We all (or at least many of us) crave publicity for things we hold dear. We're convinced that, if we could just get more people to hear about a particular thing we believe is important and compelling, they'd all fall into line, nodding their heads like those dog toys in the backs of cars. However, as I've discovered with the expanding audience for my blog, that doesn't necessarily mean automatic converts to ones viewpoint. It can mean running into people who are hostile to your viewpoint and, even more importantly, people who have intelligent oppositions to your viewpoint. I like the latter, although they sometimes leave me feeling small.
Al Gore is discovering that the increased publicity for his film is also exposing it to increasing ridicule from those in the scientific community who haven't jumped on his bandwagon. The latest, which is getting wide exposure through a Drudge link, comes out of Canada:
"Scientists have an independent obligation to respect and present the truth as they see it," Al Gore sensibly asserts in his film "An Inconvenient Truth", showing at Cumberland 4 Cinemas in Toronto since Jun 2. With that outlook in mind, what do world climate experts actually think about the science of his movie?
Professor Bob Carter of the Marine Geophysical Laboratory at James Cook University, in Australia gives what, for many Canadians, is a surprising assessment: "Gore's circumstantial arguments are so weak that they are pathetic. It is simply incredible that they, and his film, are commanding public attention."
But surely Carter is merely part of what most people regard as a tiny cadre of "climate change skeptics" who disagree with the "vast majority of scientists" Gore cites?
No; Carter is one of hundreds of highly qualified non-governmental, non-industry, non-lobby group climate experts who contest the hypothesis that human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are causing significant global climate change. "Climate experts" is the operative term here. Why? Because what Gore's "majority of scientists" think is immaterial when only a very small fraction of them actually work in the climate field.
Even among that fraction, many focus their studies on the impacts of climate change; biologists, for example, who study everything from insects to polar bears to poison ivy. "While many are highly skilled researchers, they generally do not have special knowledge about the causes of global climate change," explains former University of Winnipeg climatology professor Dr. Tim Ball. "They usually can tell us only about the effects of changes in the local environment where they conduct their studies."
This is highly valuable knowledge, but doesn't make them climate change cause experts, only climate impact experts.
So we have a smaller fraction.
But it becomes smaller still. Among experts who actually examine the causes of change on a global scale, many concentrate their research on designing and enhancing computer models of hypothetical futures. "These models have been consistently wrong in all their scenarios," asserts Ball. "Since modelers concede computer outputs are not "predictions" but are in fact merely scenarios, they are negligent in letting policy-makers and the public think they are actually making forecasts."
We should listen most to scientists who use real data to try to understand what nature is actually telling us about the causes and extent of global climate change. In this relatively small community, there is no consensus, despite what Gore and others would suggest.
The article then proceeds to summarize information from some of those other scientists.
None of this is to say Gore's ultimate conclusion is wrong. He may be right. As I've noted repeatedly, I don't have strongly held or well-informed opinions on the subject. The problem with Gore's particular position is that he sells it falsely, not honestly (although I guess one shouldn't be surprised, given the source). It must be quite a surprise for Gore to come out of his Hollywood bubble and find himself facing real world scrutiny and intelligent argument.