A friend invited me to attend a screening of “An Inconvenient Truth,” Al Gore’s new film about global warming, when it first arrived in Chicago a few weeks ago. The event was sponsored by an environmental advocacy group and the theater was filled with Gore fans. They seemed to love it. I found it frightening.
In the style of a previous generation of propaganda films, Gore substitutes vivid images of the alleged effects of global warming for an accurate account of the scientific debate. We see glaciers calving into the sea, giant storms sweeping through resort areas, burning deserts, and even a cartoon polar bear swimming aimlessly, searching for a place to rest.
Problem: All of the events pictured in this movie have been occurring since before human activities could possibly have caused them. Glaciers have calved into seas for millions of years, storms obviously predate modern civilization and our emissions, and real-life polar bears know better than to head out into open water during the Arctic summer. At any given time in Earth’s history, some glaciers have been expanding while others have been shrinking.
Early in the movie, Gore shows us images of Mount Kilimanjaro’s disappearing snow cap and blames the loss on global warming. Wrong. Scientists say the disappearing snow is due to changes in land use at the bottom of the mountain, causing drier air to rise up the mountain’s side.
Later we see ice melting in the Arctic, Greenland, and the Antarctic. More evidence of global warming? Not necessarily. Scientists say temperatures in the Arctic were higher during the 1930s and the current melting is probably part of a natural cycle caused by ocean currents, not greenhouse gases. And only small parts of Greenland and the Antarctic are melting: Snow and ice are accumulating as rapidly in other parts, for a net loss of around zero.
Gore ignores these inconvenient facts because, he says, the only people who disagree with him are oil company stooges. At one point he compares scientists who disagree with him with apologists for the tobacco industry.
So what are we to make of (in alphabetical order) Dr. Tim Ball at the University of Winnipeg, Dr. Robert Balling at Arizona State University, Dr. Sallie Baliunas at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Dr. Bob Carter at James Cook University in Australia, Dr. Randall Cerveny at Arizona State University, Dr. John Christy at the University of Alabama, Dr. Robert Davis at the University of Virginia, Dr. Christopher Essex at the University of Western Ontario, Dr. Oliver Frauenfeld at the University of Colorado, Dr. Wibjörn Karlèn at Stockholm University, and Dr. Christopher Landsea at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)?
And what about Dr. David Legates at the University of Delaware, Dr. Henry Linden at IIT, Dr. Richard Lindzen at MIT, Dr. Ross McKitrick at the University of Guelph, Dr. Patrick Michaels at the University of Virginia, Dr. Dick Morgan at the University of Exeter, Dr. Tim Peterson at Carleton University, Dr. Roger Pielke Jr. at the University of Colorado, Dr. Eric Posmentier at Dartmouth College, Dr. Willie Soon at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Dr. Roy Spencer at the University of Alabama, and Dr. Boris Winterhalter at the University of Helsinki?
All are respected authorities on climatology, working at respected universities, who appear regularly in peer-reviewed science journals. Some, like Richard Lindzen, are undisputed leading thinkers in their fields. Yet all dispute Gore’s alarmist claims.
So who are you going to believe, politician Al Gore or real scientists?
There are plenty of other errors and exaggerations in Gore’s movie, which people more expert than I are documenting and exposing. Suffice it to say, “An Inconvenient Truth” contains very little truth, and a big helping of propaganda.
What frightens me is the probability that Al Gore himself really believes the hype he tries to sell in this movie. Those who have watched him give his PowerPoint presentation and have discussed it with him say he does.
Everyone has the right to run for president of the United States, even multiple times, and apparently Gore plans to seek his party’s nomination in 2008. While this film will put Gore’s name back in lights for awhile, it also raises serious concerns about his fitness to serve as the nation’s top executive.
Do we want to put the incredible powers of the presidency of the United States in the hands of what Eric Hoffer called a “true believer,” someone who ignores evidence and opinions that contradict his faith?
Joseph L. Bast ([email protected]) is president of The Heartland Institute. A shorter version of this essay appeared in The Philadelphia Daily News on June 27, 2006.