Tag Archives: Al Gore

Chicken Little, Smoking and Al Gore

Sunday’s paper included an article on the acidification of the oceans, and another on the changed political world associated with smoking cigarettes.   I sat in my easy chair,  and I let my mind wander.   Almost immediately, Chicken Little and Al Gore popped into my head.  It makes sense, sort of, really, it does.

I have disliked Mr. Gore for a long time, and the article on smoking brought back old memories. Mr. Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth, is probably where my smoking Al Gore memories began.    The film discussed skeptics and the smoking lobby in a way that tried to make one interchangeable with the other.   I took it personally.

According to Mr. Gore, I must be immoral, unethical or stupid since I don’t see the world his way.  I find his actions oddly suspicious and, dare I say it…unethical.  Why does Al Gore seem to feel a need to attack those that disagree with him?  He has equated skeptics to people who think the Apollo missions were faked.

Let’s review how Mr. Gore attacked climate skeptics in his film.

  • He began by showing how he was fooled by the evil smoking lobby.  How he grew tobacco on his farm until his sister died of lung cancer in 1984.  I thought Mr. Gore was about 20 years late for the anti smoking party.
  • He then used some statistical gymnastics to “prove” that there was a consensus in science. Everybody that was anybody in science agreed with him.  The science was conclusive.  Earlier in the film he made the point that conventional wisdom is frequently wrong in science.  Most scientists will admit there is no such thing as consensus in science.  Doubt is a part of science.
  • People that disagree with him could not possibly have any factual basis for their argument.  They must have an ulterior motive.
  • The only explanation was that these people were casting doubt and profiting by this effort.  And as Mr. Gore then noted, we have all seen this one before….
  • A slide from a 50’s magazine showing physicians recommending smoking immediately appears.
  • It is followed by a quote from a smoking lobbyist recommending doubt as a strategy.

Casting doubt is a part of the scientific process.  Mr. Gore demonstrated an ignorance of the way science works and personally insulted everyone that disagreed with him.   Why?  To convince the audience that skeptics have no credibility.   Come on Al, argue the science.

I found the character assassination unwarranted and uncalled for.  Why the smoking references?   The two (smoking and carbon dioxide) are very different subjects.

Smoking is an addictive habit with virtually no beneficial offsets. Carbon dioxide is a building block of life.  No carbon dixode, no plants.   As carbon dioxide increases it causes changes in our environment.  Some changes are good, and some are bad.  Some carbon dioxide is good, too much is bad, but how much is too much?

A difficult question…and there is no consensus, no single answer.

Al Gore was not the first and he will not be the last to try to win his argument by attacking the credibility of his opponent.  It is a normal political activity…that does not belong is science.  Ahhh, if only it were so.  The argument has been a recurring one for decades.  The skeptic/smoking talking point seems to be everywhere.  It’s like everybody in the global climate game has the same script.

Let’s talk Chicken Little.

The Oceans  suck up carbon dioxide.  As the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air increases, carbon dioxide increases in the sea.  This presumably causes rapidly accelerating changes in the surface ecosystem of the oceans.   I have read several articles on the subject.  It certainly sounds plausible,  the ecosystem might be in danger?  Unfortunately, I find myself distrusting the science because of one simple problem.  History.

Climate experts have been spouting gloom and doom since the 1980’s.   And at least so far, the sky is not falling.

UN IPCC predictions of doom have been around since the first Climate Assessment was published in 1992.  A strong El Nino in 1998 made these guys look positively brilliant.  And then as the 21st century began, the climate gloom parade developed growing pains.

  • The predictions of accelerating warming failed to show up.  The world stopped warming in 1998.
  • The Mathematics of the Hockey Stick were successfully challenged
  • Scientists got caught cooking temperature numbers in Climate-gate.  The e-mails also displayed an arrogance and disdain for those that disagreed.
  • The IPCC 2007 Synopses predicted erroneously that the Himalaya Glaciers would be gone 30 years.  Their current guess, 400 years.  As a part of the admission, the IPCC was forced to acknowledge some sloppy vetting practices.
  • In 2006 a skeptic found huge errors in NASA climate data, lowering temperatures for the first 6 years of the 21st century.
  • In 2009 Al Gore predicted incorrectly that the Arctic would be ice free by 2013, a year when the Arctic Ice actually grew.  2012 was a big year for ice loss, but a cool summer in 2013 caused at least a temporary change.

The sky could start falling today or tomorrow, and Chicken Little could be right.  But I cannot help but think:

Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.


What’s a Humberto

Humberto is the first hurricane of the Atlantic Hurricane Season.  It formed off the coast of Africa yesterday.  CNN filed a report.  If Humberto had formed a few hours later it would have set a record as the latest first hurricane in Atlantic Hurricane reported history, whatever that means. After all a mere 100 years ago we didn’t even name storms.


