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Archive for March, 2009

Catlin’s Arctic Diary: Who’s Writing It?

2009/03/30 8 comments

Remarkably, the “diary” messages arriving from the Catlin Arctic Survey Team resemble each other, with a single-phrase beginning sentence, a similar length of around 300/330 words, lexical density around 55%, etc etc.

With the experience in one’s blog that entries can be vastly different from one day to the next for the same person when there is no professional oversight to the text, one is left wondering how heavy an editing is being done on the BBC side before the original thoughts by Hadow, Daniels and Hartley are published to the world.

Is that some kind of high-brow “reality show” that we are being fed with?

AGWers Of The World Unite!

2009/03/24 17 comments

Some people are a bit reluctant in making it clear that the AGW efforts are a political attempt at social engineering on a massive scale, perhaps with one idea or two about a World Government.

That’s definitely not the case for Professor Claus Leggewie, Director of the Institute for Scientific Culture for the State of Essen (Germany), and Member of the Scientific Advisory Group for the German Federal Government on all topics Global Environmental Change.

Professor Leggewie writes on the Sueddeutsche Zeitung (Mar 23) in the aptly-titled “Political Economy As Climate Defence” (SZ, 23 March):

The contemporaneous crisis of the Economy and the Environment requires a radical new way of thinking in a global dimension. It necessitates a structural change of great depth and long duration. If [such a change] is not thought and dared today…we will lose the still-feasible move towards a Low-Carbon Economy. […]

It is clear that Leggewie sees the economical crisis as a good chance to avoid the climate crisis. The latter is the goal, the former just a means to force everybody in the “right” direction…

A “Climate Marx” must surely be in the offing…

Is Humanity Abysmally Clueless On Climate?

2009/03/24 3 comments

Setback for climate technical fix

Leaders of the German-Indian expedition said they had gained valuable scientific information, but that their results suggested iron fertilisation could not have a major impact, at least in that region of the oceans.

No further comment should be needed…

Exhibition “Artists React To Climate Change”

2009/03/24 3 comments

A little-known exhibition is undergoing in Kaufbeuren, Bavaria (Germany) until June 14, 2009: “Promenade Among The Degrees – Artists react to Climate Change“.

There is unfortunately not much available on the web. Plenty of photographs on show, apparently, although it is not clear how any of those would represent Climate Change or any consequence of it. More interesting the “Calling the glacier” exhibit, with a phone-like device where one can hear a melting glacier.

Unfortunately Kaufbeuren is not exactly a place one by pure chance can pass by. Perhaps somebody somewhere will publish a few pictures of the exhibition itself.

Another Good Argument About The Greenhouse Venus Hypothesis

2009/03/23 6 comments

From JoNova’s “DeSmog accidentally vindicates The Skeptics Handbook

The next time a warmist yells Venus. Just yell back Mars. Its’ atmosphere is 95% carbon dioxide and yet, oops – it’s not 400 degrees, instead, it’s minus 40. The warmists with half a brain might come back at you with the explanation that Mars’s atmosphere is thin, but that’s just fine. That IS the point really isn’t it? Mars is cold because it’s atmosphere is so thin, and for exactly the opposite reason, that’s why Venus is Hot.

ps Hugs&kisses for linking to Omniclimate, of course! A list of my Venus-related blogs is available at this link.

In The Obama Administration, Two Incompatible Faces On Climate Change

2009/03/22 7 comments

Is Climate Change such a high priority for President Obama as he sometimes claims it to be, and for what reasons exactly?

Apparently, US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu is convinced that “a shift away from fossil fuels is essential to combat global warming“. So for Chu the course of action is to change on Energy in order to deal with Global Warming. In other words _the_ problem is Global Warming, and Energy just a means to solve it.

In truth, though, Chu is (still?) not the person taking “the key decisions on energy and climate change policy“. That is in the hands of a restricted group headed by the “politically savvyCarol Browner, an Al Gore’s “acolyte” and President Obama’s Climate Czar.

Browner believes that climate change is “the greatest challenge ever faced“, so we are back to Chu’s stance.

However, there are still all indications that the President himself takes a different approach, considering Climate Change as just one part of the wider issue of Energy, and not viceversa. For Obama himself, in other words, _the_ problem is how to get a safeguarded and stable supply of Energy, and Climate Change just a politically useful, additional reason to push for it.

