A recent AP news story by Seth Borenstein claimed to report on the science community's opinion of the accuracy of the science in Al Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth", coming soon to a theatre near you.
The story began, "The nation's top climate scientists are giving 'An Inconvenient Truth,' Al Gore's documentary on global warming, five stars for accuracy."
Mr. Borenstein claimed to have contacted 100 "top climate researchers", including "vocal skeptics" of climate change theory, and of the 19 that had either seen the movie or read the book, all of them:
"...had the same general impression: Gore conveyed the science correctly; the world is getting hotter and it is a manmade catastrophe-in-the-making caused by the burning of fossil fuels."
All of the quotes he provided, however, were from well-known cheerleaders for planetary meltdown. Only one of the prominent skeptics I know was contacted by Mr. Borenstein; yet Borenstein implies that "vocal skeptics" made up a portion of the Gang Of 19. I suspect if that were true, he would have highlighted a quote from one of them, which he didn't.
The movie does indeed do a pretty good job of presenting the most dire scenarios that have been dreamed up for what could result from manmade global warming. But the science is always changing. For instance, Mr. Gore claims that the Earth is now warmer than it has been in thousands of years. Yet the latest National Academies of Science (NAS) report on the subject has now admitted that all we really know is that we are warmer now than we were during the last 400 years, which is mostly made up of the "Little Ice Age". And this is a bad thing?
It is difficult to read his article without getting the impression that Mr. Borenstein could hardly contain his glee. How is it that, even with the errors that even the cheerleading scientists note in this news story, the reporter still gives the movie's science "five stars"? Is that on a ten-star scale? Enquiring minds want to know.
The article discusses "Washington's top science decision makers" and quotes Mr. Gore as saying that "They are quite literally afraid to know the truth.
"Because if you accept the truth of what the scientific community is saying, it gives you a moral imperative to start to rein in the 70 million tons of global warming pollution that human civilization is putting into the atmosphere every day."
Gore thus implies that only the truly uninformed (or misinformed) would conclude that his policy ideas aren't the correct ones for fighting global warming. He doesn't mention that the U.S. spends billions of dollars on energy research, including just about every alternative energy source you can think of.
Mr. Gore presents his ideas to fix the problem near the end of his movie. At least one of the Gang of 19 had enough insight to admit:
"..the former vice president sugarcoated the problem by saying that with already-available technologies and changes in habit such as changing light bulbs the world could help slow or stop global warming."
This economic and policy reality is a critical part of the debate. "Doing something" about global warming has been likened by many to buying insurance. But while it would be stupid not to have homeowners insurance, it would also be stupid to buy homeowners insurance when the price is more than your home costs.
Gore's quote also relies on the shock value of the "70 million tons" of carbon dioxide emissions produced by humanity every day. That way of phrasing it sounds much more threatening than what it really represents: about 0.00000083% of the atmosphere. Just by breathing, humans produce about 6 million tons of CO2 each day. The natural transfer of CO2 back and forth between the Earth's surface and the atmosphere is estimated to be closer to 7,000 million tons every day.
It is important that we distinguish specifically what the consensus of climate scientists is on the subject of global warming. Certainly, there is a consensus that globally averaged temperatures are unusually warm in recent years. But it is a huge leap to go from that observation to the conclusion that mankind is responsible for all of it, and that "it is a manmade catastrophe-in-the-making." I suspect Mr. Borenstein did not ask for concurrence on that statement from the Gang of 19, yet that is what he implies.
Dr. Roy Spencer is a principal research scientist for the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR-E) on NASA's Aqua satellite.