own political allies. Scientists who do not agree with man made global warming constantly complain of everything from funding cuts, calls to decertify them because they disagree and even death threats. The false accusation that they are being paid off by oil companies is the most common form of harassment.
Al closes by discussing the economic benefits of changing over to green power and how it would create many jobs. This is true. But the changes Al says we should make are not going to solve his problem. More efficient appliances and cars will not cut CO2 emissions; they will only reduce the rate of increase. Building more solar stations will only supply future growing populations. Carbon sequestration such as planting trees will only help a little. The only way to reduce atmospheric CO2 would be to have solar panels on the roof of every house and building, windmills in every yard and electric cars in every driveway. It is something we will have to do anyway because someday the fossil fuels will run out. Doing these things will not require the political will that Al says people need to have. People will be more than happy to convert because it will save them the ridiculous amounts of money that people spend on home utilities and gasoline.
It’s easy to see why Al gore’s movie should not be shown in schools. An Inconvenient Truth is a political commercial that misrepresents a whole area of science. He admittedly uses scare tactics to get people to listen then shows them a professional slide show that blames every thing bad on so called man made global warming.
Al did not make and publicize this movie because he cares; something obvious when you consider his own lifestyle. He did not make this movie to run for president. This movie has grossed over 60 million dollars to date and it hasn’t even made it to cable. Al charges over $100,000 per slide show. But the real money that Al will make is through his new company, Generation Investment Management, a company that seeks to establish the rules and licensing for the new carbon-trading scheme. We have all heard of politicians who lie for money and power; it looks as if Al did not retire after all.