As an example to support the above, take the President’s speech at Costa Mesa Town Hall Meeting, last March 18. The one and only mention of climate change is in an undescript part of the full text, and just as a corollary to the Energy problem. It is so tiny, I am underlining the relative sentence to make it stand out:

Because we know that enhancing America’s competitiveness will also require reducing our dependence on foreign oil and building a clean energy economy, this budget will spark the transformation we need to create green jobs and launch renewable energy companies right here in California.  It makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy.

It invests in technologies like wind power and solar power and fuel-efficient cars and trucks powered by batteries like the ones I’ll be seeing in Rosemead tomorrow, all of which will also help combat climate change — because the weather is already nice in Orange County, we don’t want it to get warmer.

Just as interestingly, there is talk about Energy but no Global Warming or Climate Change even when the President makes a list of upcoming challenges

Well, I say our challenges are too large to ignore.  The cost of health care is too high to ignore.  The dependence on oil is too dangerous to ignore.  Our education deficit is too wide to ignore.

What will Czarine Browner think of the above?

Politically, the situation appears to be on the edge of untenable: if they really believe in what they are saying, Gore’s “acolytes” will not be able to accept being simply a “side-show”, subordinate to Energy. And if the President wants to carry forward the “Yes, we can” mantra, there will be no much space left to the doomers and gloomers. As I wrote last November:

Climate Change has been explicitly presented time and again as “THE challenge for the present generation” by the likes of Al Gore. Well, Barack Obama’s “Change” is enough of a generational challenge in itself, much bigger than Climate Change and perfectly capable to outlive it

Darwin 0 – Climate Change 1

2009/03/21 3 comments

Either an episode of censorship, or the reaction to an overeager editor trying to change a magazine’s content at the very last moment, but in any case what should one make of the fact that in Turkey as in many other places in the world, it is easier to talk Climate Change than Darwin?

Left: the rejected cover for "Science and Technology". Right: Global Climate Change

Left: the rejected cover for "Science and Technology". Right: Global Climate Change

Whose side is Science’s, one wonders?

Stop Press! West Antartica Is Melting!!

2009/03/20 6 comments

Or maybe, not yet…

In warmer past and likely future, West Antarctica melted regularly, raising seas tremendously“: yes, but the “likely future […] will be hundreds if not a thousand years from now“.

From a “news” viewpoint, this is definitely one for the record books. Printed just a few centuries earlier than usual…

Upcoming breaking news: will the USA strengthen itself after the economic crisis of AD 6358? What to do to prepare for the influx of refugees in the Siberian wars of the 86th century? And will the Chicago Cubs win the World Series of AD 11,908, for the first time in a 10,000 years?

(yes some things will never change)

Science Vs. Science-Based Fantasy Embroidery

2009/03/16 4 comments

Andy Revkin’s increasingly more interesting “Dot Earth” blog quotes “Yadvinder Malhi, an Oxford University biologist who is focused on the Amazon and climate” questioning the Amazon-is-doomed “findings presented at the meeting” and decrying “the resulting media coverage“:

(Mahli) I must say I find it frustrating that the gloomiest take on news gets such a big profile. This is based on one model, and that model has flaws, especially its temperature sensitivity that seems too great (David Galbraith’s work), and its rainfall that seems to low

Revkin and Mahli should be not surprised a bit, as the embroidery of fact-based hypotheses (if not outright fantasies) and their presentation as “the latest science” is a popular endeavor (=gets the biggest profile) and not just in climate circles. For example, here’s the decrying of the equivalent behavior, about Pompeii:

Beard, a classics professor at Cambridge University, takes cheeky, undisguised delight in puncturing the many fantasies and misconceptions that have grown up around Pompeii — sown over the years by archaeologists and classicists no less than Victorian novelists and makers of “sword and sandal” film extravaganzas.

While many scholars build careers through increasingly elaborate reconstructions of the ancient world, Beard consistently stresses the limits of our knowledge, the precariousness of our constructs and the ambiguity or contradiction inherent in many of our sources. “There is hardly a shred of evidence for any of it” serves as her battle cry, and it’s a noble one.

Gallup Poll To AGW Believers: Get Real!

