Al Gore Speaks out on Climate Gate
Q: How damaging to your argument was the disclosure of e-mails from the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia University?
A: To paraphrase Shakespeare, it's sound and fury signifying nothing. I haven't read all the e-mails, but the most recent one is more than 10 years old. These private exchanges between these scientists do not in any way cause any question about the scientific consensus. But the noise machine built by the climate deniers often seizes on what they can blow out of proportion, so they've thought this is a bigger deal than it is.
Q: There is a sense in these e-mails, though, that data was hidden and hoarded, which is the opposite of the case you make [in your book] about having an open and fair debate.
A: I think it's been taken wildly out of context. The discussion you're referring to was about two papers that two of these scientists felt shouldn't be accepted as part of the IPCC report. Both of them, in fact, were included, referenced, and discussed. So an e-mail exchange more than 10 years ago including somebody's opinion that a particular study isn't any good is one thing, but the fact that the study ended up being included and discussed anyway is a more powerful comment on what the result of the scientific process really is. These people are examining what they can or should do to deal with the P.R. dimensions of this, but where the scientific consensus is concerned, it's completely unchanged. What we're seeing is a set of changes worldwide that just make this discussion over 10-year-old e-mails kind of silly. The entire North Polar ice cap is disappearing before our very eyes. It's been the size of the continental United States for the last 3 million years and now 40 percent is gone and the rest of it is going. The mountain glaciers are going. We've had record storms, droughts, fires, and floods. There is an air of unreality in debating these arcane points when the world is changing in such dramatic ways right in front of our eyes because of global warming.
Q: What's your view on the medieval warm period and the charge that the East Anglia e-mails suggest data was manipulated to "contain" that anomaly?
A: I haven't read those e-mails in detail, but the larger point is that there are cyclical changes in the climate and they are fairly well-understood, and all of them are included in the scientific consensus. When you look at what has happened over the last few decades the natural fluctuations point in the opposite direction of what has actually occurred. When they run the models and plug in the man-made pollution, the correspondence is exact. Beyond that, the scale of natural fluctuations has now been far exceeded by the impact of man-made global warming. . . . .
The most recent email is "more than 10 years old"? There are a lot of emails from as late as this year. One from this summer (Jul 23, 2009, at 11:54 AM) where the AP writer Seth Borenstein is asking Michael Mann and others for help in criticizing a refereed journal article criticizing man-made global warming.
As to the claim that "The entire North Polar ice cap is disappearing before our very eyes."
Arctic Ice Sheet since 2007
"the extent of arctic sea ice has been increasing for the last two years."
Note also: "Antarctic Ice Growing, Not Shrinking." -- Antarctica has 90 percent of the Earth's ice and 80 percent of its fresh water
Andrew Bolt has similar problems with Gore's comments: Climategate: Gore falsifies the record
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC: Earlier this morning I sat down with former Vice President Al Gore to talk about climate change, his new book, "Our Choice," and Sarah Palin. Today, in an op-ed in the Washington Post, Palin is escalating her attack on the Copenhagen Summit. Palin calls it junk science, and writes that "The agenda-driven policies being pushed in Copenhagen won't change the weather, but they would change our economy for the worse." I asked Al Gore to respond.
AL GORE: The global warming deniers persist in this era of unreality. After all, the entire North Polar ice cap, which has been there for most of the last 3 million years, is disappearing before our eyes. 40 percent's already gone. The rest is expected to go completely within the next decade. What do they think is causing this? The mountain glaciers in every region of the world are melting, many of them at an accelerated rate, threatening drinking supplies, drinking water supplies, and agricultural water supplies. We have these record storms, droughts, floods, fires, and tree deaths in the American west. Climate refugees beginning now, expected to rise to the hundreds of millions unless we take action. These effects are taking place all over the world exactly as predicted by the scientists who have warned for years that if we continue putting 90 million tons of global warming pollution into the atmosphere every day, the accumulation is going to trap lots more heat, raise temperatures, and cause all of these consequences that are already beginning.
