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Old 03-12-2007, 09:11 PM   #1
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New York Times: Cool the Hype

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/13/sc...gewanted=print

March 13, 2007

From a Rapt Audience, a Call to Cool the Hype

By WILLIAM J. BROAD
Hollywood has a thing for Al Gore and his three-alarm film on global warming, “An Inconvenient Truth,” which won an Academy Award for best documentary. So do many environmentalists, who praise him as a visionary, and many scientists, who laud him for raising public awareness of climate change.

But part of his scientific audience is uneasy. In talks, articles and blog entries that have appeared since his film and accompanying book came out last year, these scientists argue that some of Mr. Gore’s central points are exaggerated and erroneous. They are alarmed, some say, at what they call his alarmism.

“I don’t want to pick on Al Gore,” Don J. Easterbrook, an emeritus professor of geology at Western Washington University, told hundreds of experts at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America. “But there are a lot of inaccuracies in the statements we are seeing, and we have to temper that with real data.”

Mr. Gore, in an e-mail exchange about the critics, said his work made “the most important and salient points” about climate change, if not “some nuances and distinctions” scientists might want. “The degree of scientific consensus on global warming has never been stronger,” he said, adding, “I am trying to communicate the essence of it in the lay language that I understand.”

Although Mr. Gore is not a scientist, he does rely heavily on the authority of science in “An Inconvenient Truth,” which is why scientists are sensitive to its details and claims.

Criticisms of Mr. Gore have come not only from conservative groups and prominent skeptics of catastrophic warming, but also from rank-and-file scientists like Dr. Easterbook, who told his peers that he had no political ax to grind. A few see natural variation as more central to global warming than heat-trapping gases. Many appear to occupy a middle ground in the climate debate, seeing human activity as a serious threat but challenging what they call the extremism of both skeptics and zealots.

Kevin Vranes, a climatologist at the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado, said he sensed a growing backlash against exaggeration. While praising Mr. Gore for “getting the message out,” Dr. Vranes questioned whether his presentations were “overselling our certainty about knowing the future.”

Typically, the concern is not over the existence of climate change, or the idea that the human production of heat-trapping gases is partly or largely to blame for the globe’s recent warming. The question is whether Mr. Gore has gone beyond the scientific evidence.

“He’s a very polarizing figure in the science community,” said Roger A. Pielke Jr., an environmental scientist who is a colleague of Dr. Vranes at the University of Colorado center. “Very quickly, these discussions turn from the issue to the person, and become a referendum on Mr. Gore.”

“An Inconvenient Truth,” directed by Davis Guggenheim, was released last May and took in more than $46 million, making it one of the top-grossing documentaries ever. The companion book by Mr. Gore quickly became a best seller, reaching No. 1 on the New York Times list.

Mr. Gore depicted a future in which temperatures soar, ice sheets melt, seas rise, hurricanes batter the coasts and people die en masse. “Unless we act boldly,” he wrote, “our world will undergo a string of terrible catastrophes.”

He clearly has supporters among leading scientists, who commend his popularizations and call his science basically sound. In December, he spoke in San Francisco to the American Geophysical Union and got a reception fit for a rock star from thousands of attendees.

“He has credibility in this community,” said Tim Killeen, the group’s president and director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, a top group studying climate change. “There’s no question he’s read a lot and is able to respond in a very effective way.”

Some backers concede minor inaccuracies but see them as reasonable for a politician. James E. Hansen, an environmental scientist, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and a top adviser to Mr. Gore, said, “Al does an exceptionally good job of seeing the forest for the trees,” adding that Mr. Gore often did so “better than scientists.”

Still, Dr. Hansen said, the former vice president’s work may hold “imperfections” and “technical flaws.” He pointed to hurricanes, an icon for Mr. Gore, who highlights the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and cites research suggesting that global warming will cause both storm frequency and deadliness to rise. Yet this past Atlantic season produced fewer hurricanes than forecasters predicted (five versus nine), and none that hit the United States.

“We need to be more careful in describing the hurricane story than he is,” Dr. Hansen said of Mr. Gore. “On the other hand,” Dr. Hansen said, “he has the bottom line right: most storms, at least those driven by the latent heat of vaporization, will tend to be stronger, or have the potential to be stronger, in a warmer climate.”