2009/03/16 2 comments

The latest Gallup survey on environmental issues in America has been greeted on Climate Progress with a blog entry and set of comments bordering on the absurd.

It’s like seeing people hit a hard wall with their heads, then recover, talk about themselves on a way to get to the other part of the wall, only to finally hit the same wall again, and the same way!

Dear Joe Romm: how long have you been thundering about global warming? How many times have you divided the world in intelligent progressives and retarded conservatives? How many WWII comparison have you made, how many times have you mentioned Hitler and/or denialism, and how often have words of doom and forecastings of disaster appeared in your blog?

If numbers are what they appear to be; and if after all these years and efforts you appear not ot be part of the solution: what, then, are you part of?

By all means, keep proceeding down the same old route, if you so wish. But don’t be surprised if you find yourself in the situation of that joke: where a guy driving on a motorway hears on the radio that one madman’s car is going against the flow of traffic, and then thinks: “One? There are literally hundreds of them!”

Blatantly Misleading Copenhagen Report From The BBC

2009/03/15 17 comments

This complaint has just been sent to the BBC:

I am looking hard for reasons to believe that your “Climate scenarios ‘being realised‘” article has not been written with the intent of misleading the average reader.

There is no indication whatsoever that the “six key messages” from the Copenhagen conference have not been unanimously endorsed by all 2,500 delegates. You could check that with Mike Hulme, no less, who has explicitly stated that

The six key messages are not the collective voice of 2,500 researchers, nor are they the voice of established bodies such as the World Meteorological Organisation. Neither are they the messages arising from a collective endeavour of experts, for example through a considered process of screening, synthesizing and reviewing of the knowledge presented in Copenhagen this week. They are instead a set of messages drafted largely before the conference started by the organizing committee, sifting through research that they see emerging around the world and interpreting it for a political audience

Coming from a supposedly impartial news source such as the BBC, your blatantly misleading report is all the more striking, given the fact that the even the original press release makes the situation very clear with an ALL CAPS disclaimer:

DISCLAIMER: THIS PRESS RELEASE IS WRITTEN BY THE CLIMATE SECRETARIAT AT THE UNIVERSITY OF COPENHAGEN. THE PEOPLE QUOTED DOES [sic] NOT NECESSARILY SHARE THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED BY OTHERS IN THIS TEXT.

Please amend the text of your article accordingly. I do not want to believe that the BBC is trying to be “more warmist than the warmers”. thanks – maurizio

The Good And The Bad Reporting About Rising Sea Levels

2009/03/13 3 comments

Good: “How high is the sea rising?” (March 12, in German, Sueddeutsche Zeitung), where journalist Axel Bojanowski illustrates the not-so-worrying, middle-of-the-road and worst scenarios (respectively, with a rise in sea levels by 2100 of 18-30cm, 95cm and 2m). Tellingly, Bojanowski writes: “The problem is, all scenarios are based on good arguments”.

Bad: “Sea rise ‘to exceed projections’” (March 10, in English, BBC News), where journalist David Shukman goes for big scary numbers (a metre or more by 2100, 600million people potentially affected) and a collection of adjectives in comparative form (higher, faster, hotter). There is no indication whatsoever about any scientist convinced of lower estimates.

Bad: “Copenhagen summit urges immediate action on climate change” (March 12, Nature News), where journalist Olive Heffeman reports that “sea levels could rise as much as 1 metre by 2100” and forgets to mention any scientist thinking otherwise.

What makes one of them good, and two bad? Well, if you cannot spot the difference between presenting the scientific debate as it is, and  selecting only the stuff that a journalist deems worth noticing, I am not sure I would be able to help.

Scientific Results As Data Interpretations

2009/03/10 3 comments

A must-read for anybody involved in disputes about “what Science says”, from today’s e-mail newsletter by The Scientist:

The Problem of Perception – by Steven Wiley

There is a common perception among young students that the surest path to resolving scientific controversies is to design a clever experiment, one that will definitively resolve conflicting hypotheses. However, I have found that most scientific controversies do not revolve around specific experimental data, but instead are disputes over data interpretation. Data interpretations depend on a scientist’s underlying assumptions and worldview. […]

we were working from a computational model of endocytosis that allowed us to try out different sets of assumptions and see how they would affect the system’s behavior. The other group felt that our computer model was a poor substitute for their own scientific intuition regarding what was happening. […]

Interestingly, our view was vindicated not because people came to accept our use of computational modeling, but because our hypothesis was more successful in predicting subsequent experimental results. Scientists don’t generally care about who is right or who is wrong in a dispute. They want a conclusion that can help predict their own experimental outcomes. Science is built brick by brick from ideas and concepts that can lead to the next successful series of experiments and concepts. If an idea doesn’t support the next brick, it is discarded. It’s natural selection in science.

