Climate Science Glossary

Term Lookup

Enter a term in the search box to find its definition.

Settings

Use the controls in the far right panel to increase or decrease the number of terms automatically displayed (or to completely turn that feature off).

Term Lookup

Settings


All IPCC definitions taken from Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Working Group I Contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Annex I, Glossary, pp. 941-954. Cambridge University Press.

Home Arguments Software Resources Comments The Consensus Project Translations About Donate

Twitter Facebook YouTube Pinterest

RSS Posts RSS Comments Email Subscribe


Climate's changed before
It's the sun
It's not bad
There is no consensus
It's cooling
Models are unreliable
Temp record is unreliable
Animals and plants can adapt
It hasn't warmed since 1998
Antarctica is gaining ice
View All Arguments...



Username
Password
Keep me logged in
New? Register here
Forgot your password?

Latest Posts

Archives

Is Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth accurate?

What the science says...

Select a level... Basic Intermediate
While there are minor errors in An Inconvenient Truth, the main truths presented - evidence to show mankind is causing global warming and its various impacts is consistent with peer reviewed science.

Climate Myth...

Al Gore got it wrong
“Al Gore's Oscar-winning documentary on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth, was […] criticised by a high court judge who highlighted what he said were "nine scientific errors" in the film.

Mr Justice Barton yesterday said that while the film was "broadly accurate" in its presentation of climate change, he identified nine significant errors in the film, some of which, he said, had arisen in "the context of alarmism and exaggeration" to support the former US vice-president's views on climate change.”  (The Guardian)

It's worth pointing out that Al Gore is a politician, not a climate scientist. Debunking Gore does not disprove anthropogenic global warming. Nevertheless, it is instructive to look at the purported errors in An Inconvenient Truth as it reveals a lot about climate science and the approach of his critics.

What Al got right

Retreating Himalayan Glaciers
Contrary to James Taylor's article, the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Climate never said growing glaciers are "confounding global warming alarmists" - that's a quote from the Heartland Institute website written by... James Taylor. He's actually quoting himself and attributing it to the AMS! To put the Himalayas in context, the original AMS study is not refuting global warming but observing anomalous behaviour in a particular region, the Karakoram mountains. This region has shown short term glacier growth in contrast to the long term, widespread glacier retreat throughout the rest of the Himalayas due to feedback processes associated with monsoon season. Overall, Himalayan glaciers are retreating - satellite measurements have observed "an overall deglaciation of 21%" from 1962 to 2007. In essence, the Karakoram glaciers are the exception that proves the rule.

Greenland gaining ice
Re Greenland, a big clue is the study's title: Recent Ice-Sheet Growth in the Interior of Greenland. The study finds increasing ice mass in the interior due to heavier snowfall - an expected side-effect of global warming - and doesn't factor in all the melting that occurs at the edges of the ice sheet. Overall, Greenland is losing ice according to satellite measurements here, here and here.

Antartica cooling and gaining ice
Antarctic cooling is a uniquely regional phenomenon. The original study observed regional cooling in east Antarctica. The hole in the ozone layer above the Pole causes increased circular winds around the continent preventing warmer air from reaching eastern Antarctica and the Antarctic plateau. The flip side of this is the Antarctic Peninsula has "experienced some of the fastest warming on Earth, nearly 3°C over the last half-century". While East Antartica is gaining ice, Antartica is overall losing ice. This is mostly due to melting in West Antarctica which recently had the largest melting observed by satellites in the last 30 years.

Hurricanes
The dispute isn't that global warming is causing more hurricanes but that it's increasing their severity and longevity.

What Al got wrong

Mount Kilimanjaro
Indeed deforestation seems to be causing Mount Kilimanjaro's shrinking glacier so Gore got this wrong. In his defence, the study by Philip Mote came out after Gore's film was made. But Mote puts it in perspective: "The fact that the loss of ice on Mount Kilimanjaro cannot be used as proof of global warming does not mean that the Earth is not warming. There is ample and conclusive evidence that Earth's average temperature has increased in the past 100 years, and the decline of mid- and high-latitude glaciers is a major piece of evidence."

Dr Thompson's thermometer
Al Gore refers to a graph of temperature, attributing it to Dr Thompson . The graph is actually a combination of Mann's hockey stick (Mann 1998) and CRU's surface measurements (Jones 1999). However, the essential point that temperatures are greater now than during the Medieval Warm Period is correct and confirmed by multiple proxy reconstructions. More on Dr Thompson's thermometer...

