Gadzooks! I have spent ten minutes going through each of my browser tabs to find this one. (I started this at least 24 hours ago and am only now getting around to finishing it).
Storing old global warming links:
Yet An Inconvenient Truth asserts that a sea-level rise of 20 feet is a realistic short-term prospect. Gore says the entire Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets could melt rapidly; the film then jumps to animation of Manhattan flooded. Well, all that ice might melt really fast, and a UFO might land in London, too. The most recent major study of ice in the geologic past found that about 130,000 years ago the seas were “several meters above modern levels” and that polar temperatures sufficient to cause a several-meter sea-level rise may eventually result from artificial global warming. The latest major study of austral land ice detected a thawing rate that would add two to three inches to sea level during this century. Such findings are among the arguments that something serious is going on with Earth’s climate. But the science-consensus forecast about sea-level rise is plenty bad enough. Why does An Inconvenient Truth use disaster-movie speculation?
Media Matters has a point-by-point refutation of Easterbrook’s charges. Here’s another liberal defense of Gore’s points. Also, the page has lots of good links. Here’s a discussion of the movie and the science issues on the realclimate blog. (Here’s another science blog by a dissenting climatologist).
I ended up reading the discussion on the realclimate blog for about 90 minutes. The discussion was absolutely exhausting. It is remarkable to see actual scientists making blog comments (and you just thought underemployed writers made comments on these things!). I really don’t have the background or the time to folow the scientific issues, although it’s comforting to know that blogs like this allow you to get in the trenches of the issues.
Although academics often have profound disagreements, it is gratifying to see commenters on an academic blog be civil to one another. Academics are adept at separating ideas from the people arguing them (although occasional mockery does liven things up a bit). They also don’t claim to have final answers. In social science blogs and hard science blogs, the debates are more about assumptions, methodologies, statistics and simply informing one another about the latest research. This particular post is unusual that it attracted a lot of critical attention, but I suspect a lot of academic blogs receive little attention from commenters (although eventually if you’re focused on issues and posting on a regular basis with fresh ideas, you can’t stay hidden for long).
The attitude of the climate scientists on this blog towards Gore’s movie is of course amusement. They find examples of overstatement and perhaps imprecise terminology (though I’m sure Gore and the director made sure it was vetted by scientists before release). They disagree with certain idle speculations as misleading. On the other hand, they generally agree with Gore’s presentation of facts and perhaps even with his solutions. And they applaud with the attempt to popularize the science and bring public attention to this critical issue. Who would have ever thought that Al Gore would be given 20 minutes to give his spiel on the Tonight Show and a host of other shows.
The American public does not warm over to solutions. Instead, they seem to ignore a problem altogether until some memorable media event occurs (in this case, the movie). Then suddenly, everyone is aware of the problem and clamoring for a solution…any solution! And legislators, eager to show initiative, will support the big legislation that tries to address the problem, whether or not it actually works.
Finally, a (probably true) quote by Gore on an anti-Gore site:
“A zebra does not change its spots.” – Al Gore, attacking President George Bush in 1992.
(Sources: The Toronto Sun, 11/19/95; May 13th page of the “365 stupidest things ever said, 1999 Calendar.” ALL quotes from this calendar are from a book called “The 700 Stupidest Things Ever Said”) The book and calendar are by a brother and sister team called Ross and Kathryn Petras. The original book “The 776 Stupidest things ever said” was printed in March 1993, and the calendar was printed August 1998.)