Scientific disputes seem inevitable in any career, but mine gave me a keen appreciation of the need for caution in accepting simple interpretations of the behavior of complex systems. In science, we do not gather facts. We make observations. Our interpretation of observations is only as good as our assumptions and conceptual frameworks. […]

The above explains how AGW could become such a consensual paradigm for an intellighentsia that has lost all hopes. It is also relevant to the discussion about the use of computer models and the extreme importance of their predicting powers. And finally it states loud and clear how pointless it is to pretend that there is nothing subjective in Science, and especially in the study of complex systems.

One For The BBC

2009/03/09 1 comment

Nowhere fast, but sometimes at the BBC they do understand when they get it wrong…

On the Science & Environment home page:

  • Yesterday: Arctic diary – The team has a dramatic night on melting Arctic ice
  • Today: Arctic diary – The team has a dramatic night on shifting Arctic ice

Somebody somewhere somehow must have realized that polynias existed long before anybody thought of anthropogenic global warmng…

The Pop Psychology Of Climate Change

2009/03/04 11 comments

This is how it might have all started:

  1. Over the years since Illuminism and the Industrial Revolution, lots of very intelligent people with a penchant for control freakery got convinced the world was going to the dogs, due to intrinsic faults in the way humans organized their societies
  2. They thought the only solution was their own particular form of egalitarianism/socialism/communism
  3. Eventually, they all found a discharge valve for their ongoing frustrations in the existence of actual Socialist states, “Workers Paradise” and the likes
  4. Sadly for them, but happily for many people, that all collapsed around 1989 (with the tearing down of the Berlin Wall) and then 1991/1992 (with the disappearance of the USSR)
  5. But then, in their established mindset, if there is no hope for Socialism then there is no hope for humanity itself
  6. This means that for lots of very intelligent people etc etc, the world is effectively going to the dogs, or better yet to the cockroaches. But how?
  7. Cue “anthropogenic global warming” (AGW) as the “perfect storm”, including the world going to burn to cinders and people and societies too selfish to recognize their guilt
  8. This makes “global warming” a particularly leftist ideology, no matter what the science behind it actually says (and doesn’t)
  9. Some people (for obvious reasons, mostly not of a Leftist disposition) actually recognize the situation for what it is (AGW as a political attempt at reorganizing human society around the communal good as established by whomever is in charge, dressed up as a purely scientific theory even if cracks continuously need to be tapered up (see the “scientific group” called the IPCC getting the one and only political Nobel Prize, Peace’s).
  10. Those people dare express their skepticism.
  11. But if you are convinced the world is going to the dogs because of human and societal faults, therefore those skeptics are ipso facto the very representation of human and societal faults.
  12. Hence the skeptics “have” to be silenced, summarily dismissed, marginalized, described as figures of fun or evil or both

Is there any way out? Yes there is. All we need for the AGW brouhaha to get out of the way, allowing climatology to be more science than politics for the first time in 15 years or more, is for something else to keep busy those mostly Leftists with good intentions on making everybody’s life as awful as possible but in a “Workers Paradise”.

Where is a big financial crisis when one sorely needs it? 😎

Al Gore vs. The Aristotelian Method – or The Moral Irrationality Of Climate Scaremongering

2009/03/04 13 comments

The following is my translation of a talk given by Prof Luigi Mariani of the Agrometeorological Research Group, Dept. of Crop Science, University of Milan after a public screening of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”, on 23 January in Comano, Italy.

The original text in Italian is available at this link: “Verità, mezze verità e menzogne – Un commento al documentario ‘Una verità scomoda’

Al Gore vs. The Aristotelian Method – or The Moral Irrationality Of Climate Scaremongering
by Luigi Mariani

Overall remarks
As a complete non-expert in the field of documentary movies, my opinion is that Gore is a natural born actor and “An Inconvenient Truth” (AIT, directed by David Guggenheim) such a well-paced work, that it is hard not to feel the involvement.

