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Al Gore’s movie

Filed under: — eric @ 10 May 2006 - (Français)

by Eric Steig

Along with various Seattle business and community leaders, city planners and politicians, a large group of scientists from the University of Washington got a chance to preview the new film, An Inconvenient Truth, last week. The film is about Al Gore’s efforts to educate the public about global warming, with the goal of creating the political will necessary for the United States to take the lead in efforts to lower global carbon emissions. It is an inspiring film, and is decidedly non-partisan in its outlook (though there are a few subtle references to the Bush administration’s lack of leadership on this and other environmental issues).

Since Gore is rumored to be a fan of RealClimate, we thought it appropriate to give our first impressions.

Much of the footage in Inconvenient Truth is of Al Gore giving a slideshow on the science of global warming. Sound boring? Well, yes, a little. But it is a very good slide show, in the vein of Carl Sagan (lots of beautiful imagery, and some very slick graphics and digital animation). And it is interspersed with personal reflections from Gore that add a very nice human element. Gore in the classroom in 1968, listening to the great geochemist Roger Revelle describe the first few years of data on carbon dioxide increases in the atmosphere. Gore on the family farm, talking about his father’s tobacco business, and how he shut it down when his daughter (Al Gore’s sister) got lung cancer. Gore on the campaign trail, and his disappointment at the Supreme Court decision. This isn’t the “wooden” Gore of the 2000 campgain; he is clearly in his element here, talking about something he has cared deeply about for over 30 years.

How well does the film handle the science? Admirably, I thought. It is remarkably up to date, with reference to some of the very latest research. Discussion of recent changes in Antarctica and Greenland are expertly laid out. He also does a very good job in talking about the relationship between sea surface temperature and hurricane intensity. As one might expect, he uses the Katrina disaster to underscore the point that climate change may have serious impacts on society, but he doesn’t highlight the connection any more than is appropriate (see our post on this, here).

There are a few scientific errors that are important in the film. At one point Gore claims that you can see the aerosol concentrations in Antarctic ice cores change “in just two years”, due to the U.S. Clean Air Act. You can’t see dust and aerosols at all in Antarctic cores — not with the naked eye — and I’m skeptical you can definitively point to the influence of the Clean Air Act. I was left wondering whether Gore got this notion, and I hope he’ll correct it in future versions of his slideshow. Another complaint is the juxtaposition of an image relating to CO2 emissions and an image illustrating invasive plant species. This is misleading; the problem of invasive species is predominantly due to land use change and importation, not to “global warming”. Still, these are rather minor errors. It is true that the effect of reduced leaded gasoline use in the U.S. does clearly show up in Greenland ice cores; and it is also certainly true that climate change could exacerbate the problem of invasive species.

Several of my colleagues complained that a more significant error is Gore’s use of the long ice core records of CO2 and temperature (from oxygen isotope measurements) in Antarctic ice cores to illustrate the correlation between the two. The complaint is that the correlation is somewhat misleading, because a number of other climate forcings besides CO2 contribute to the change in Antarctic temperature between glacial and interglacial climate. Simply extrapolating this correlation forward in time puts the temperature in 2100 A.D. somewhere upwards of 10 C warmer than present — rather at the extreme end of the vast majority of projections (as we have discussed here). However, I don’t really agree with my colleagues’ criticism on this point. Gore is careful not to state what the temperature/CO2 scaling is. He is making a qualitative point, which is entirely accurate. The fact is that it would be difficult or impossible to explain past changes in temperature during the ice age cycles without CO2 changes (as we have discussed here). In that sense, the ice core CO2-temperature correlation remains an appropriate demonstration of the influence of CO2 on climate.

For the most part, I think Gore gets the science right, just as he did in Earth in the Balance. The small errors don’t detract from Gore’s main point, which is that we in the United States have the technological and institutional ability to have a significant impact on the future trajectory of climate change. This is not entirely a scientific issue — indeed, Gore repeatedly makes the point that it is a moral issue — but Gore draws heavily on Pacala and Socolow’s recent work to show that the technology is there (see Science 305, p. 968 Stabilization Wedges: Solving the Climate Problem for the Next 50 Years with Current Technologies).

I’ll admit that I have been a bit of a skeptic about our ability to take any substantive action, especially here in the U.S.
Gore’s aim is to change that viewpoint, and the colleagues I saw the movie with all seem to agree that he is successful.

In short: this film is worth seeing. It opens in early June.

245 Responses to “Al Gore’s movie”

  1. 201

    The end of Ray’s response to #195 was rather like the curates egg – good in parts :-)

    The bad part was to assert that “Corporations, like people, are neither inherently good or bad.” This is denied in the Bible we find that man is a sinner, and in the Wealth of Nations where it is stated that “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.” Wealth of Nations (1776) bk. 1, ch. 10, pt. 2

    The good part was when Ray asserted that “Perhaps more so than people though, they [corporations], need clearer incentives to good behavior regarding their broader impacts.” Those incentives: for men through the criminal law, and for corporations through fiscal incentives (subsidies) and penalties (taxes) are the duty of goventrnment to impose. Total freedom and lack of government for both men and corporations leads to total anarchy.

