I consider myself an environmentalist. I would like to see human beings become better citizens and treat their planet with greater respect. However, as a scientist, I am really deeply despondent about the whole paradigm that has arisen around Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth road show. The reason is simply this: The theory of catastrophic global warming he has publicised so brilliantly is completely unfounded in fact.
The patterns of climate on Earth are directly correlated to Solar activity and the flux of cosmic rays. This has been established in numerous studies. On the other hand, not a single study has produced a correlation between anthropogenic carbon emissions and global temperature. Not one. The fact of the matter is, the data argue against Gore’s hypothesis. We have well described data patterns going back hundreds of thousands of years, and the trends are absolutely clear: Global warming is a fact. And so is global cooling! What we are talking about is cycles in nature that have nothing to do with human activities, and very, very little to do with atmospheric carbon.
A 2007 study at the University of Lund in Sweden revealed that the Earth’s climate see-sawed over the last 10,000 years. But we can go back much further than that—the Greenland Ice Cores show normal cycles every 1,500 years going back hundreds of thousands of years. 800,000 years ago, Greenland really was green, with a climate very similar to that of present day Britain. Then it froze again and the glaciers came back. That’s how nature works.
Climate manipulation through restriction of carbon emissions has become a green, feel-good issue, and in reality it should be nothing of the kind. People opposing carbon legislation are labelled a “lunatic fringe”, despite that they are amongst the most respectable and respected scientists on Earth. We need to ask ourselves why we believe this – why do we believe that AGW is true? Do we believe it because we have seen the data and applied our minds to them? Or do we believe it because of the very clever but scientifically unsubstantiated propaganda of a dormant and restless American politician? It is not science that is telling us that there is Anthropogenic Global Warming, politicians are telling us that. Some scientists, for reasons we can only speculate about, have aligned themselves with politicians. But most have not.
This is one of the few instances in the history of science where opposition to the paradigm is more popular than the paradigm itself. Historically, it is usually a relative minority—the so-called heretics—who oppose dogma held by a majority. This is different. The sheer numbers of scientists against it is overwhelming. A last year, we saw 31,072 scientists, all with science degrees and more than 9,000 with doctorates, sign a petition to voice their disagreement with the idea of AGW. Another group of 650 scientists presented a report to the US Senate Committee on Environment rejecting man-made climate change and warning against the dire socio-economic consequences of carbon legislation.
If we look at published material, the situation is even more damning of the prophets of climatic doom. An analysis of peer-reviewed papers on the subject of global warming in mainstream journals show that less than half—only 38%—endorse AGW even mildly, and if we narrow that down to publications by professional climatologists, fully 95% reject AGW on some grounds!
According to the most cited climatologist in the world, Dr Reid Bryson, the global temperature started to show up as a gentle increase from 1800—before the industrial revolution—but that’s because we were coming out of the mini-ice age, not because we were putting more carbon in the air. To summarise the issue in very simple terms—if it were not for perfectly natural global warming, we would not have come out of the last Ice Age, or any ice age before that. Global warming helped us unfreeze many times in the past, long before humans industrialised and drove motor cars.
Recently NASA had to admit that it had made a rather important mistake. The much-hyped declaration that 1998 was the hottest year in US history was an error—it is in fact 1934 that holds the record. In his movie, Al Gore says, the ten hottest years ever measured occurred in the last 14 years, and the hottest of all was 2005. This is patently false. In recent times, 6 out of the top 10 occurred between 1930 and 1950, and 2005 doesn’t feature anywhere. To add insult to injury, last year’s UN conference on climate concluded that 2008 would be the coolest year of the decade. They were right; the global average for 2008 came in at 14.3 degrees Celsius, 0.14° less than the average for 2001 to 2007.
Another blatant—and unforgivable—untruth concerns the provocative image of a polar bear drowning because it couldn’t find any ice. Gore suggests that global warming is endangering the polar bear population. That is simply not true. Polar bear populations are thriving everywhere they are being studied, and the US Geologic Survey reports record highs with population growths of around 25%. Not a single case has been found of a polar bear drowning in the way Gore suggests, and he was later forced to retract that assertion. But the damage has been done and emotive misinformation remains fixed in people’s minds.
The first thing we need to understand is that we are on a cooling phase at the moment, not a warming phase. The last ten data points show a distinct downward trend. We had a brief period of warming, and we can now expect a roughly equal period of cooling, in the way it has happened for as far back as we can measure.
We see pockets of extremes in the climate, and concentrate on anything hotter than usual. We conveniently ignore the counterbalancing cooling events happening right now on the Earth—we see ice retreating in the Arctic, but what about the ice build-up in the Antarctic? It’s at record levels this year.
It’s simply thermal redistribution. The whole environment works on the principal of counterbalancing hot and cold spots, warm ocean currents and cool ocean currents working marvellously together in nature. There is Yin and Yang in the climate. We’ve just had the coolest summer in living memory in Durban, yet in the Western Cape they’ve been toasted. Parts of Australia are parched but Britain has a freezing winter. There are record snowfalls in the USA. By and large, the last few years have seen the Northern hemisphere warm up on average, while the Southern Hemisphere cools down. Two years ago, we saw record re-freezing in Antarctica—nearly 100,000 square kilometres of ice forming per day! In 2007, the city of Buenos Aires in Argentina had snow for the first time since 1918. In 2008, South America had its coldest winter ever observed.
The oceans tend to smooth this North-South difference, but overall, global sea surface temperatures have dropped over the last ten years or so. The accepted global average temperature statistics used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change show that no ground-based warming has occurred since 1998. The really odd thing about this is that over an 11-year period, atmospheric carbon has gone up by 55 ppm—that’s a 17% increase—yet ground temperatures show no increase at all, and satellite measurements of the atmosphere show a decrease in ambient temperature over the same period. And, as we’ve seen, the sea is getting colder. What does that tell us about carbon emissions and global warming? What exactly can we deduce from the data? These are the questions we need to answer.
Practically every argument Al Gore uses in his road show fails when stacked up against the measurements. What he says about atmospheric temperature, about hurricanes, about moulins in Greenland, about Polar bears, and about rising sea levels and sinking islands is all just WRONG!
You know, the strange thing about this is that we have something very important to thank ex-President George W Bush for. He did at least one great service for humanity—he stopped Al Gore from becoming President of the United States! That, we need to thank him for.
An Inconvenient Truth is long on imagery and emotion, and short on science. What we have, in reality, is a Convenient Untruth!