It places itself half-way between American Graffiti and the classical tale of the romantic hero, seasoned with a moral vision calling at times for a collective sense of responsibility for humankind. It is also full of slogans that sound great. All in all, AIT is a veritable testimony of faith in the theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW).

AGW is based on the theory that greenhouse gases are the key factor for climatic variability. In particular, according the AGW the rise in temperatures recorded in the past 150 years (after the end of the Little Ice Age) is caused by human emissions into the atmosphere, especially of carbon dioxide. One of the best known champions for AGW is the United Nations’ International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Composed of scientists and government representatives, the IPCC supports a human cause for increased temperatures on the basis both of past climates’ reconstructions and of “forecasts” for up to 100 years in the future, made with mathematical models (Global Circulation Models – GCM). What is less widely known is that the IPCC’s is not the only way to take a look at climate (Mariani, 2008). With those premises, let’s analyze Gore’s documentary according to the three Aristotelian techniques (Wollf, 1995), ie logic, dialectic and rhetoric.

Logic (one may say, science) is the rational process reaching “true” conclusions starting from “true” statements and using demonstrations. Dialectic seeks the “truth” starting from conflicting ideas. Rhetoric is the art of persuading an audience of the “truth” an idea. My personal assessment for AIT is as follows: 10% science, 0% dialectic and 90% rhetoric. In other words, it is a well-polished work of propagandistic fiction.

Of science there is not a lot, because Gore is not a scientist and knows simply too little about Atmospheric Physics (even with Keeling in the background, the absence of any experience in actual scientific research is apparent). The sheer number of contradictions in Gore’s charts vs. words makes that all too evident. The graph showing CO2 concentrations over the last 650,000 years (in red) alongside temperatures (in blue) clearly indicates increased CO2 is an effect of warming and not a cause. Temperatures in Switzerland definitely increase but only from 1989: why would the greenhouse effect of CO2 show up only from that date, one wonders? Is there something else, perhaps, underneath Gore’s neat explanations?

I am really impressed by Gore’s light-mindedness in navigating among contradictory data. If he delivered the same ideas around the world in hundreds of speeches, how on Earth can it be possible that not even one person in the attendance has ever made Gore confront his own contradictions? Had he spent at least part of his precious time reading scientific literature or at least opening himself to a frank and open discussion with anybody aware of the complexities of climate science, I am sure he would have presented things in a different way.

Also note how many times Gore pushes on the ethics button, whilst anybody with a different mind on these topic is basically a person of lowly morals (a “skeptic”, a well-paid mouthpiece for Big Oil, etc). That’s why there is no dialectic at all.

What openness to dialogue could be expected from someone convinced of being the depository of an absolute truth? And what science can be done if there is no space for dialectic, and rhetorics is instead sprinkled away freely throughout AIT, even with the empathetic use of a series of private events (such as the emotional life stories of the son and the sister of Gore, and a retelling of his misadventures during the 2000 election?).

Scientific remarks
With not even an inch of dialectic lightening up AIT’s heavy chains of rhetoric, focusing on the scientific elements of the Gore-Guggenheim documentary becomes more important than ever. In this regard please note that all my comments below are based on data and bibliographical references from the scientific literature to date (January 2009). You may notice how this constrasts with Gore’s assertion that an analysis of over 928 scientific papers in international journals showed exactly 0% of them in disagreement with AGW. It should go without saying that most scientific work concerns limited areas of research. This is the way of science as there has to be a suspension of disbelief in respect of matters that are not covered by the available data. That alone explains why many scientists in their peer-reviewed articles express no actual opinion regarding the whole-planet interdisciplinary topic of research called climate science. And yet their silence is taken as consent.

Still, it is not really that difficult to find peer-reviewed scientific articles critical of AGW, focusing instead on the importance of solar activity (Shaviv, 2005), the role of land use (Pielke et al., 2007) and even the sensitivity of climate to changes in the underlying forcings (Lindzen and Giannitsis, 2002), to mention a few.

Point-by-point rebuttal
Let’s check Gore’s statements against current scientific understanding.

