There is no such thing as a free lunch.

Convenient Propaganda

I just watched Al Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. Gore tells a very heartwrenching story about how carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are causing global warming, and how that in turn is causing a slew of environmental problems – including the deaths of thousands from record heat waves, the disppearance of glaciers, mass flooding, severe droughts, and the strengthening of catastrophic weather events like hurricanes. He goes so far as to suggest that Hurricane Katrina would have been prevented if we had stopped global warming years ago.

It’s a very compelling tale (an Oscar-winning one at that), but an objective scientific presentation it is not. It really is just propaganda (see the part with the polar bear trying to climb up on the melting, cracking iceberg). I’m no environmental scientist but from enough reading I can conclude that climate change is an extremely complex issue that we are only just beginning to understand. The basis of Gore’s argument is that CO2 emissions causes more sunlight to be trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere which warms it up. Scientists, he says, have taken ice core samples which provide CO2 and temperature information for the last 650,000 years or so. He puts up a slide with the trends of CO2 and temperature which clearly track each other. This, apparently, demonstrates a clear cause-and-effect relationship – CO2 dictates temperature. However, what he fails to point out is that the rise in CO2 always lags the rise in global temperature, by about 800 years or so. Then isn’t the cause-and-effect the other way around? Even that’s hard to prove. Climate scientists claim that CO2 doesn’t cause the first 800 years of global warming, it just amplifies the effect for the next 4200 years or so. So if CO2 doesn’t cause the first 800 years of global warming, should we really be so worried about it? Then how could CO2 have caused Katrina, or anything that’s happened in the last century?

Is global warming occurring? Absolutely. Is it a problem? It could be – I don’t really want to see the glaciers receding or the snows disappearing from Kilamanjaro. Are humans the cause of global warming? It’s certainly possible, but I don’t think we know why, how, or what to do to stop it. The real questions are – how much money are we willing to spend, how many trillions of dollars, and how much economic progress in the developed and developing world are we willing to curtail, to take what amounts to a wild guess on reversing climate change? I think we have bigger environmental fish to fry, like pollution (the non-CO2 type), and deforestation from biofuel production.

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There is a competiting documentary, called The Great Global Warming Swindle, which can be seen here:

http://www.garagetv.be/video-galerij/blancostemrecht/The_Great_Global_Warming_Swindle_Documentary_Film.aspx

This film has its own problems and factual errors, but there are some interesting points made and includes interview segments from MIT Professor of Meteorology Richard Lindzen.

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