The Atlantic season runs from June through November each year and peaks on September 10th.  In a normal year we would have had 3 named hurricanes by now.  Humberto formed off the coast of Africa.  Had it formed 50 years ago we might have missed it.  It is a relatively small storm that will likely not last very long and will probably never threaten land.   It might not have been counted at all just 50 years ago.

2005 was a really bad year for hurricanes, particularly if you lived in Florida or in New Orleans and points East when Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast.   Al Gore used the Katrina event as proof of global warming gloom and doom in his 2006 film, An Inconvenient Truth.  He went on and on and on.   Every year since Al published his docudrama, hurricanes have been less severe than 2005.   We have now had seven and one half years of relatively mild hurricanes since the record setting season of 2005.

Why is it that bad hurricane years are equated to proof that global warming is serious and imminent while mild seasons prove nothing?     Hmmm.  One bad season, seven going on eight good ones. Maybe Mr. Gore was wrong?   Time will tell.

Do You Believe In Global Warming

Last night I played Team Trivia at a local bar.   We were asked the following

According to a Yale study, what percentage of the population believes in Global Warming.

The answer was 70%.   Hmmm.   I wonder how I would have responded to such a question?   Yes, I believe scientists when they say the world warms and cools and that we are in a warming cycle that began about 250 years ago.   I do think that climate changes with time and that man is probably responsible for some of that change.   But do I believe in Global Warming?

I’m stumbling over the word believe. The word believe implies a religious experience.  I don’t think I have a belief structure associated with the notion that world climate changes.   I think the climate changes for a whole host of reasons including variation in all of the following:

  1. gamma rays reaching the earth’s surface
  2. the solar winds and other variations in the sun
  3. the relative location of the continents
  4. variation in the earth’s orbit
  5. natural and man-made air pollution including volcanic eruptions
  6. comet and asteroid collisions
  7. other things we haven’t figured out yet

I think item 7 puts me in the no camp when the word believe is used.   I expect the answer to change as we learn more about the subject. Conventional wisdom in science changes all the time.  I don’t know the answer, I’m sort of a climate change agnostic.  I am very confident that Al Gore, the IPCC and James Hansen are wrong….but I might be wrong too.

Time will tell……lots of time.  And lots more science too.

Antarctic Ice Updates Available

I don’t tend to tell people I meet about my skeptical attitude toward global climate science as practiced by the UN.   When the subject does come up,  I usually have a rather unpleasant conversation.

All too often I get told about all the horrible things happening in Antarctica.  Yep Antarctica.   I then tell them Antarctica hasn’t been melting.   I tell them that most warming experienced in the last 200 years has been experienced on land in the Northern Hemisphere.   I am presumed to be less bright than I was at the start of the conversation.

I think Al Gore is probably to blame.  His 2005 film features lots of Antarctic boogie men.   I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised so many people believe Al’s propaganda.  Antarctica isn’t talked about much.  Al’s misinformation fills the void.  I just wish more people would at least listen to an opposing position.

My approach is about to change.  Reliable data is here and readily available.  I can point to a recognized expert.  One that has been in the forefront of Arctic melting, the National Snow and Ice Data Center.  This University of Colorado site has lots of neat stuff about the Arctic.  I’ve been following their Arctic Ice data for years.

And now they have Antarctic stuff too.   Yep, the world has been warming, the Arctic is melting, but the Antarctic Ice sheet is growing.    There are pictures…

And charts too…

Go Antarctica.   Antarctic Sea Ice has grown by about 10% in the last 30 years.  Not exactly what Al predicted in his film.

I know that the UN’s IPCC actually predicted Antarctic Ice could grow in their global warming models as area snowfall increased.   But they didn’t tell you it had been going on for years before they started their studies in the 1990’s. Who knows how long, this type of data has only been available since 1979.

Antarctica has not warmed yet, and the world has warmed.  The world is about a degree C warmer that it was about 200 years ago.   I wonder what Al Gore was thinking when he used only Antarctic Ice Core data as his proof of impending doom.

Individual ice cores are a poor proxy for the climate of the entire world because they provide information about a single location in a very cold place.   I see guessing.  It must be difficult to draw conclusions about North America or Europe or Asia from Antarctic data.   The ice core Al used in the film showed wild increases in carbon dioxide and no real 20th century warming, (which Al failed to point out in his film) which is typical of Antarctic Ice Cores.  Here’s a typical one

Notice how temperature went down 130,00 years ago while carbon dioxide remained stable.  The current temperature stability (the last 10,000 years) appears to be happening while carbon dioxide is skyrocketing.