See above for why this is wrong to make it appear as if all the ice is melting.
MITCHELL: Well, one of the things that she has written recently on Facebook is that this is "Doomsday scare tactics, pushed by an environmental priesthood that makes the public feel like owning an SUV is a sin against the planet."
GORE: Well, the scientific community has worked very intensively for 20 years within this international process and they now say the evidence is unequivocal. 150 years ago this year was the discovery that CO2 traps heat. That is a principle in physics. It is not a question of debate. It is like gravity. It exists.
OK, so? This is obviously overly simplistic. Lots of things impact temperatures (energy output from the sun, the earth's orbit, tilt of the axis) and Carbon Dioxide is just one of the greenhouse gases and it isn't even close to being the most important. Man makes only a few percent of greenhouse gases and greenhouse gases only account for a fraction of the variation in temperatures.
MITCHELL: As you know in "Our choice," there is a real partisan divide when it comes to people's attitudes. The Pew poll that you cite says 75 percent of college educated Democrats believe humans are responsible. Only 19 percent of college-educated Republicans. How do you figure that?
GORE: It may be partly because the tendency for many people to follow their perceived political leaders and the leadership of the modern Republican Party has really gotten into a global warming denier posture that I think has influenced some people. But it should not be a political issue. It really is a moral issue. It speaks to the responsibility of the present generation to take steps to safeguard those generations yet to come. Because this has now reached the level where if we were not to act, the consequences already beginning at a low level are predicted to reach catastrophic levels unless we take steps to prevent it from happening.
MITCHELL: There's been, according to the Pew Research, a 20% drop in the number of people in the last year. Since 2008, 71% believed that humans contributed to global warming and now it is only 51%. Do you attribute to that to the economic hard times and people focusing inward?
GORE: Well, I think that result dove tails with the first one that you cited because when you look inside that study, virtually 100% of those who changed their opinion were conservative Republicans.
But Pew actually wrote:
The decline in the belief in solid evidence of global warming has come across the political spectrum, but has been particularly pronounced among independents. Just 53% of independents now see solid evidence of global warming, compared with 75% who did so in April 2008. Republicans, who already were highly skeptical of the evidence of global warming, have become even more so: just 35% of Republicans now see solid evidence of rising global temperatures, down from 49% in 2008 and 62% in 2007. Fewer Democrats also express this view - 75% today compared with 83% last year. . . .
Gore's interview on CNN is here.
CNN this morning where he again mentioned “private emails more than 10 years old” and a second time called the messages, “emails from long ago.”
Host John Roberts, to his credit, was quick to correct Gore saying that, “many are far more recent than that.” Gore did not respond.
Natural disasters are one of Gore’s favorite topics as he tries to equate their occurrence with global warming. He again brought up the topic this morning saying, “we've had these record storms, record droughts, floods, giant fires, unprecedented.” Many wonder why he continues to belabor this point when he has had to pull an incorrect slide from his presentation that tried to state this and recent data shows that in fact there has been no greater occurrence of weather related disasters.
Meanwhile Gore and Democrats have all sorts of nice things to say about Palin:
“Before Sarah Palin writes a book, she should try reading a few,” said Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), who followed up with a series of peer-reviewed reports on rising sea levels, air temperatures and ocean acidity.
Palin’s position is “worse than one of denial – it’s one of defeatism,” added Inslee, echoing earlier comments by former Vice-President Al Gore.
“Ex-Governor Palin is at it again, [she] somehow has discovered some kind of smoking gun,” added Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who compared Palin’s statements to her support of the discredited “death panel” charges over the summer.
“There is no there,” he added. “And the ex-governor’s state has [suffered] the greatest impact in terms of global warming of any state in the nation…It’s absolutely critical that we not allow the same sort of death panel, swift-boating to occur.” . . .
Palin's piece in the Washington Post is available here.