Last updated on 26 June 2010 by John Cook.

Printable Version  |  Offline PDF Version  |  Link to this page

Related Arguments

Further reading

  • Al Gore responds to the UK court case that questions An Inconvenient Truth.
  • William Connelley writes a good article The Boring Truth about the judge finding 9 errors in An Inconvenient Truth including links to other blog reactions.
  • Real Climate's Gavin Schmidt and Michael Mann look at exactly what Gore said in each of his 9 errors in Convenient Untruths and find "the 9 points are not "errors" at all (with possibly one unwise choice of tense on the island evacuation point)".
  • Catherine Brahic at New Scientist wonders Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth: unscientific? She concludes "Gore oversimplified certain points, made a few factual errors and, at times, chose the wrong poster child (Mount Kilimanjaro should have been replaced by any number of Alaskan or Andean glaciers, for instance). It's unfortunate, but it remains the most comprehensive popular documentary on climate change science I have seen."
  • Greg Hoke has gone to the trouble of transcribing an unofficial transcript of An Inconvenient Truth - useful for reading Al Gore's exact words.
  • Kåre Fog provides a comprehensive List of acknowledged errors in Gore´s book and film.

Update

On 21 January 2012, 'the skeptic argument' was revised to correct some formatting errors.

Comments

Comments 1 to 14:

  1. Al Gore also got "Dr. Thompson's Thermometer" quite wrong (please see http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=2335 for more)

    1. The y-axis is inverted so the graphic actually shows temps are _cooling_ not warming!
    2. The graphic is actually a reconstruction from Michael Mann, combined with Jones' CRU data, and not Thompson data at all.
    3. The graph is centered at 0.5 instead of 0.

    It is also interesting to note that prominent AGW credulist Tim Lambert knew of these errors yet said nothing as revealed in the comments in this post - http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=2328 .

    It makes one wonder why Mann and Thompson did not say something about the misrepresentation. Perhaps they did not see the movie?
    Response: Thanks for the links - I've added a new post about Dr Thompson's thermometer.
  2. The British high court sided with schools, allowing the screenings of An Inconvenient Truth to continue. The court ruled the film was accurate in its four main scientific hypotheses, "each of which is very well supported by research published in respected, peer-reviewed journals.” The court challenge was funded almost entirely by a mining concern owned by Robert Durward, a long-time critic of environmentalists.
  3. Gore mischaracterizes the effect of global warming on Greenland/Antarctica ice fields/sheets in a big way, and mischaracterizes the long-term consequences of global warming on them as a result.

    In my opinion, this should be bumped to the "he got it wrong" column.
  4. This is an unfair statement. Of course he got it wrong. He's a politician.
  5. Carrick
    Recent articles published within the past year have indicated that the ice sheets that are in fact melting in both Greenland and Antarctica is "at least in part due to vulcanism" (they discovered active volcanos under the ice sheets, first one, then another ...).
  6. Seems Gore was wrong afterall:

    http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/monckton/monckton-gores_10_errors_old_and_new.pdf

    http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/environment/gore.html

    http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/monckton/goreerrors.html

    http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=YmFiZDAyMWFhMGIxNTgwNGIyMjVkZjQ4OGFiZjFlNjc=
  7. Anthony
    Interesting links, thanks.
  8. The following is quoted from How the world was bullied into silence
    *************
    Even those directly involved in the process have joined the shift as the extremist positions grow. Meteorologist Hajo Smit of Holland, and former member of the Dutch UN IPCC committee became a skeptic because of Al Gore..
    “Gore prompted me to start delving into the science again and I quickly found myself solidly in the skeptic camp…Climate models can at best be useful for explaining climate changes after the fact.”
    The function of extremism is to determine limits for the majority. Gore’s extremism provided Mr.Smit with a limit. Cold weather is providing another limit. It is driving proponents of human caused global warming to increasingly extreme positions. This, in turn, is encouraging even those who should have spoken out to take positions. The bullying is over and the bullies are in a panic.

