Gore's Rebuttal Rebutted
The NY Times recently published an article called "From a Rapt Audience, a Call to Cool the Hype."
But part of his scientific audience is uneasy. In talks, articles and blog entries that have appeared since his film and accompanying book came out last year, these scientists argue that some of Mr. Gore’s central points are exaggerated and erroneous. They are alarmed, some say, at what they call his alarmism.
It would now appear that this article - about alarmists being alarmed at Gore's alarmism - is itself, (you guessed it) alarmist and inaccurate. I am not an expert on climate change and would guess that few readers of this blog are. We try to be informed and listen to reasoned arguments. Most of us tend to distrust popular science exercises done by former politicians like Gore.
Nonetheless, many of us have found Gore's presentation to be mostly accurate. I remain most confused about the sea level issue. I have heard that his estimates of sea level are at odds with what most scientists believe - but I have also heard that this aspect of climate science is presently the area with the highest uncertainty.
But when I read an article by William Broad in the NY Times that casts broad doubt on his presentation, it alarms me more than when I read similar reports from groups that are funded by ExxonMobil (duh).
Now it appears that William Broad's article was significantly off the mark. Real Climate has offered a thorough debunking of that article.
The first rule when criticizing popular science presentations for inaccuracies should be to double check any 'facts' you use. It is rather ironic then that William Broad's latest piece on Al Gore plays just as loose with them as he accuses Gore of doing.
I found their discussion of the extreme weather event issue to be particularly salient:
This is dishonest in at least two different ways. First of all, Broad conveniently forgets to mention that the 2006 Hurricane season was accompanied by a moderate El Nino event. It is well known that El Nino events, such as the 2006 El Nino, tend to be associated with stronger westerly winds aloft in the tropical Atlantic, which is unfavorable for tropical cyclone development. The season nonetheless produced a greater than average number of named storms in the tropical Atlantic (10), 3 more than the typical El Nino year. But El Ninos come and go--more or less randomly--from year to year. The overall trend in named tropical Atlantic storms in recent decades is undeniably positive. We can have honest debates about the long-term data quality, but not if we start out by misrepresenting the data we do have, as Broad chooses to.
I would have thought that Broad's editor (he does have one, right) would have done a little bit of fact checking on a topic with so much hype and obfuscation. It would appear that the editor did not exercise due diligence by quoting non-credible people:
Roy Spencer, best known for his satellite work arguing against warming of the atmosphere (which turns out to have been an artifact of a combination of algebraic and sign errors), criticizes Gore for pointing out that recent warmth appears to be anomalous in at least the past 1000 years. Spencer does this by both mis-characterizing the recent National Academies Report on the subject which indeed pointed out that there are numerous lines of evidence for precisely this conclusion, and by completely ignoring the recently-released IPCC Fourth Assessment report, which draws the stronger conclusion that the warmth of recent decades is likely anomalous in at least the past 1300 years.
At any rate, I remain frustrated by how difficult it is to find honest discussions of what is reliable information and what remains mostly unknown. While there are always uncertainties, I wish I had a better understanding of what "most" scientists believe right now on issues like sea level rise. While the IPCC report is supposed to offer this, my understanding is that it is simultaneously the alarmist work of a bunch of U.N. kooks and a massive understatement by U.S. government stooges.