  2. 202
    Brian Gordon says:

    Re: 187: Why do we have 10 years?

    I read the article and thoroughly enjoyed it. However, I still haven’t seen any science that says we have X years before it’s too late. This paper, and others, refer to the necessity of stopping the building of coal-fired plants now, before we are locked into 50+ years of CO2 emissions from those plants, thus committing us to higher levels of CO2/warming/change.

    Is there a model that projects we have 10 years? Again, with the Arctic Ocean predicted now to be ice-free within 10 years, surely that indicates a tipping point has passed that will likely lead to the permafrost defrosting, releasing methane, etc.

    I found this quote from the paper encouraging and disturbing:
    “The philosopher Hans Jonas finds in this â��imperative of responsibilityâ�� a need for a fundamentally new formulation of ethicsâ��one that takes greater cognizance of future generations and of the
    biosphere at large.”

    OT: Encouraging that Hans realizes we must consider future generations and the earth. Depressing that a philosopher would be so unaware of other philosophical traditions that he thinks we need a “new” ethics. The people we wiped out and confined to reservations had just such an ethics, but rather then learn from anyone else, we must learn it ourselves, the hard way.

    [Response:It's the long lifetime of CO2 in the atmosphere, combined with the 50-60 year capital life of the large number of coal fired power plants planned for the next decade, that led me to the 10 year rule of thumb. --raypierre]

  3. 203
  4. 204
    M H Heaven says:

    In the movie poster, the depiction of a cyclone created by the factory smoke may apply in the southern hemisphere, but here in the northern hemisphere (where I believe most of the movie’s audience will be) a cyclone’s circulation runs in a counterclockwise fashion, an honest oversight by some over-educated global warming fanatic.

  5. 205
    Hank Roberts says:

    When you say someone is “over-educated” — what does that mean to you?

  6. 206
    pat neuman says:

    re 200.

    Mark, was the weatherman a CNN guy? Your comment reminds me of the excerpt below from a Nov. 2004 Minneapolis Star Tribune article titled
    “Capricious weather? Get used to it” by Paul Douglas:

    … Dan Luna, chief of river forecasting at the National Weather Service
    in Chanhassen, said: “It would be hard-pressed for anyone to argue
    that we’re not seeing evidence of warming. ‘Why?’ is another
    question, but we’re just not getting the really cold winters anymore.” …

    Dan Luna was my supervisor.

  7. 207
    Dan says:

    re: 204. Wow, talk about cherry-picking! Since when are movie studio PR people designated “over-educated global warming fanatics”? It’s PR for a movie, not a science joutnal. ;-)

  8. 208

    Re 204 It must be reassuring to the folk of New Orleans that the cyclone was rotating in the wrong direction. But then they are safe from cyclones anyway. You only get hurricanes in the North Atlantic :-(.

  9. 209
    S Molnar says:

    Re #204: It’s not a question of which side of the equator you’re on, but which side of the factory. The northern hemisphere population is clearly on the far side of the factory (all I can see on the near side is what looks to be a few marsupials), so the circulation is correct.

  10. 210

    Re 199 I don’t think I can talk you out of it, but can I talk Raypierre out of his 10 years, that is the question.

    The Arctic is is melting, and there is a positive feedback from the ice albedo effect. Now it has started to melt, the melting will accelerate. The only way to stop it would be to reduce CO2 levels below those of today. That means we stop burning all fossil fuels now. But it is imposible, so we have passed that tipping point.

    It is like a car with no brakes sitting on the top of a hill. So long as it is stationery everything is OK, but once it starts moving down the hill without a driver, there is no way of stopping it.

    It is the same with the Greenland ice. When the surface melts, its altitude is reduced and the air temperature is warmer causing more melting the following season. That is happening now, and that car has started rolling too.

    When are you scientists going to come down from your dreaming spires and start engineering a solution to “another fine mess” you’ve got us into :-?

  11. 211
    Doug Percival says:

    raypierre replied to my comment #199, in part:

    There’s no one unique point at which one gives up hope, because however much damage we do to the climate, we’re always capable of doing a lot more, so there never comes a point where emissions abatement becomes pointless. If the “10 years” is supposed to mean strictly that the likely emissions in the next 10 years themselves will push us past a point of no return, on the other hand, I’d agree that the statement is not supportable scientifically.

    I think that action to reduce any additional harm beyond what we’ve already done is justified now, and would always be justified.

    What I am saying is that I understand Gore, Hansen and others to be saying that we still have ten years in which we can change our behaviors and avert irreversible, runaway warming and truly catastrophic, civilization-ending, mass-extinction-inducing climate change.

    But when I look at what is happening to the Earth right now, particularly the unexpectedly rapid and accelerating warming and the effects thereof that are already taking place, the self-reinforcing feedbacks that are already apparently kicking in, and the longevity of the additional CO2 that’s already in the air and will continue to produce the effects we are seeing now for decades to come even if we stopped burning all fossil fuels tomorrow (which we clearly will not do), it certainly appears to me that irreversible, runaway warming has probably already begun, and we are already past the tipping point of no return.