In his e-mail message, Mr. Gore defended his work as fundamentally accurate. “Of course,” he said, “there will always be questions around the edges of the science, and we have to rely upon the scientific community to continue to ask and to challenge and to answer those questions.”

He said “not every single adviser” agreed with him on every point, “but we do agree on the fundamentals” — that warming is real and caused by humans.

Mr. Gore added that he perceived no general backlash among scientists against his work. “I have received a great deal of positive feedback,” he said. “I have also received comments about items that should be changed, and I have updated the book and slideshow to reflect these comments.” He gave no specifics on which points he had revised.

He said that after 30 years of trying to communicate the dangers of global warming, “I think that I’m finally getting a little better at it.”

While reviewers tended to praise the book and movie, vocal skeptics of global warming protested almost immediately. Richard S. Lindzen, a climatologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, who has long expressed skepticism about dire climate predictions, accused Mr. Gore in The Wall Street Journal of “shrill alarmism.”

Some of Mr. Gore’s centrist detractors point to a report last month by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations body that studies global warming. The panel went further than ever before in saying that humans were the main cause of the globe’s warming since 1950, part of Mr. Gore’s message that few scientists dispute. But it also portrayed climate change as a slow-motion process.

It estimated that the world’s seas in this century would rise a maximum of 23 inches — down from earlier estimates. Mr. Gore, citing no particular time frame, envisions rises of up to 20 feet and depicts parts of New York, Florida and other heavily populated areas as sinking beneath the waves, implying, at least visually, that inundation is imminent.

Bjorn Lomborg, a statistician and political scientist in Denmark long skeptical of catastrophic global warming, said in a syndicated article that the panel, unlike Mr. Gore, had refrained from scaremongering. “Climate change is a real and serious problem” that calls for careful analysis and sound policy, Dr. Lomborg said. “The cacophony of screaming,” he added, “does not help.”

So too, a report last June by the National Academies seemed to contradict Mr. Gore’s portrayal of recent temperatures as the highest in the past millennium. Instead, the report said, current highs appeared unrivaled since only 1600, the tail end of a temperature rise known as the medieval warm period.

Roy Spencer, a climatologist at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, said on a blog that Mr. Gore’s film did “indeed do a pretty good job of presenting the most dire scenarios.” But the June report, he added, shows “that all we really know is that we are warmer now than we were during the last 400 years.”

Other critics have zeroed in on Mr. Gore’s claim that the energy industry ran a “disinformation campaign” that produced false discord on global warming. The truth, he said, was that virtually all unbiased scientists agreed that humans were the main culprits. But Benny J. Peiser, a social anthropologist in Britain who runs the Cambridge-Conference Network, or CCNet, an Internet newsletter on climate change and natural disasters, challenged the claim of scientific consensus with examples of pointed disagreement.

“Hardly a week goes by,” Dr. Peiser said, “without a new research paper that questions part or even some basics of climate change theory,” including some reports that offer alternatives to human activity for global warming.

Geologists have documented age upon age of climate swings, and some charge Mr. Gore with ignoring such rhythms.

“Nowhere does Mr. Gore tell his audience that all of the phenomena that he describes fall within the natural range of environmental change on our planet,” Robert M. Carter, a marine geologist at James Cook University in Australia, said in a September blog. “Nor does he present any evidence that climate during the 20th century departed discernibly from its historical pattern of constant change.”

In October, Dr. Easterbrook made similar points at the geological society meeting in Philadelphia. He hotly disputed Mr. Gore’s claim that “our civilization has never experienced any environmental shift remotely similar to this” threatened change.

Nonsense, Dr. Easterbrook told the crowded session. He flashed a slide that showed temperature trends for the past 15,000 years. It highlighted 10 large swings, including the medieval warm period. These shifts, he said, were up to “20 times greater than the warming in the past century.”

Getting personal, he mocked Mr. Gore’s assertion that scientists agreed on global warming except those industry had corrupted. “I’ve never been paid a nickel by an oil company,” Dr. Easterbrook told the group. “And I’m not a Republican.”