1. The ice cream shown in the cartoon melts not due to global but of urban warming effect (Mariani, 2008). If global temperatures have risen by 0.5C in a century, in a city like Milan they have increased by 2.5C, especially in the minima (at night, during the summer heatwaves, our cities are definitely less comfortable than in the past). So what’d be wrong in fighting urban warming? Is anybody afraid of interfering with “bricks”, since those make up the foundations of our economy?

2. In another animation, greenhouse gases trap the rays of the sun. Now, even if one should not be too picky in adapting science knowledge to the masses, still one should steer clear of anything capable mostly of entrenching further ignorance. The so-called “greenhouse effect” is due to components of atmosphere intercepting longwave radiation emitted from the planetary surface, and partly irradiating it back towards the ground. This is a phenomenon essential for life, contributions to which come from water vapor (55%), clouds (24%) and CO2 (14%) (Mariani, 2008). Considering CO2 alone (Mihre, 1998) and translating its increase in concentration into a rise in temperatures using the Stefan Boltzmann equation, the expected “global warming” will be less than 0.5C between today and the time when CO2 concentration will be double the pre-industrial levels. AGW mathematical models estimate a larger increase on the (unproven) assumption that CO2 increases correspond to great increases in water vapor and decreases in low clouds (and/or increases in high clouds).

3. Gore at one point says that we must get rid of “evil” greenhouse gases. Everybody must be made aware of the fact that CO2 is not a poison, rather it is a major foundation for life itself. Without CO2, there would be no photosynthesis and we would not have much if anything to eat. Vascular plants appeared during the Devonian era, with CO2 levels 20 to 30 times higher than current ones, and yet temperatures were not much different than today’s (Hetherington et al. 2005). And if there was no man at the time to call CO2 as a “cancer on the planet”, could anybody please explain on what grounds Devonian air was the way it was?

4. Gore indicates the melting of the Kilimanjaro glaciers as an unequivocal sign of AGW. However, according to Kaser et al. (2004) ice started declining on the tallest African mountain around 1880, probably because of land use changes (the destruction of forested areas) and a consequent change in available humidity and rainfall patterns.

5. Gore speaks of unprecedented melting of Arctic and Alpine glaciers as a symptom of Global Warming. What should be noted though is that an even more massive melting of Alpine glaciers took place between 7500 and 5500 years ago, during the so-called “postglacial optimum”, and then 1000 years ago, coinciding with the “medieval optimum” (Mariani, 2006). Many current glaciers originated during the “little ice age” period between 1500 and 1850 (Giraudi, 2005).

6. Gore argues that to allow CO2 to increase is deeply immoral. It would be interesting to ask for an opinion on such a claim by a plant of wheat, or a vine.

7. Gore argues that the European heatwave of 2003 is a perfidious effect of AGW and that it is the alarm bell for phenomena increasingly more common in the future. Chase et al (2006) have analyzed the frequency and persistence of major subtropical anticyclonic fronts of the kind that lingered on for much of the the summer in 2003. Their analysis covered 1979-2006 and a latitudinal band between 22° and 80° North. According to their findings similar or greater anomalies than 2003’s happen regularly and there is no significant trend in the annually affected area. What was different in 2003 was the structure of European urban areas, with high-rise buildings of stone and mortar, and very little, often not even properly irrigated green areas (Leroy Ladurie, 2004).

8. Gore mentions Hurricane Katrina as evidence that we are facing an increase in the destructiveness of hurricanes. However, U.S. statistics for 1900-2005 indicate a substantial lack of any trend (Pielke et al., 2008).

9. Gore says that AGW leads to an increase in rainfall and cites as unprecedented example the 930mm that fell upon Mumbai in just 24 hours. This assertion is false as a number of precedents have been recorded for decades (Cati, 1981). Among the highest global pluviometric records during the space of 24 hours: 1168mm in Beguio (Philippines, 14-15 July 1911); 1036mm in Cherrapungi (India, 14 June 1876); 1034mm in Funkiko (Taiwan, 31 August 1911); 975 mm in Thrall (Texas, 9 September 1921); 940 mm in Suva (Fiji, 9 August 1906). In Italy alone: 948 mm in Bolzaneto (Genoa, 7-8 October 1970); 750mm at the Reschenpass (9 October 1936) and 702 mm in Lentini (17 October 1952).