  12. 212
    pat neuman says:

    re 206. 200.

    My comment about a Nov. 2004 Minneapolis Star Tribune article where … Dan Luna, chief of river forecasting at the National Weather Service in Chanhassen, said: “It would be hard-pressed for anyone to argue that we’re not seeing evidence of warming. ‘Why?’ is another question, but we’re just not getting the really cold winters anymore.” … needs additional explanation.

    Mr. Dan Luna, Hydrologist in Charge of NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) North Central River Forecast Center (NCRFC) was my supervisor from 2001 to 2005. By his hinting that we don’t know the cause of global warming in the Star Tribune article, Mr. Luna was just following instructions within his chain of command in NWS and NOAA.

    Mr. Luna’s supervisor in 2004 was NWS Central Region Director Mr. Dennis H. McCarthy, who was promoted to another position within NOAA in 2004. While Mr. McCarthy was director, I received a call from Mr. McCarthy’s Deputy of NWS Central Region, Mr. Gary Foltz, while I was at home (Oct. 31, 2003). I had just gotten back from presenting my paper on earlier snowmelt runoff in the Upper Midwest, at the NWS Climate Prediction Center meeting in Reno, NV. I was on vacation at the time. Mr. Foltz told me that people in NOAA headquarters were surprised and troubled with a Press Release that I issued, on my own time and with my own money, dated Oct 30, 2003.

    Later in 2004, after receiving a suspension from Mr. McCarthy, which was supported by NWS Deputy Director John Jones, I received a letter (June 28, 2004) from NWS Director David L. Johnson concerning my Oct 2003 Press Release.

    In the letter, the NWS director states:

    … “every employee is free to issue statements or publish findings as an individual. However, the record shows your name, position and government organization were used in the article published by U.S. Newswire on October 30, 2003. The usage of your official position and title is contrary to previous written direction by your supervisors,” …

    In January, 2004, Mr. Luna told me that the NOAA Deputy Administrator, Mr. James R. Mahoney, wanted me fired for my Press Release but that the lawyers in NOAA had advised him that more would be needed to fire me than just my Press Release.

    Photos of Mr. Mahoney and other NOAA administrators are at:

    Also, the link above shows the previous director of NWS, John (Jack) J. Kelly, Jr., Brigadier General (USAF ret.), now a Deputy Undersecretary for Oceans and Atmosphere. Mr. Kelly supported three suspensions that were issued to me in 2000 and 2001 by my previous supervisor at NCRFC, Dean T. Braatz, now retired, which all were related to what I saw was a need to consider climate change in hydrologic modeling and flood prediction in the Upper Midwest and that I felt was part of my at work responsibility in public service.

    My work on the effects of climate change on snowmelt runoff and flooding can be viewed at:

    What does all this have to do with Al Gore’s movie? Well, Al Gore did not reply to my letters to him in 2000 asking him to look into this matter at NWS and NOAA.

    I won’t be going to see Al Gore’s movie.

  13. 213
    Hank Roberts says:

    In 2000, Pat, he was a bit busy. He may have thought you wanted him to look into a personal complaint rather than an organizational issue — but the timing was unfortunate even if the latter.

  14. 214
    S Molnar says:

    Re #211:
    At the risk of sounding optimistic, let me say that I think one reason climate change seems to be accelerating faster than predicted is that a lot of people are doing very good work measuring changes that are almost undetectable. For example, the net loss of ice in Greenland and Antarctica is very worrying, but can be seen only with high precision instruments and careful surveys. If you think about it, very few of us would be aware of climate change at all if it weren’t for reports from remote regions and good scientific detective work. So if Raypierre tells me it’s (most likely, more or less) three degrees for every doubling of carbon dioxide, and that the current situation is pretty much what the models predict, then I have no reason to doubt him. Yes, three degrees is very bad, but it won’t, by itself, cause the end of civilization (except for polar bear civilization).

  15. 215
    Brian Gordon says:

    Raypierre: I take from your comment that you (or the scientific consensus) don’t believe there is sufficient CO2 in the atmosphere now to push us past a major tipping point, but there is expected to be in 10 years? What is this tipping point that will occur in 10 years?

    210 & 211: Thank you for explaining my dilemma further. Yes, I completely agree that we need to do everything we can immediately to stop climate change. Like you, it seems to me that some changes, like the Arctic Sea ice melting, are permanent and show that that region has passed a tipping point. It’s happening so fast that we’ll know in a few years. Worse, it seems a big enough change that it will have a significant global effect far beyond our ability to control.

    I haven’t seen any scientific evidence in favour of 10 years. I saw that number in one of the books by Linden, Flannery, or Kolbert, and heard it from Dr. David Suzuki (famous Canadian scientist/environmentalist). I’m hoping there is some science to back it up. But it sure looks to me like reducing CO2 at this point is delaying the inevitable – and I firmly believe we have an obligation to do that, to try our damndest to return the Earth to her former glory. And until you _know_ it’s over, it’s foolish to give up.

  16. 216
    Hank Roberts says:

    Brian, try reading this article:

    It may take you a week of spare time to read carefully (it took me that long and I’m still working on it).
    But this is as good as the information gets, from the researchers closest to the work.

