Jack Kelly: Talk about hot air

No, scientists are not 'unanimous' in praise for Al Gore's global warming movie

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Their efforts to politicize science are at once the most amusing and most alarming trait of liberals.

Jack Kelly is national security writer for the Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio (jkelly@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1476).

In June 2001, the National Academy of Sciences issued a report on climate change. "It was depicted in the press as an implicit endorsement of the Kyoto Protocol," wrote Richard S. Lindzen. "CNN's Michelle Mitchell was typical of the coverage when she declared that the report represented 'a unanimous decision that global warming is real, is getting worse, and is due to man. There is no wiggle room.' "

Dr. Lindzen, an MIT professor and one of the 11 scientists who prepared the report, said this wasn't true:

"We are quite confident that (1) that global mean temperature is about 0.5 degrees Celsius higher than it was a century ago; (2) that atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide have risen over the past two centuries; and (3) that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas whose increase is likely to warm the Earth.

"But -- and I cannot stress this enough -- we are not in a position to attribute past climate change to carbon dioxide or to forecast what the climate will be in the future," he wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed at the time.

Al Gore's new movie is coming in for the same treatment. "The nation's top climate scientists are giving 'An Inconvenient Truth,' Al Gore's documentary on global warming, five stars for accuracy," said the AP on June 27.

That story was so inaccurate the majority on the Senate Environment & Public Works committee issued a statement rebutting it. A brief Google search would have shown the AP reporter, Seth Borenstein, that many leading environmental scientists think Mr. Gore's claims are preposterous.

Last week Richard Lindzen, considered by many to be America's leading climatologist, weighed in again. "A general characteristic of Mr. Gore's approach is to assiduously ignore the fact that the Earth and its climate are dynamic," he wrote in The Wall Street Journal. "To treat all change as something to fear is bad enough; to do so in order to exploit that fear is much worse."

Professor Paul Reiter of the Institut Pasteur in Paris described the movie as "pure, mind-bending propaganda."

"Gore's circumstantial arguments are so weak they are pathetic," said Bob Carter of James Cook University in Australia.

Mr. Gore blames the recent increase in hurricanes on global warming. But Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, says that warming has nothing to do with it. Tad Murty of the University of Ottawa noted that in the other six ocean basins world wide, hurricane activity is flat or declining. Dr. Murty said also that hurricane activity in the U.S. southeast was greater in the first half of the 20th century than it is now.

The ice caps in Greenland and Antarctica are growing, not melting as Mr. Gore claims, say Dr. Carter, and M.R. Morgan of the University of Exeter in Britain. (Mr. Gore mentions melting on the coasts, but ignores the much larger buildup of ice in the interior.)

The Canadian Arctic was warmer in the 1930s than it is today, said Roy Spencer of the University of Alabama at Huntsville. The polar bear population is stable or growing, not declining as Mr. Gore claims, said Mitchell Taylor of Canada's Department of the Environment.

The ice cap on Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa is melting not because of global warming, as Mr. Gore claims, but because of a decline in the moisture in the atmosphere there, said the Royal Meteorological Society in a 2004 article.

"None of the 30 so-called new diseases Gore references are attributable to global warming, none," said Dr. Reiter.

Sea levels aren't rising, as Mr. Gore claims, say Chris de Freitas of the University of Auckland in New Zealand, and Nils-Axel Morner of Stockholm University in Sweden.

Mr. Gore claims the planet is warmer now than it has been for 2,000 years. The National Academy of Scientists doesn't agree.

The NAS did say it is warmer now than it's been in 400 years, but that's like saying it's warmer in June than it was in February.

It was cooler 400 years ago because that was during the Little Ice Age. The Little Ice Age didn't end until around 1850, so it should be small wonder it's warmer now than it was then.

The Little Ice Age was preceded by the Medieval Warm Period (roughly 900 A.D. -- 1400 A.D.), when temperatures in Europe and North America were higher than they are today.

Things were more pleasant for people during the Medieval Warm Period than they are today. Greenland was actually green. Viking colonists grew crops and grazed livestock there.

A return to the climate of the Medieval Warm Period would do us more good than harm, so one wonders why Al Gore is running around like Chicken Little, screaming: "The sky is warming. The sky is warming. Give me all your money!"

Maybe the last sentence is a clue to the point of the exercise.

This column is a corrected version. The following correction was published in the July 5 print edition: "Jack Kelly's July 2 column conflated references to two different Wall Street Journal op-ed articles by MIT professor Richard Lindzen. The first quote from Dr. Lindzen was from a June 11, 2001, piece, but it was incorrectly identified as being published last week. The second Lindzen quote was correctly attributed to his commentary last week (June 26). In addition, the Kelly column referred to a National Academy of Sciences report on climate change and a quote from CNN reporter Michelle Mitchell; they were both from June 2001, not this year. The column should have addressed the NAS report on climate change released June 22, 2006."


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