Al Gore is the principal prophet of doom in the global warming debate, and the 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth is his gospel to true believers. But Gore has misled them.
Two years ago, British High Court Justice Michael Burton characterized Gore’s film as "alarmism and exaggeration in support of his political thesis." The court, responding to a case filed by a parent, said the film was "one-sided" and could not be shown in British schools unless it contained guidelines to balance Gore’s attempt at "political indoctrination."
The judge based his decision on nine inaccuracies in the movie. The Gore-loving U.S. media largely ignored the story, but starting premiere night Oct. 18, Americans will hear it in Not Evil Just Wrong. To set the stage, here is a recap of Gore’s claims and why they are flawed:
- The claim: Melting in Greenland or West Antarctica will cause sea levels to rise up to 20 feet in the near future. The truth: The Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change concluded that sea levels might rise 20 feet over millennia — and it waffled on that prediction. The IPCC envisions a rise of no more than 7 inches to 23 inches by 2100. Gore’s claim is "a very disturbing misstatement of the science," John Day, who argued the British case, says in Not Evil Just Wrong. The judge said Gore’s point "is not in line with the scientific consensus.
- The claim: Polar bears are drowning because they have to swim farther to find ice. The truth: Justice Burton noted that the only study citing the drowning of polar bears (four of them) blamed the deaths on a storm, not ice that is melting due to manmade global warming. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, furthermore, found that the current bear population is 20,000-25,000, up from 5,000-10,000 in the 1950s and 1960s. Day says in Not Evil Just Wrong that the appeal to polar bears is "a very clever piece of manipulation."
- The claim: Global warming spawned Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The truth: "It is common ground that there is insufficient evidence to show that," Burton wrote in his ruling. A May 2007 piece in New Scientist refuted the Katrina argument as a "climate myth" because it’s impossible to tie any single weather event to global warming.
- The claim: Increases in temperature are the result of increases in carbon dioxide. The truth: Burton questioned the two graphs Gore used in An Inconvenient Truth. Gore argued that there is "an exact fit" between temperature and CO2, Burton said, but his graphs didn’t support that conclusion. Recent data also do not support it: The global temperature has been declining for about a decade, even as CO2 levels continue rising.
- The claim: The snow on Mount Kilimanjaro is melting because of global warming. The truth: The melting has been under way for more than a century — long before SUVs and jumbo jets — and appears to be the result of other causes. Justice Burton noted that scientists agree the melting can’t be blamed primarily on "human-induced climate change."
- The claim: Lake Chad is disappearing because of global warming. The truth: Lake Chad is losing water, and humans are contributing to the losses. But the humans in the lake’s immediate vicinity, rather than mankind as a whole using fossil fuels, are to blame. Burton cited factors like population, overgrazing and regional climate variability.
- The claim: People are being forced to evacuate low-lying Pacific atolls, islands of coral that surround lagoons, because of encroaching ocean waters. The truth: By their very nature, atolls are susceptible to rising sea levels. But Burton said pointedly in his ruling, "There is no evidence of any such evacuation having yet happened."
- The claim: Coral reefs are bleaching and putting fish in jeopardy. The truth: In his ruling, Burton emphasized the IPCC’s finding that bleaching could kill coral reefs — if they don’t adapt. A report released this year shows that reefs already are thriving in waters as hot as some people say ocean waters will be 100 years from now. Burton also said it is difficult to separate coral stresses such as over-fishing from any changes in climate.
- The claim: Global warming could stop the "ocean conveyor," triggering another ice age in Western Europe. The truth: Once again, Gore’s allies at the IPCC disagree with that argument. Burton cited the panel in concluding that "it is very unlikely that the ocean conveyor … will shut down in the future." The fact that the scientific understanding of how the conveyor belt works remains unsettled further exposes the flaw in Gore’s claim.