    A bit of the abstract (and please, please, don’t respond to the bit I’ve nipped from the abstract — the information you’re asking for is in the article). I’m just another reader here, not a researcher, but I think this is the basis you’re asking for.

    I’ve added paragraph breaks to break the info into screen-readable chunks here:

    “…. scenarios allow study of the level of forcing that yields “dangerous interference” with climate. Identification of “dangerous” effects is partly subjective, but we find evidence that added global warming of more than 1°C has effects that may be highly disruptive.

    The alternative scenario, with peak added forcing ~1.5 W/m2 in 2100, keeps further global warming under 1°C for climate sensitivity ~3°C or less for doubled CO2. Regional seasonal warming in the alternative scenario stays within 2� (standard deviations) of 20th century variability, but the other scenarios yield regional changes of 5-10�, i.e., climate changes outside the range of local experience.

    We discuss three specific sub-global topics: Arctic climate change, tropical storm intensification, and ice sheet stability. We suggest that Arctic climate change has been driven as much by pollutants (O3, its precursor CH4, and soot) as by CO2, offering hope that dual efforts to reduce pollutants and slow CO2 growth could minimize Arctic change. ….

    Increasing GHGs cause significant warming in our model in regions of submarine ice shelves with potential implications for future sea level. Growth of non-CO2 forcings has slowed, but CO2 emissions are now surging well above the alternative scenario.

    Prompt actions to slow CO2 emissions and decrease non-CO2 forcings are needed to achieve the low forcing of the alternative scenario.

    Bottom line — how to achieve the scenario that keeps the model within the bounds of human experience rather than going entirely off the known map.

  17. 217
    munge says:

    Re my #128

    “Gore has a history of hyperbole (much of it of little import), and using Katrina as a GW ‘prop’ was foolish; particularly when juxtaposed, as Eric pointed out, against the context of what he actually says in the movie….it is a given that the average 25-50 moviegoer who can’t get into a sold-out “M:I:III” will take one glance at that Katrina poster and tune completely out, based on the prevailing CW about Gore — rightly or wrongly so…As for “However Katrina is classified, you have to admit that no previous hurricane that hit New Orleans did what Katrina did.”, quite the contrary. Betsy also hit NO as a strong Cat 3 on Sept. 9, 1965, pushing Lake Ponchartrain into NO, submerging the 9th Ward and other parts of the city. The River Gulf outlet & Industrial Canal levees were also topped.”

    Well, so much for juxtaposition, now that Gore’s name & visage has been scrubbed clean from the movie’s promotional items as it moves into general release. Perhaps the producers thought Gore himself was an inconvenient truth? I find this subterfuge troubling, at best.

    [Response: I'm really not sure what your point is about Gore. As far as I can tell, the movie has done nothing but good things for his credibility. Gore haters will find more reasons in the movie to hate Gore and there's nothing Al Gore could do about that except to lie about global warming and say it's not going to be serious --something he's fortunately not interested in doing. Most of the criticism of the movie I've seen from the anti-Gore wing basically just says he should have made the movie less effective at communicating the urgency of the problem. Look, this is an advocacy movie, not a journal article, and Gore clearly believes something must be done and is going to present the science in as compelling (while honest) a way as possible in order to make that case. As for Hurricane Betsy, it did about $10 billion in damage (current dollars), and killed only 76 people in Louisiana. It's true that because of the fast and competent work by the Democratic administration of Lyndon Johnson, there was less suffering than Katrina caused and what there was was set right more quickly. Another thing to take into account is that the busy building that came as a result of Betsy was supposed to make New Orleans more resistant to a similar storm, implying either that the replacement storm defenses were actually worse than in the 1960's, or that Katrina indeed had a stronger effect that Betsy. --raypierre]

  18. 218
    pat neuman says:

    re: 213. 212.

    Hank, another reason I’m not going to see Al Gore’s movie is that Gore and the Democratic Party did not try to put global warming up as a major issue in the 2004 elections, despite the urging of many to him and CBS in the final debate.

  19. 219
    Hank Roberts says:

    Question for Eric (re the original article at the top); you said you can’t see dust layers in an ice core, disagreeing with what Mr. Gore said he was shown on one of his trips.
    I know one can see layers in some cores — the closest image I found with Google was, I think, a sediment core, here:

    Are you in a position to inquire further and find out more about what Mr. Gore says he was shown, and told was a visible annual layer in an ice core?

    This is just one “what’s the reference please” question — I hope all the cites can be put somewhere eventually, and hope the moviemakers or someone helping with the slideshow as it evolves are reading and respond with a list of sources.

    (This picture is from a school coursework website, and I don’t know where to ask for better info — perhaps you would know how to check the claim either way).

  20. 220
    Grant says:

    Re: #218

    I think you should reconsider both seeing the movie and the democratic party. It’s far from perfect, but the republican party is so great an obstacle to action on this issue, that the democrats are, frankly, our only chance to get something done.

    This issue is one of the reasons I’m such a strong supporter of Gen. Wesley Clark. He has made the issue prominent among his supporters, has given it lots of publicity, and has taken an approach which I think might help to motivate public interest: insisting that global warming is a *national security* issue.