Biologists, too, have gotten into the act. In January, Paul Reiter, an active skeptic of global warming’s effects and director of the insects and infectious diseases unit of the Pasteur Institute in Paris, faulted Mr. Gore for his portrayal of global warming as spreading malaria.

“For 12 years, my colleagues and I have protested against the unsubstantiated claims,” Dr. Reiter wrote in The International Herald Tribune. “We have done the studies and challenged the alarmists, but they continue to ignore the facts.”

Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton who advised Mr. Gore on the book and movie, said that reasonable scientists disagreed on the malaria issue and other points that the critics had raised. In general, he said, Mr. Gore had distinguished himself for integrity.

“On balance, he did quite well — a credible and entertaining job on a difficult subject,” Dr. Oppenheimer said. “For that, he deserves a lot of credit. If you rake him over the coals, you’re going to find people who disagree. But in terms of the big picture, he got it right.”
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Old 03-12-2007, 10:07 PM   #2
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As we speak, this poor guy is probably being told in no uncertain terms,
"You'll never work in this town again."

But in truth even Al Gore doesn't believe everything he says. Or he wouldn't have an average monthly electric bill of $1,359.

Interesting article. All some of us are asking for is to get to the truth.
Without the exaggerations
Without the guilt trips or anti-capitalism bias
And without the religious zealotry
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Old 03-12-2007, 10:19 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally posted by INDY500


But in truth even Al Gore doesn't believe everything he says. Or he wouldn't have an average monthly electric bill of $1,359.



oh come on, we just had a thread where this was debunked, extensively.



Quote:
Interesting article. All some of us are asking for is to get to the truth.
Without the exaggerations
Without the guilt trips or anti-capitalism bias
And without the religious zealotry

the anti-capitalism bias?

why does all this read as a veiled attempt to find somethign -- anything -- that will enable me, the consumer, not to ever have to change my wasteful ways.

let's say it again:

[q]Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton who advised Mr. Gore on the book and movie, said that reasonable scientists disagreed on the malaria issue and other points that the critics had raised. In general, he said, Mr. Gore had distinguished himself for integrity.

“On balance, he did quite well — a credible and entertaining job on a difficult subject,” Dr. Oppenheimer said. “For that, he deserves a lot of credit. If you rake him over the coals, you’re going to find people who disagree. But in terms of the big picture, he got it right.”[/q]
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Old 03-12-2007, 11:00 PM   #4
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please shoot me if we have to look to the new york times for 'truth'.
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Old 03-12-2007, 11:03 PM   #5
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ever have to change my wasteful ways.
Speak for yourself.
I think automobiles are to be enjoyed. In fact, I think everyone on the planet should have one. The same would go for air-conditioners, refrigerators, charcoal grills and annual vacations requiring air travel.
And until Leonardo Dicaprio starts riding the bus to the Oscars, I don't really see the need for anyone else to alter their activities either.
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Old 03-12-2007, 11:10 PM   #6
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I don't think any would argue that those things should be given up - it's that those things need to be more energy efficient. Environmentalism doesn't have to mean a return to the stone age.
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Old 03-13-2007, 12:40 AM   #7
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Originally posted by INDY500
In fact, I think everyone on the planet should have one. The same would go for air-conditioners, refrigerators, charcoal grills and annual vacations requiring air travel.
But millions of people on this earth live without those luxuries. It can be done, they are not necessary items, just simply luxuries. Of course, I'm not one of them. I do have a refridgerator, and I just flew in from spring break on Saturday and drove my car back home.

But like R&H said, theres nothing wrong with looking into making these appliances more energy efficient. I'd feel less guilty about driving places if I had a hybrid vehicle. Speaking of which, I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that Leo drives a Prius.
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Old 03-13-2007, 12:47 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by randhail
I don't think any would argue that those things should be given up - it's that those things need to be more energy efficient. Environmentalism doesn't have to mean a return to the stone age.
Shhh...you're not being fearmongering enough for this thread.
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Old 03-13-2007, 04:53 AM   #9
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speaking of fear, Ormus... have those tractators eaten you yet?
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Old 03-13-2007, 07:37 AM   #10
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Originally posted by INDY500


