Rebuttal To Gore Movie, Enthusiastically Embraced By The Right, Grossly Distorts Scientific Facts

An article published on Tech Central Station is buzzing around the right-wing blogosphere as the definitive rebuttal to Al Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth. It’s written by Dr. Robert Balling, a climatology professor at Arizona State University who has received over $400,000 in funding from ExxonMobil, OPEC and the fossil fuels industry over the last decade.

In return, Dr. Balling has done whatever he could to cast doubts on the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change. For example, in 1997 he was arguing “the planet has actually cooled over the past few decades.” His arguments have moderated somewhat since that time, but are no more accurate. You can find a full debunk of the misleading scientific arguments in Dr. Balling’s recent article – cleverly titled “Inconvenient Truths Indeed” – below.

(I recently debated Dr. Balling on many of these issues on the Jim Bohannon Show. You can listen to a portion of the debate.)

BALLING: “Gore discusses glacial and snowpack retreats atop Kenya’s Mt. Kilimanjaro, implying that human induced global warming is to blame. But Gore fails to mention that the snows of Kilimanjaro have been retreating for more than 100 years, largely due to declining atmospheric moisture, not global warming.”

THE FACTS: Dr. Balling is distorting the scientific data. The climate scientists at realclimate.org explain studies of Kilimanjaro “only support the role of precipitation in the initial stages of the retreat, up to the early 1900’s.” Moreover, “the Kilimanjaro glacier survived a 300 year African drought which occurred about 4000 years ago.” The most likely explanation for why it has almost completely disappeared this time is “anthropogenic (human-induced) climate change.”

BALLING: “Many of Gore’s conclusions are based on the ‘Hockey Stick’ that shows near constant global temperatures for 1,000 years with a sharp increase in temperature from 1900 onward. The record Gore chooses in the film completely wipes out the Medieval Warm Period of 1,000 years ago and Little Ice Age that started 500 years ago and ended just over 100 years ago.”

THE FACTS: First, as Dr. Balling acknowledges, Gore does discuss the “Medieval Warm Period” and other temperature fluctuations in the last thousands years. Gore simply illustrates that these changes were fundamentally different than what has occurred at the end of the 20th century. Scientific studies back this up. Realclimate.org explains, “Nearly a dozen model-based and proxy-based reconstructions of Northern Hemisphere mean temperature by different groups all suggest that late 20th century warmth is anomalous in a long-term (multi-century to millennial) context.”

BALLING: “You will certainly not be surprised to see Katrina, other hurricanes, tornadoes, flash floods, and many types of severe weather events linked by Gore to global warming. However, if one took the time to read the downloadable ‘Summary for Policymakers’ in the latest report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), one would learn that “No systematic changes in the frequency of tornadoes, thunder days, or hail events are evident in the limited areas analysed.”

THE FACTS: The IPCC report cited by Balling is from 2001, before Katrina or many of the other extreme weather events cited by Gore occurred. Moreover, Gore is careful not to assert that Katrina or any specific weather event was caused by global warming. Gore notes that climate models predict that as the concentration of carbon dioxide increases the frequency of extreme weather events increases. This is exactly what we’ve seen over the past several years.

DR. BALLING: “Gore claims that sea level rise could drown the Pacific islands, Florida, major cities the world over, and the 9/11 Memorial in New York City. No mention is made of the fact that sea level has been rising at a rate of 1.8 mm per year for the past 8,000 years; the IPCC notes that “No significant acceleration in the rate of sea level rise during the 20th century has been detected.”

THE FACTS: The quote cited by Dr. Balling continues :”This is not inconsistent with model results [predicting accelerating sea levels] due to the possibility of compensating factors and the limited data.” The IPCC study also notes that over the last 3,000 years, sea levels have increased “at an average rate of 0.1 to 0.2 mm/yr” which is “about one tenth of that occurring during the 20th century.” Moreover, “The last time the planet may have been a degree or so warmer than today (about 120,000 years ago), sea level was around 5 to 6 meters higher.”