  21. 221

    There is a huge disconnect somewhere, between science, which brought this Internet, prolongs human life span, reconstructed dinosaurs from 60 million year old bones, some not found as fossils turned to useable oil, making rich the petrol industry largely thanks to chemists and engineers, from the same school of scientists which ironically created television, often used by contrarians to decry that some from these Universities have mere crackpot professors driven to secure their comfortable jobs by scaring the world of an impending doom which may never come to be!

    Most people trust their schools and great Universities, but somehow these institutions don’t come out swinging against the real crackpots on TV and Radio, totally incompetent in making any sound conclusion about Climate Change, any more capable than explaining how the Televisions which carry their nonsense works. The silence from these much undeservedly berated institutions does not help put an end with the GW debate. I’ve seen it again and again, luckily some TV producers have taken over the debate, unfortunately comparing it to a football game between two equal teams, one with climate scientists, the other with a science fiction writer as their quarterback.

    However its not a game, many in this world, the majority of people in this world, know that GW is happening, no one from Radio or TV can say otherwise, unless they have been living in a cave. The reality of this warming needs very little media, but the Institutions must kick in at a higher level, to help get the science out, to explain the underlying reasons behind this warming, so capable politicians may finally tackle even more this issue at a world wide level.

  22. 222

    Re: #139, 143 and 177 — Balling should be ashamed.

    The 1991 Cosmos paper, “What to do about Greenhouse Warming: Look Before You Leap,” is not “Revelle’s article.” Roger Revelle did not write the Cosmos article. That is a myth, perpetuated by a small crew of energy-industry agents and a much larger public they have suckered.

    The Cosmos article is, in reality, S. Fred Singer’s insidious masterpiece, from start to finish. One can urge that Revelle, technically, was a co-author simply because he allowed his name to be used. But that’s it: he was used. Revelle’s actual, participatory, authorship cannot be demonstrated beyond a single momentary session, an editing review of the galley proof, a lengthy session for Roger at a time when his physical ability to pay attention for more than a very short period was severely eroded.

    About the Cosmos article and that editing session, Revelle’s secretary states in a sworn affidavit: “I am sure that Roger and I together never worked on the article [...] I know it was not one of Roger’s priorities. [...] In late summer 1990, Roger started coming into the office for short periods of time and often would spend much of the time dozing. [...] Sometimes he would fall asleep while he was dictating [...]. I remember that even as late as November 1990 [...] he was too weak to walk very far. [...] I do not remember seeing any review by Roger of any text by Dr. Singer before a day in February 1991 when he came to Roger’s office. [...] After a series of unsuccessful attempts to get Roger to work on this document, Dr. Singer must have decided that the only way he was going to get this thing done was to come in person. [...] Dr. Singer arrived unannounced one day in February 1991. I was unprepared for his visit, thinking that Roger had other plans for that afternoon. [...] I remember feeling that Roger was cornered, because I thought I understood from the fact that Roger had procrastinated so long that this enterprise was something he didn’t really want to be involved with. [...] Roger had been very reluctant to be involved in this enterprise.”

    Changes to the final galley proof owing to the discussion between Singer and Revelle on February 6, 1991 in Revelle’s office comprise less than 1% of the text of the published article. Further, the changes are not completely consistent or representative of Revelle’s known views, most significantly that the expected warming in the 21st century would be 1-3 degrees Celsius, as opposed to “well below normal year-to-year variation.” This variation, in a less-pressured moment, Roger would have realized from his own frequently-used lecture materials to be less than 0.3 degrees Celsius.

    My understanding from my conversations with Roger’s secretary was that Roger was pressured and worn down on this single afternoon in February of 1991. Afterwards, Roger said to me, in embarrassment: “S. Fred is a rather persuasive fellow.” As far as it appears, Revelle did not work on the paper prior to the final review session of February 6, 1991 at Scripps. Singer has admitted under oath that he could not recall ever receiving comments from Revelle on any of the three drafts that Singer wrote and distributed leading up to the galley proof version.

    Singer has admitted, also under oath, that it is possible that the three successive drafts were distributed to Michaels, Balling, Ellsaesser and Lindzen, and he describes receiving their comments and incorporating their contributions. Why are not these contributors included as co-authors? (Singer argues because they were not Cosmos Club members). But, was Revelle ever aware that such a team was actually writing “Revelle’s article”? No evidence has surfaced that he was.

    One might wonder if Roger entered into co-authorship fairly and fully informed? For instance, Singer also has admitted under oath that he cannot recall informing Revelle that he, Singer, during the intervening months that supposedly the Cosmos authors were hard at work together, just happened to publish himself, as sole author, a major chunk of the Cosmos article in another journal, including the title, most of the conclusion and the key, most-used quotes: “Look before you leap” and “The scientific basis for a greenhouse warming is too uncertain to justify drastic action at this time.” (see Environmental Science & Technology, Vol. 24, No. 8, 1990). Further, Singer has admitted this would make him the sole author of this material. So, in this context, how is one to look at attribution of authorship to Revelle for that same material? Were these co-drafted, co-written, and/or co-authored sections? Where does Revelle’s authorship begin?