It’ll be nice to have a respected source (National Snow and Ice Data Center)  to point global warming fear mongers to. Antarctic Ice melting really isn’t the immediate problem too many ill informed citizens believe it to be.

Global climate change is a very difficult science problem.   Doubt is a reasonable response.  I’d be the first to admit I don’t know what the answer is.  Too many advocates of IPCC positions insist they know the answer.   Come on guys.  You are guessing.

Maybe this Antarctic data will help spread a bit of doubt.  And doubt is a good thing.

Carbon Dioxide is NOT Air Pollution

Last weekend I noticed something that I had missed literally for years.  Just about any story that discusses carbon dioxide and global warming includes a smokestack photo.   The photo shows visible air pollution….the unsaid message, visible air pollution and carbon dioxide are one and the same.  WRONG.

I will never understand how carbon dioxide, a necessary ingredient for life on earth, got labeled as a  pollutant, but it did.   The BBC ran a story on Kyoto that included the following photo:

The Huffington Post wrote an article touting carbon emissions at a 20 year low that included the following photo:

Carbon dioxide is colorless.   The articles are about carbon dioxide, but the photos are showing air pollution.   If the stack just had carbon dioxide coming out of it, there would be no visible smoke.   Air pollution is a serious health and welfare issue, and it is a cooling rather than a warming agent.

Since air pollution is not colorless, it blocks the sun, reducing the amount of energy that reaches the surface, a cooling event.  Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (like Methane and water vapor) are colorless so they allow more energy to reach the surface.  They then trap some of that energy as it is reflected back to space, a warming event.

If we didn’t have greenhouse gases, we would all freeze to death.

Air pollution from Chinese coal fired power plants make the air in Shanghai filthy.  Sure there’s some carbon dioxide involved….but the serious health issue is the cancer causing toxins in the exhaust that are polutants.  If the power had been generated using natural gas there would have been no toxins and 50% less carbon.  There is technology available to remove  toxins from coal exhaust, but too many plants in China don’t even try.

When I see a smokestack photo in a carbon dioxide article, I become a bit perturbed.   Why has this photo has been included?

Al Gore did the exact same thing for his cover art used to sell the DVD of An Inconvenient Truth.   Mr. Gore loves to equate air pollution to carbon dioxide, it’s a factually incorrect recurring theme in the film.

Carbon Dioxide probably does contribute to the warming of our planet,  but it is not a pollutant.

Pollution is defined as the contamination of air, water, or soil by substances that are harmful to living organisms.  Carbon dioxide is not harmful to living organisms.   Increased carbon dioxide probably makes the world a bit warmer than it otherwise would be….but warm is not necessarily bad.

We live in a stable warm part of the ice age called the Holocene.  For the last 11,000 years it has been warmer than the average of the last 2 million years.  Lots warmer.  Here is a graph of Holocene temperatures

Today the world is a bit colder than it was 8000 years ago.  Both the medieval warming period and the little ice age represent extremes in the last 1000 years that are not man caused.  Why are we supposed to be worrying about the last 60 years of this chart?

For carbon dioxide to be considered a pollutant it must be harmful to living organisms.   Carbon dioxide — harmful — I don’t thinks so.

Carbon dioxide and water are both necessary for life on earth and both are greenhouse gases.   Greenhouse gases keep the planet from being very cold at night.   Any argument for carbon dioxide as a pollutant must do two things.

  • It must more fully explain why water vapor, a much more important greenhouse gas, is not a pollutant too.
  • It must  learn how to model climate much better.   Today, climate models start less than 200 years ago and go hundreds of years into the future (wild extrapolation)…that’s way too short a period given the natural climate variation of the last 1000 years.

Generally throughout history, warm has been good, cold has been bad.  Today the earth is a bit colder than it was 8000 years ago, Why is that too warm?  Was the world too warm 130,000 years ago when it was much warmer than it is today?  The argument for calling carbon dioxide a pollutant must assume it is possible to have too much of a good thing.  But how much is too much?

Aaaahhh.  That’s the big question.

Nuclear Power — A Global Warming Test

Nuclear power presents an interesting group of problems for people trying to resolve their carbon dioxide/electrical power generation problem.   The world needs electricity.  Cheap electricity dramatically improves the quality of life for people living in poor countries.

Green Power is expensive. Environmental groups like carbon taxes, which don’t make green power cheap, it simply makes alternate forms of power more expensive.  Poor people all over the world are left without a choice.  And green power is unreliable too.

Nuclear power is economical and clean.   Many global warming worriers have been advocates of some form of nuclear power.   Unfortunately it can create serious environmental problems when mistakes are made and people will make mistakes.

There is no perfect solution.