Speak for yourself.
I think automobiles are to be enjoyed. In fact, I think everyone on the planet should have one. The same would go for air-conditioners, refrigerators, charcoal grills and annual vacations requiring air travel.
And until Leonardo Dicaprio starts riding the bus to the Oscars, I don't really see the need for anyone else to alter their activities either.
Is everything for you just black or white?
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Old 03-13-2007, 08:16 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by INDY500


Speak for yourself.
I think automobiles are to be enjoyed. In fact, I think everyone on the planet should have one. The same would go for air-conditioners, refrigerators, charcoal grills and annual vacations requiring air travel.
And until Leonardo Dicaprio starts riding the bus to the Oscars, I don't really see the need for anyone else to alter their activities either.
Just because the people using global warming to pursue their agenda are wankers doesn't mean that it isn't a real world issue.
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Old 03-13-2007, 09:43 AM   #12
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Maybe if people relied on cars less, they wouldn't be so many who are morbidly obese or otherwise overweight.

Ever since I went car-free, I realized just how much of a sedentary lifestyle they promote. It is unfortunate that in North America, there are so, so few places where you can live without one.
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Old 03-13-2007, 09:52 AM   #13
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Originally posted by INDY500


Speak for yourself.
I think automobiles are to be enjoyed. In fact, I think everyone on the planet should have one. The same would go for air-conditioners, refrigerators, charcoal grills and annual vacations requiring air travel.
And until Leonardo Dicaprio starts riding the bus to the Oscars, I don't really see the need for anyone else to alter their activities either.


and the world's oil supply will be gone ... tomorrow, once a billion Chinese and a billion Indians start to live like Westerners.

and bash Hollywood all you want, that doesn't change the science or the economics of the situation.
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Old 03-13-2007, 10:18 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by INDY500
As we speak, this poor guy is probably being told in no uncertain terms,
"You'll never work in this town again."
Of course they will, the other side needs someone to pay off.
Quote:
Originally posted by INDY500

But in truth even Al Gore doesn't believe everything he says. Or he wouldn't have an average monthly electric bill of $1,359.

How many pages did we have debunking this? Do you have something against reading?
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Old 03-16-2007, 08:53 AM   #15
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http://www.cnn.com/2007/WEATHER/03/1...eut/index.html

Quote:
Winter has been world's warmest on record

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- This has been the world's warmest winter since record-keeping began more than a century ago, the U.S. government agency that tracks weather reported Thursday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the combined global land and ocean surface temperature from December through February was at its highest since records began in 1880.

A record-warm January was responsible for pushing up the combined winter temperature, according to the agency's Web site.

"Contributing factors were the long-term trend toward warmer temperatures, as well as a moderate El Nino in the Pacific," Jay Lawrimore of NOAA's National Climatic Data Center said in a telephone interview from Asheville, North Carolina.

The next-warmest winter on record was in 2004, and the third warmest winter was in 1998, Lawrimore said.

The 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 1995.

"We don't say this winter is evidence of the influence of greenhouse gases," Lawrimore said.

However, he noted that his center's work is part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change process, which released a report on global warming last month that found climate change is occurring and that human activities quite likely play a role in the change.

"So we know as a part of that, the conclusions have been reached and the warming trend is due in part to rises in greenhouse gas emissions," Lawrimore said. "By looking at long-term trends and long-term changes, we are able to better understand natural and anthropogenic [human-caused] climate change."

The combined temperature for the December-February period was 1.3 degrees F (0.72 degree C) above the 20th century mean, the agency said.

Lawrimore did not give an absolute temperature for the three-month period, and said the deviation from the mean was what was important. He did not provide the 20th century mean temperature.

Temperatures were above average for these months in Europe, Asia, western Africa, southeastern Brazil and the northeast half of the United States, with cooler-than-average conditions in parts of Saudi Arabia and the central United States.

Global temperature on land surface during the Northern Hemisphere winter was also the warmest on record, while the ocean-surface temperature tied for second warmest after the winter of 1997-98.

Over the past century, global surface temperatures have increased by about 0.11 degree F per decade, but the rate of increase has been three times larger since 1976 -- around 0.32 degree F per decade, with some of the biggest temperature rises in the high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere.
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