    My personal conversation with Roger shortly after the publication of the Cosmos article gave me the very strong sense that he was intensely embarrassed that his name was associated. He seemed noticeably relieved when we agreed together that perhaps the readership of the Cosmos Club journal would be small and limited. Little did either of us anticipate what was really going on and what would follow.

    One has to ask, given the above circumstances, why is this abomination so widely referenced and so constantly held forth as a Revelle paper? Why, for instance, is not this article referred to as the “Singer article”? After all, Singer really is the guy who wrote it, along with his close-knit group of crowing cronies. And Singer’s the guy who claimed a good chunk of the article as sole author before Revelle put pen to paper.

    The ugly truth is that the Cosmos Myth, that this is “Revelle’s article”, has been happily brandished as a political weapon by none other than Singer, Balling and Michaels for more than a decade. It has been used to dig, club, claw and otherwise embarrass one, single former Revelle student, a student who has most admirably refused to cease bestowing upon his mentor much deserved credit for inspiring said student to care deeply about global climate change and to pay close and honest attention to the science.

    This article has been used, and continues to be used, exclusively for political purposes. I sincerely believe that this article was created, from start to finish, for just the purpose for which it is being used. This whole affair is most repugnant, a shameful manipulation and exploitation of the life and teaching of a great scientist and humanitarian.

    More than ten years ago, I was forced by a SLAPP suit to publish a retraction of my earlier description of the foregoing truth. Regrettably, this was only three years before such lawsuits were made illegal in Massachusetts. My statements were true, this was a clear issue of public concern, and Singer was clearly a public figure. Regrettably, although I knew I could prevail at trial, for multiple reasons I could not afford to travel that path.

    I have since repudiated and rescinded that retraction. More than ever, this is an issue of public concern. Evidence for all the above will be available soon on the Web.

  23. 223

    Re #214
    S Molnar, what part of this world are you living on? I live in Canberra, Australia, there are plenty of people in this part of the world who do not share your opinion that Global warming is a trifling matter.

    [Response: There are several things S Molnar isn't taking into account. To be sure, it has proved a challenge to unambiguously detect the anthropogenic climate signal so far , but remember that so far we've only gone from 280ppm to about 390ppm, and the oceans haven't even cought up with all the warming from that. Without abatement, we'lll easily hit 700ppm, and if nothing happens to decarbonize the economy it will go a lot higher within the coming two centuries. 3C is a global mean. Land warms more than oceans and the local effects can be substantially greater than this. There are major changes in tropical precipitation, and tropical ecosystems are adapted to a rather narrow range of temperature. I wouldn't claim that we're facing the end of civilization, but I don't think it's ethically defensible to take "the end of civilization" as a required damage threshold for taking action. --raypierre]

  24. 224
    Zeke Hausfather says:

    Re #214:
    Bear in mind that the 3 degrees Ray is refererring to is, I believe, 3 degrees Celcius. In Fahrenheit, the full possible range predicted by the IPCC in their 2001 report is 2.5 to 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit, primarilly depending on which SRES scenario most closely matches the future socioeconomic trajectory. And while a mere three degrees Celcius may not sound like much, its actually a rather significant increase given the narrow temperature bands in which many species can survive. Also, three degrees is a global mean, and temperature increases should exhibit themselves in more severe maxima and minima. To take an example from my current work, coral reefs can only survive within a rather narrow range of water temperatures for which they are adapted. If temperatures exceed the upper limit of coral thermal tolerance for an extended period of time (i.e. a few weeks), coral expell their symbiotic zooxanthalae, bleach, and die. In a world where the mean surface temperature increased by 3 degrees, virtually all of the worlds coral reefs would be gone. There are many more assessments out there of the relative expected impacts of various warming scenarios, and I would suggest the IPCC report ( as a good starting point.

    As far as predictions of the acceleration of warming trends being related to improvements in remote regional sensing, these trends are clearly visable in long-running surface and atmosphereic temperature data sets, and certainly not an artifact of new remote stations.

  25. 225
    pat neuman says:

    re 220.

    I agree with what you said on Gen. Wesley Clark insisting that global warming is a *national security* issue.

    If you were in my shoes (since Jan. 2000) I doubt that you would see the global warming movie by Al Gore either.

  26. 226
    Hank Roberts says:

    Pat, it’s not all about _us_.

  27. 227
    S Molnar says:

    Re #223, the response, and #224:
    What I wrote in #214 bears no relation to the responses. “Very bad”, which I did write, is not the same as “a trifling matter”. I said nothing about not taking action. And I said nothing about warming trends not accelerating. I was specifically addressing the issue of whether the warming is unexpectedly rapid (the point raised in #211), i.e., faster than the models predict. As far as I can tell, this is not the case. And I offered an opinion, which you should feel free to attack, on why some may get the false impression that it is the case.

  28. 228
    pat neuman says:

    Hank, I think you are misinterpreting my concerns. My biggest concern involves decisions which my daughters may soon make.