Wind mills and solar panels provide clean power but only when Mother Nature feels like providing the resource.   Solar panels are both location and time specific, they only work in sunny places during daylight.  Wind is only successful in windy locations and much of the USA is not suitable for wind (the white and tan areas of the chart below).

I was not surprised that the best place in the USA to build wind is in the Aleutians in Alaska.  There’s an old saying about weather in the area that goes like this

It rains or snows and the wind blows 300+ days a year….and then there are 50 really bad days.

The best places to build wind ….are also the worst places to build wind.   Imagine wind farms in the Aleutians or the mountains in Montana or in the middle of Lake Michigan.   All have high installation costs, their own environmental problems and are a great distance from power centers.

Too many environmental groups like to make decisions based on the world they would like to have an not on the one we all share right now.   Their green solutions for power use ignore the real world.  Al Gore did this in his 2008  Op-Ed piece in the NY Times title The Climate for Change.

Mr. Gore’s goal was carbon free power in 10 years.   Today, 4 years later, we have not yet started down the path Mr. Gore advocated.   Why?   Because it was wildly impractical, and politically and financially unrealistic.  It ignored all the problems are a part of any carbon free solution…including Nuclear Power.

The electric power system we have right now needs reliable power.  What we call in the trade base load power.  Wind and Solar will not work as base load….and saying they will doesn’t make it so.

Suppose you live in Atlanta, what are your choices?

Solar is probably you best renewable choice….when the sun is shining.   The average solar panel works about 4 to 5 hours per day and are much more efficient in the summer than in the winter. It will help with the summer AC peak, but be of little use in winter.  It is the most expensive source of power widely available.

What are you going to do the other 20 hours of each day? I suppose one could build solar all over the country to increase the time covered.  Unfortunately, the USA is only 4 time zones wide, so there is going to be 16 hours a day, every day, when solar won’t work.

Wind, hydro and geothermal also have the same siting difficulty.   Good locations are far, far away.  That means transmission lines, lots of transmission lines and lots more wind turbines in many different locations to cover for the variability of wind production patterns.   And we still need a backup power plant for the dark, windless nights in winter.

Electricity is an on demand system, you turn on your light switch, the electric company provides the juice.   There is no storage (except for hydro).   The power must be available at all times.   The only electrical source….available in large quantities right now….that is carbon free…..is Nuclear Power.

NOW for the test, do you fear carbon emissions more or less than the risks Nuclear Power presents.  A single event on March 11, 2011 changed many minds.   A tsunami hit the Fukashima Nuclear Power Plant in Japan and nuclear power lost much of its luster.

Despite the wishes of the green community, power plants will need reliable base load of some kind.  So what’s it going to be?  The choices are 1) coal, 2) natural gas or 3) nuclear power.  These are the only choices available right now.  No fair choosing something that doesn’t exist.

Hmmm.  Natural gas….but that’s for another post.

Shell Drilling Delays

Shell Oil, the British/Dutch oil conglomerate is going to drill in the Arctic this August.  It is big news up north. Today, July 27, 2012,  The Anchorage Daily News lead story was all about their project.

Shell leased the lands in the waning days of the Bush presidency and has spent 4 years and 4 billion dollars getting ready to drill in the Arctic off Alaska.   It was big news up here when the Obama administration allowed the project.  The Sierra Club and various environmental groups are understandably disappointed with Mr. Obama.

Every Shell misstep has made the news…and now the project is threatened by lingering ice along the coast in the Arctic.   Hmmm.   Don’t tell Al Gore…he predicted the Arctic would be ice free in Summer by 2015.

I’m not a big fan of Arctic offshore drilling…but I am pretty confident the feds and Shell are going to do a good job.  I’d rather see the onshore areas developed first…which, of course, means the third rail of environmental politics,  ANWR.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is an area of Northeast Alaska that is so large it is difficult to comprehend.   The picture above and the map below are both from the US Fish and Wildlife Site.

That’s a lot of wilderness.  The road shown on the western edge of the map is the only road from Fairbanks to the North Slope.   It is over 500 miles from Fairbanks to the coastal plane of the Refuge…and there is only one road….and it stops at Deadhorse (who said oil guys have no sense of humor), the town that supports the oil industry on the slope.

There is one North- South road and there are no East West roads that cross Alaska….the entire state with a few exceptions is wilderness.  The area that the oil interests would disturb is about the size of Manhattan Island….an island of development in all that wilderness.

I would prefer for ANWR to be developed now and the offshore properties later. I think the environmental risks are lower and the potential for success is higher when the drilling is done from an onshore location.  Unfortunately, that is a political impossibility…so I guess I’ll look and watch Shell drill…and hope they find something big.