Scientists Urge Gore to Cool His Global Warming Rhetoric

Published June 1, 2007

While basking in the afterglow of having his movie, An Inconvenient Truth, awarded an Oscar, former vice president Al Gore is finding his rhetorical flourishes on the subject of global warming aren’t always welcome, even among his supporters in the scientific community.

Scientists Cite Inaccuracies

“I don’t want to pick on Al Gore,” Don J. Easterbrook, an emeritus professor of geology at Western Washington University, told an audience at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America, “but there are a lot of inaccuracies in the statements we are seeing, and we have to temper that with real data.”

Easterbrook is one of several scientists quoted in the March 13 issue of the New York Times as being uncomfortable with some of Gore’s statements on global warming. Gore–whose movie and other statements on global warming invariably depict a planet heading toward catastrophe unless emissions of greenhouse gases are substantially reduced–is provoking a backlash among scientists who see his alarmism as harmful to public discourse.

Some scientists who are not necessarily hostile to the notion that humans should take action to halt global warming nevertheless shy away from many of Gore’s dire predictions of an impending “climate crisis.”

Kevin Vranes, a climatologist at the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado, told the Times of growing unease among his colleagues with Gore’s exaggerations. While praising Gore for “getting the message out,” Vranes wondered whether the former vice president’s presentations were “overselling our certainty about knowing the future.”

Gore, who regularly invokes a “scientific consensus” on global warming when conjuring up visions of melting ice caps and rising sea levels brought on by the burning of fossil fuels, routinely dismisses his critics as either uninformed or industry shills.

Irritating Real Scientists

One of Gore’s key advisors on global warming is James E. Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Hansen, who is widely credited with bringing the issue to the public’s attention at a carefully staged Senate hearing in 1988, acknowledges Gore’s presentations contain “imperfections” and “technical flaws,” although he praises Gore’s overall performance on the issue.

Gore’s predictions of a planet doomed by greenhouse gas emissions have gotten under the skin of more than a few scientists, however. “He’s one of these guys that preach the end-of-the-world type of things,” observed hurricane expert Dr. William Gray at the National Hurricane Conference in New Orleans in April. “I think he’s doing a great disservice and he doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” said Gray.

No Basis in Fact

In an interview for this story, Dr. Patrick Michaels, visiting climate scientist at Virginia Tech University and a past president of the American Association of State Climatologists, noted, “the major theme in Gore’s book is that we will have a crisis caused by the rapid melt of ice in Greenland. I don’t think it has any real basis in an objective read of the refereed literature.

“The models that predict a melting of Greenland’s ice take about 1,000 years to get rid of just half the ice, even assuming carbon dioxide levels four times higher than pre-industrial levels,” Michaels added.

“Keep in mind that carbon dioxide levels are currently less than 40 percent above pre-industrial levels,” Michaels continued. “Does anybody really believe that we will be a fossil fuel economy long enough to reach the carbon dioxide levels necessary to melt Greenland in a thousand years?”

Bonner R. Cohen ([email protected]) is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, DC and author of The Green Wave: Environmentalism and its Consequences, published by the Capital Research Center.