  29. 229
    Hank Roberts says:

    217 is a canned critique reposted from somewhere. The fat deaf drug radio guy, what’s his name, may have originated it. It’s showing up on all the climate discussions under different people’s names.

    Watch for the number to increase as imitators scurry to be the first to write this on new pages.

  30. 230
    S Molnar says:

    Also (one final point), if you read #211 and then my reply in #214, it should be clear that I’m trying to offer a modicum of hope to someone who despairs for the future. If it isn’t clear, then allow me to clarify it. Geez, this is a tough crowd.

  31. 231
    Dan says:

    re: 229.

    Indeed it is. It was posted on the (disingenous) Drudge Report despite the fact that Gore’s image was never intended to be on the poster. In other words, it was made up for mass distribution by the “sheep”.

    Another way to tell is when someone does a “hit and run” post. In other words, someone who has never posted a message before suddenly does but they never reply or post again when the content of the post has been thoroughly disproved. They can not admit they or more likely the source which told them what to regurgitate were wrong in the first place. ;-)

  32. 232
    Lawrence McLean says:

    re #230
    S Molnar, and I guess this applies to all posters, always carefully review your post before actually posting it, ensuring that the point you are making is clear and unambiguous. Also, ensure that the context of each post is clearly defined, meaning, if there are other posts relating to it, that they are referenced by number. Cheers :-)

  33. 233
    pat neuman says:

    Researcher alleges climate cover-up
    By Jim Erickson, Rocky Mountain News
    June 8, 2006

    Jordan St. John, a NOAA spokesman, said the allegations against his agency are false.

    “NOAA is an open and transparent agency,” he said. “It’s unfair to the people who work at this agency that this kind of characterization keeps being made. Hansen said it once, and it took on a life of its own” …


    Here’s more, see link.

    … first day of “Climate Change and the Future of the American West,” a three-day conference sponsored by the University of Colorado’s Natural Resources Law Center. …,1299,DRMN_15_4759358,00.html

  34. 234
    Chuck Booth says:

    “And while a mere three degrees Celcius may not sound like much, its actually a rather significant increase given the narrow temperature bands in which many species can survive.”

    Seemingly small temperature changes can indeed have significant effects. For example, if our (adult) body temperature were to rise by 3 degrees Celcius, from 37 to 40 degrees (= 104 F), we would quickly become comatose; even a 2 C rise to 39 C (= 102 F) would likely put us in the hospital. Many coral species can tolerate winter temperatures down to about 18-20 degrees C (hence, coral reefs in Bermuda), but most corals on tropical reefs seem to be living very close to their upper thermal limit, and a 2-3 degree C increase above normal summer temperatures can cause bleaching, as Zeke Hausfather has noted, or possibly death.

  35. 235
    Stephen Berg says:

    A great quote my dad sent me today:

    “To readers who distrust science, knowledge found through experimentation, and the secular truths of reason in favor of simply believing – I ask you – why should affirming belief in something be a virtuous concept if it misleads? Why should demanding proof be soulless and cold if it keeps you from ignorance and victimization? And why do they always want your money?”

  36. 236
    Ian K says:

    Re #234: I am interested if you have any expertise in corals. I have read an article by a skeptical professor in Australia about the likelihood of damage to the Great Barrier Reef. What he seemed to be saying is that it is not the average sea temperature which is the most important factor but rather the absence of wind, currents, etc to mix the top water with lower, colder water. So if warmer seas are accompanied by more mixing then coral death mightn’t happen as quickly as we fear. In other words it is the probability of significant spells of warm still weather that determines the risk factor.

  37. 237
    pat neuman says:

    Why Global Warming Matters
    By Blair Golson, Truthdig.
    Posted June 9, 2006.
    Editor’s Note: The following is an edited conversation between Truthdig managing editor Blair Golson and Lawrence Bender, the producer of the Al Gore global warming documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” which opened in Los Angeles and New York on Wednesday, May 24.

  38. 238
    S Molnar says:

    Re #232: Good advice, but that’s exactly what I did, which is why I was stunned by the response. I don’t mind someone politely questioning whether I know the difference between Fahrenheit and Celcius (I do), but I never hinted at an opinion on the behavior of the higher time derivatives of temperature (an interesting question – I have no opinion), or on policy options (my preferred options would widely be viewed as draconian, even by raypierre, I suspect). Anyway, it’s good to see there are people in Canberra who care – if only John Howard were one of them.

  39. 239
    Samuel Gravina says:

    I’m surprised by my reaction to the movie and this discussion. I expected the hype to exceed the danger but now believe the opposite. The danger seems to exceed the hype, significantly.

    I believe there is no engineering solution to global warming. For two reasons:

    1.) What we measure now is due to the accumulation of cause over very long periods of time. The greenhouse gases now warming us have been collecting for a long time (I don’t know the actual time scale)

    2.) We only contribute a small part of the greenhouse effect so whatever we do will effect only the small part we contribute.

    And we are pretty much enslaved to the greenhouse gasses we produce. I guess that the biggest correlate to CO2 output is population. Each individual requires a certain amount of energy and there is little we can do to reduce their use. Just about all the sources of energy we have available produce CO2. I don’t think there are any ways to release chemical energy from organic sources without releasing CO2. Same can be said for methane.