10. Gore talks of unprecedented cases of drowned polar bears. It is just very inconvenient for him to mention that Arctic temperatures reached similar values to present ones in the 1930s, and were higher in at least four occasions since the end of last ice age (Figure 1). If Polar bears survived then, perhaps they are capable of adapting themselves to periods of mild climate

11. Gore fears the spread of tropical diseases like malaria. Would anybody please remind him that in the middle of the “little ice age”, Oliver Cromwell died of malaria in London in 1658, killed by a disease that was endemic in the Thames region (Lamb, 1966). What is keeping Londoners healthy today, temperatures notwithstanding, are health policy measures (Reiter, 2008).

12. Gore talks of an increase in the level of the oceans. In truth, oceans have gone up by 1mm/year between 1900-1951, then decreased by approximately the same yearly amount up to 1980, and are now rising again, still by about 1mm per year (Mornera et al., 2004; Mornera, 2007). That translates in 10 cm in a century, far less than needed for submerging entire regions (such as the Netherlands or Florida, shown in what is a veritable moment of fiction during AIT). Note that even with CO2 levels significantly lower than current ones, abnormally high sea levels happened 125,000 years ago, with up to +6 meters compared to today (IPCC, 2007); 7000 years ago, up to +2 meters (Törnqvist et al., 2004) and 1000 years ago, up to +0.5 meters (Froede, 2002).

13. Gore raises concerns about floods, droughts and storms: computerized GCMs present those scenarios, something in my opinion still all to be proven. However, even taking them as true, don’t they also show temperatures rising more at the Poles than in the tropical regions? And doesn’t that translate into a contraction of the pole-equator thermal gradient, the main trigger of general circulation and energy source for the smaller circulatory structures that make up the weather? One would then expect a reduction in extremes, not an increase.

14. Just to be clear, the father of the theory of continental drift was Alfred Wegener (1880-1930), a meteorologist and a disciple of Koeppen, a great climatologist), not any one of Gore’s classmates. Wegener’s own story (expelled from his University post in Germany as an advocate of a theory considered heresy by most of the “scientific community” in his days) is a clear example of the importance of a free, unimpeded scientific debate for the advancement of knowledge, rather than ever more clumsy attempts at silencing whoever does not follow “scientific consensus”

15. Gore cites Mark Twain “Danger comes not from what we know not, but from what we believe to be true but it is not”. A formidably true sentence if there’s ever been one, and even more so concerning AGW, a field about which there still is so much room for uncertainty, in my opinion. Having read Mark Twain (see for example his story “How the Animals of the Wood Sent Out a Scientific Expedition“) I can imagine how little trust would he put into a “dominant scientific theory” such as AGW.

Last but not least, global warming as such has stopped in 1998 (warmest year ever, with a very strong El Nino phenomenon). Global temperature data similar to 2008’s happened in 1996 (see the satellite MSU data in Figure 2).

Discussion and conclusions
Regarding such a complex system as climate, no serious scientist can claim absolute certainty. Doubt is inevitable, actually functional for the growth of knowledge. Perhaps that is why Guggenheim’s documentary is led by Al Gore, a politician mandated to hide all doubts and trained from an early age into rhetoric as a tool to convince the masses. That is the exact opposite of scientists, trained instead to be wary of any truth and to criticize and verify existing “dominant” theories. Modern science sprung also from the ideas and experiences of Copernicus and Galileo, as recently reiterated by Claude Allègre in a beautiful article published by Le Monde in October 2006 (C. Allègre, 2006). The history of science is like a graveyard of once-popular theories, now outdated, and that more often than not have allowed an increase in the understanding of the world exactly by being proven erroneous.

Let me finish then with the following question: is there an ethical aspect in all of the above? Yes, there is, but not in the sense claimed by Gore and repeatedly reaffirmed by his followers.

When all efforts are concentrated into a single all-pervasive issue, attention is distracted from the real problems, and solution to any of those prevented. Mental energy dissipated in analyzing false concerns is simply not there to confront real ones. As clear an example as any, the attitude after the 2003 European heatwave: having failed to recognize the importance of urban rather than global warming, no measures will be taken to counteract the real cause. For example in Milan (of which Gore is now honorary citizen, by no coincidence (Tiezzi, 2008)), houses are being allowed to rise up by an additional floor, further preventing cooling at night, which means of course that the city will be even more hot in future heatwaves.

