Melting Glaciers — An Al Gore Tragic Tale

Recently, I spent a whopping 99 cents renting Al Gore’s film for five days. I hated to do it, but I needed to check something on the video and it took more than 99 cents worth of gas to get to the library.

I decided to take full advantage of the opportunity and prepare a few blogs reminiscing about all the things that make An Inconvenient Truth so special.

Today’s subject: Melting Glaciers

Sixteen minutes into the film Al Gore begins to talk about glaciers.

  • He begins with pictures of Mt. Kilimanjaro in 1970 and today
  • He then adds Glacier National Park in 1910 and in the 1990
  • Then we see the Columbia Glacier in Alaska as it has receded since 1980.
  • Himalayas glaciers complete with dire predictions for 40 years from now, which the IPCC now admits was wrong by over 300 years.
  • Italy, the Italian Alps — pictures shown but no date.
  • Switzerland, multiple glaciers shown, no dates
  • Peru in the 70′s and today
  • Argentina in 1928 and in 2004

In two minutes we get to see Al Gore’s love affair with glaciers.  We see no less than 9 different glaciers that aren’t as big as they used to be.  Some are recent, some aren’t.

Most glaciers in the Northern Hemisphere have been receding.  I personally have witnessed Columbia Glacier and Portage Glacier’s decline.  Other glaciers have advanced…but it is true…as it gets warmer glaciers melt.  Yup, ice melts when it gets warm.

Mr. Gore specializes in rapid fire examples of his point…glaciers are melting.  Much of the melting shown is not recent melting which means it would have melted with or without anthropogenic carbon dioxide production.  Before 1950, most warming, according to Mr. Gore’s friends at the UN, was natural climate variation.  And some warming since then might be natural warming too.

So why bring it up?

It’s beautiful and it’s going away…how sad.  Mr. Gore is trying to set an emotional hook.  If he can get you to buy in emotionally…he’s got you.   We get to see slow motion pictures of a marine glacier calving, while Mr, Gore describes the natural disaster.

Yes glaciers can be beautiful.   In 1972, I watched the Columbia Glacier calve, while riding a ferry across Prince William Sound.  It was spectacular.   Glaciers are slow moving rivers of ice.  Any glacier that terminates in water is a marine glacier.   All marine glacier calve, the advancing ice meets the warmer water and melts and it the process it puts on a spectacular show.   Nature is being nature, Al Gore provided the drama.    Back in 1972, the Alaska State ferry Bartlett used to toot it’s whistle to try and get the Columbia Glacier to calve…to put on a show for the tourists.

Ice melting is not necessarily bad.  Ask anybody that lives in New York State or Russia or Canada.  15,000 years ago nobody lived in upstate New York.  Ice a mile thick covered much of New York State.  New York more like Greenland, doesn’t sound too good to me.  Those glaciers have receded and most New Yorkers are they did.

Today’s climate is about 1 degree C warmer than it was 150 years ago.  That will cause some ice to melt.  Most of that warming is widely believed to be natural climate variation.  Mr. Gore shows that ice turns to water as it warms….talk about a firm grip on the obvious.

Mr. Gore’s arguments require us to all share his view of nature.  The film opens and ends with Mr. Gore spouting platitudes while we watch a pretty creek.  We must all forget Mother Nature’s wild side.  If the world were a few degrees colder than it is today, Glaciers would be advancing rather than receding…and we wouldn’t necessarily like them so much.

Mr. Gore is trying to get you to buy into his vision….and he is trying to reach you emotionally.  If he can get you emotionally, he doesn’t have to worry about the rational stuff.   Mr. Gore is an excellent public speaker.   He can spout philosophy and make it sound like science. The discussion of glaciers may look like science, but there is no science on display….just a bit of geography and some pretty pictures.

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