Climate always changes. “An Inconvenient Truth” implies that all serious scientists agree that it is a crisis, and that the United States must immediately reduce carbon dioxide emissions as dictated by the Kyoto treaty the Bush administration so arrogantly refuses to sign — the same treaty the Clinton-Gore administration didn’t even submit to the Senate. But even advocates of Kyoto admit that if all nations signed the agreement and obeyed it, it would affect global temperatures by less than a tenth of a degree!
Will Melting Polar Ice Sheets Cause Flooding of Coastal Cities? Gore uses stunning computer-generated images to show what would happen to the world’s coastal areas if the Greenland and West Antarctica ice sheets melted. Sea levels would rise by as much as 40 feet, radically changing coastlines and creating many refugees.
What Gore doesn’t say about the threat to the ice sheets is as important as what he does say, however. Ice and snow is accumulating in the interior of Greenland and Antarctica, but decreasing around the edges. A 2005 study in the Journal of Glaciology by a NASA scientist concludes that there is a net loss of ice that will result in higher sea levels. But the loss is occurring slowly: 0.05 millimeters on average per year. At that rate, it will take a millennium for the oceans to rise 5 centimeters (roughly 2 inches) and 20,000 years to rise a full meter. More recent research indicates that the pace of melting has increased. But even under the worst case it would take at least several centuries – 1,800 years by one calculation – for the scenario painted in the movie to play out, giving humans a considerable amount of time to adapt.
Gore says global warming is the most serious threat ever to face human civilization. So what should we do about it? Surprisingly, Gore’s list of remedies is so meek and mild they are unlikely to offend a single significant voter group. He does not call for a higher gasoline tax or any other tax on fossil fuel. He does not endorse gasoline rationing, mandatory no-drive days or banning SUVs and stockcar races. He does pay lip service to the idea that the United States should limit carbon emissions as called for by the Kyoto Protocol, but nowhere does he mention that doing so might lower anyone’s (any voter’s) wages or cause any inconvenience whatsoever.
Furthermore, according to the National Center for Atmospheric Research, if all of the signatories to the Kyoto Protocol met their greenhouse-gas reduction targets, the Earth would at most be 0.07 degrees Celsius to 0.19 degrees Celsius cooler than without Kyoto. Most analysts argue that it would take multiple Kyotos to substantially reduce future warming. Yet on this “consensus” Gore is amazingly silent.
To achieve a meaningful reduction in emissions, politicians would have to set drastic limits on driving, air conditioning and all industrial production. I suppose “essential” car use would be allowed, and politicians would decide what is essential. A $10 a gallon tax on gasoline might be a start, and Al Gore could funnel the tax money to the scientist “friends” he repeatedly cites in his movie.
Let’s calm down. The scary claims about heat waves and droughts are based on computer models. But computer models are lousy at predicting climate because water vapor and cloud effects cause changes that computers fail to predict. They were unable to anticipate the massive amounts of heat energy that escaped the tropics over the past 15 years, forcing modelers back to the drawing board. In the mid-1970s, computer models told us we should prepare for global cooling.
The fundamentalist doom-mongers ignore scientists who say the effects of global warming may be benign. Harvard astrophysicist Sallie Baliunas says added carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may actually benefit the world because more CO2 helps plants grow. Warmer winters would give farmers a longer harvest season.
Why don’t we hear about this part of the global warming argument? “It’s the money!” says Dr. Baliunas. “Twenty-five billion dollars in government funding has been spent since 1990 to research global warming. If scientists and researchers were coming out releasing reports that global warming has little to do with man, and most to do with just how the planet works, there wouldn’t be as much money to study it.” And the politicians would have one less excuse to take control of our lives.