AIT offers no science-based evaluation of what issues are really at stake: it is in fact its exact opposite, more likely part of a neo-Apocalyptic mindset that distorts the scale of importance of our issues and is capable of contributing little or nothing to the solution of actual problems currently facing humanity. And it will open up the field to speculators, including (not by chance) the same Big Oil denounced by Gore as guilty of financing the “non-scientists”’ efforts to deny the “Inconvenient Truth”.

Granting the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize together to a politician (Al Gore) and a supposedly scientific organization (the IPCC) has simply reinforced the idea that the IPCC itself and AGW in general are heavily constrained by politics. And for this topic, I refer you to Professor John Christy’s “My Nobel Moment” (2007) article on The Wall Street Journal.

Christy has long worked within the IPCC and his insider’s view is definitely useful to enlighten the issue of AGW.

“…I’m sure the majority (but not all) of my IPCC colleagues cringe when I say this, but I see neither the developing catastrophe nor the smoking gun proving that human activity is to blame for most of the warming we see. Rather, I see a reliance on climate models (useful but never “proof”) and the coincidence that changes in carbon dioxide and global temperatures have loose similarity over time.

There are some of us who remain so humbled by the task of measuring and understanding the extraordinarily complex climate system that we are skeptical of our ability to know what it is doing and why. As we build climate data sets from scratch and look into the guts of the climate system, however, we don’t find the alarmist theory matching observations….

…Mother Nature simply operates at a level of complexity that is, at this point, beyond the mastery of mere mortals (such as scientists) and the tools available to us. As my high-school physics teacher admonished us in those we-shall-conquer-the-world-with-a-slide-rule days, “Begin all of your scientific pronouncements with ‘At our present level of ignorance, we think we know . . .’”
I haven’t seen that type of climate humility lately. Rather I see jump-to-conclusions advocates and, unfortunately, some scientists who see in every weather anomaly the specter of a global-warming apocalypse. Explaining each successive phenomenon as a result of human action gives them comfort and an easy answer…

… California and some Northeastern states have decided to force their residents to buy cars that average 43 miles-per-gallon within the next decade. Even if you applied this law to the entire world, the net effect would reduce projected warming by about 0.05 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, an amount so minuscule as to be undetectable. Global temperatures vary more than that from day to day.

Suppose you are very serious about making a dent in carbon emissions and could replace about 10% of the world’s energy sources with non-CO2-emitting nuclear power by 2020 — roughly equivalent to halving U.S. emissions. Based on IPCC-like projections, the required 1,000 new nuclear power plants would slow the warming by about 0.2176 degrees Fahrenheit per century. It’s a dent.
But what is the economic and human price, and what is it worth given the scientific uncertainty?

My experience as a missionary teacher in Africa opened my eyes to this simple fact: Without access to energy, life is brutal and short. The uncertain impacts of global warming far in the future must be weighed against disasters at our doorsteps today. Bjorn Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus 2004, a cost-benefit analysis of health issues by leading economists (including three Nobelists), calculated that spending on health issues such as micronutrients for children, HIV/AIDS and water purification has benefits 50 to 200 times those of attempting to marginally limit “global warming.”

Given the scientific uncertainty and our relative impotence regarding climate change, the moral imperative here seems clear to me.

Christy’s article’s moral stance is incomparably superior to Gore’s rhetoric-filled documentary. Who in their right mind would ever argue against the necessity of consistently pursuing health policies, water resource management, energy sources’ differentiation, and food security starting from a rational assessment based on available data, instead of Gore’s neo-Apocalyptic grandstanding?

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Figure 1 – Central Greenland temperatures from the end of last ice age to present (Alley, 2000). Four large warm episodes are noticeable: medieval optimum (1), Roman warm period (2), Mycenean warm period (3) and postglacial optimum (4). Last 90 years of data extracted from the GISP2 set by Cuffey and Clow (1997).
Figure 01

Figura 2 – Global temperature measured with the UAH MSU sensors (source: University of Alabama in Huntsville – http://mclean.ch/climate/Tropos_temps.htm)

Figure 02

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