    Back to the movie. A big marketing claim is that the movie is very scientifically sound. On the greenhouse effect OK but on our understanding of what to do about it or what we have done to contribute to it I don’t think the story is very clear.

    I believe that what will happen will happen. During the next 10 years humanity will do nothing to intentionally alter the global climate. And each decade after that will be equaly out of our control. Just as the last few million years of human activity have had no intentional impact on the global climate. Were still the same people, I don’t see any magic coming our way.

    This is not to say the we shouldn’t burn less oil, build wind mills, or whatever to reduce CO2 emissions. There are other good benefits to be gained by these conservation efforts.

    But perhaps developing better ways to enjoy the warm weather while we can might be worthwhile too.

  40. 240
    Steve Sadlov says:

    RE: #239 – You are a man after my own heart. The contingency planning approach makes the most sense. Let us assume for the sake of argument that Ovshinsky’s technology had popped back in 1969 when he first started to turn ECD into a real company. Let’s also assume that the 1973 Oil Embargo had continued to the present. Etc. Still, I believe we would, as we learned more about climate history and the oscillatory nature of the Quaterary regime, have come to realize that massive swings are to be expected. As we came to learn exactly where we are on the wave form, and came to better predict the behavior of the wave form, we might come to realize that no matter what, we are heading into something drastically different than has been the case during the 500 year Golden Age that has preceded us. Instead of asking, how can I “fix it” perhaps the more appropriate question is how can I ride it?

  41. 241
    Obi Juan says:

    Sam, I just recently saw the movie and came to a similar conclusion. At the end Gore had some slides which suggested that mostly everyone except the USA have already implemented ways to limit CO2 production, and even a lot of US states and cities have done so. My question is that with all these groups doing something, minus the United States as a whole, has there been a decrease in global CO2 over the past few years? If not why not?

  42. 242
    Doug Percival says:

    Chuck Booth in comment 234 wrote:

    Seemingly small temperature changes can indeed have significant effects. For example, if our (adult) body temperature were to rise by 3 degrees Celcius, from 37 to 40 degrees (= 104 F), we would quickly become comatose; even a 2 C rise to 39 C (= 102 F) would likely put us in the hospital.

    This goes to one of the reasons that I find James Lovelock’s gloomy assessment compelling.

    Lovelock conceives of the Earth’s biosphere as a whole system, a holistic biological entity (“Gaia”). From that point of view, what we are doing with our CO2 emissions is poisoning that entity. We are making the entire biosphere, as a living entity, sick. In Lovelock’s phrase, we are giving the living Earth a “morbid fever”. And as Chuck Booth’s comment reminds us, one of the consequences of fever can be death.

    Looking beyond the specific effects of global warming that are usually considered separately, and viewing “CO2 poisoning” as a systemic assault on the entire biosphere, one can see the possibility that Gaia herself could “sicken” to the degree that the biosphere will lapse into a prolonged “coma” or even “die”.

  43. 243
    Mark A. York says:

    “Mark, was the weatherman a CNN guy?”

    Yes. It was one of those casual exchanges with the anchor before he took over and gave his forecast.

  44. 244
    Chuck Booth says:

    Re Ian K.’ comment (#236):
    I can’t call myself an expert on coral reefs, but I do teach coral reef ecology (with annual field trips to the Caribbean) and try to keep up on the literature as best I can. The underlying causes of coral bleaching have been vigorously debated recently on the NOAA coral reef listserv:

    [To subscribe or unsubscribe via the World Wide Web, visit
    or, via email, send a message with subject or body 'help' to ]

    In particular, elevated water temperature and increased UV radiation both cause bleaching, and they often occur together (e.g., on hot, windless days there is less reflection of solar radiation off the flat sea surface, so UV penetration is greater). So, yes, the Australian scientist to whom you refer (I don’t know offhand who that is) may well be correct (one coral reef ecologist suggested on a coral reef listserv thread, somewhat seriously, that old ships sunk to the sea bottom adjacent to certain coral reefs might deflect cool currents toward the surface to reduce the temperature in the shallow waters where the coral reefs are located. I’m not convinced that is a realistic solution). Also, stresses due to pollution, diseases, nutritional state, etc can also be factors in bleaching, and they are much harder to identify, let alone rectify.

    As for Doug Percival’s comment (#242) about Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis, I find it easier (and more productive) to think of global geochemical and biological processes in terms of physical laws, rather than attribute them to some mystical entity. Life on this planet has managed to survive for 3.5 billion years, or so, because of self-regulating systems based on negative feedback – it didn’t have to happen this way: The feedback control could have failed, oxygen could have been depleted, or temperatures could have warmed to lethal levels, and life would have perished. Fortunately, for us, it did not. But, it may well be that life developed on other planets and didn’t survive because something was out of balance, just a bit (such as atmospheric temperature?).

  45. 245
    Hank Roberts says:


    “enthusiasts of the idea began to speak of the Earth as a living organism — not as we said, ‘The Earth behaves like a living organism.’”

    Emergent systems get very complex starting from simple rules.

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