    *************
    IMO Gore has had this effect on many of us.
  9. "The film said a sea-level rise of up to 20ft would be caused by melting of either west Antarctica or Greenland in the near future. The judge ruled that this was "distinctly alarmist"

    A 2007 report by the IPCC explained the maximum we can expect the sea level to rise is 1 foot 5 inches, alarmist indeed.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rImKRTBwXkc&feature=related

    This speaker holds similiar opinions in his book, and talks about the energy crisis, good video
  10. why are errors by al gore acceptable just because he isnt a scientist? he is reading a script isnt he? hopefully, scientists wrote the 'script'. but, if 'scientists' did write the script, then why is it filled with so many glaring lies. sorry, i cant call them errors or untruths. the included 'information' was clearly deliberate for causing alarm.

    so, then, back to my original question. why are errors acceptable in the global warming but so aggressively belittled and attacked when skeptics raise a legitimate question?

    i am very curious about the bias attitude of error forgiving/overlooking nature of global warming vs strike down global warming skeptics.

    heck, i would rather be a ufo believer. at least i will just get laughed at instead of being vehemently attacked!
  11. I am astounded to see point 8 ("that coral reefs were bleaching because of global warming") included as an 'error'. I'd suggest you could safely add that one to the list of what Al got right.

    Yes, there are other factors that cause corals to bleach, but mass coral bleaching is accepted to occur as a result of higher-than-normal sea temperatures resulting from global warming. Leaving it to the experts: "The primary cause of mass coral bleaching is increased sea temperatures. At a local scale, many stressors including disease, sedimentation, cyanide fishing, pollutants and changes in salinity may cause corals to bleach. Mass bleaching, however, affects reefs at regional to global scales and cannot be explained solely by localised stressors operating at small scales. Rather, a ontinuously expanding body of scientific evidence indicates that such mass bleaching events are closely associated with large-scale, anomalously high sea surface temperatures. Temperature increases of only 1-2ºC can trigger mass bleaching events because corals already live close to their maximum thermal limits." (Marshall and Schuttenberg, 2006)

    Re: bleaching, climate change and temperature, the Australian Institute of Marine Science simply states:

    What is known:
    - Global climate is changing rapidly due to human activities and will result in continued rising temperatures both on land and in the sea.
    - Climate change due to the enhanced greenhouse effect has significant consequences for coral reefs. There is a direct link between unusually warm seawater temperature and bleaching of reef-building corals around the world.
    (http://www.aims.gov.au/pages/search/search-coral-bleaching.html)

    Some overviews of bleaching science containing dozens of references to the primary literature:

    Johnson JE and Marshall PA (editors) (2007) Climate Change and the Great Barrier Reef

    http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/corp_site/info_services/publications/misc_pub/climate_change_vulnerability_assessment/climate_change_vulnerability_assessment

    In particular, see Chapter 10:
    Hoegh-Guldberg O, Anthony K, Berkelmans R, Dove S, Fabricus K, Lough J, Marshall P, van Oppen MJH, Negri A and Willis B (2007) Chapter 10 Vulnerability of reef-building corals on the Great Barrier Reef to Climate Change. In Climate Change and the Great Barrier Reef, eds. Johnson JE and Marshall PA. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and Australian Greenhouse Office, Australia

    Marshall and Schuttenberg (2006) "A Reef Manager's Guide to Coral Bleaching", Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

    http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0015/13083/AReefManagersGuidetoCoralBleaching.pdf


    A few useful links:
    Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (what is coral bleaching)
    http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/corp_site/key_issues/climate_change/climate_change_and_the_great_barrier_reef/what_is_coral_bleaching

    NOAA Coral Reef Watch (satellite based sea temperature monitoring for coral bleaching prediction)
    http://coralreefwatch.noaa.gov/satellite/index.html

    Status of Coral Reefs of the World
    http://www.aims.gov.au/pages/research/coral-bleaching/scr2004/
  12. 'Quietman' should take the hint from his own handle, and stay quite quiet! For everything he has said here has been either misleading or outright wrong.

    Perhaps that is why he cannot give us a reference for his alleged scientific evidence that vulcanism is (at least in part) responsible for melting ice sheets.

    Where did you get this, 'quietman'? From The Journal of Irreproducible Results?
  13. nbrack-

    Your information concerning predicted sea-level rise is already out of date. Elsewhere on this site you will find the scientific evidence that up-to-date oceanography is now expecting a larger rise than when the IPCC docs were written.
  14. Re: transjasmine (14)

    Your comment was deemed in violation of the Comments Policy.

    Insinuations are troublesome. Sticking to reference-able facts is best.

    The Yooper

Post a Comment

Political, off-topic or ad hominem comments will be deleted. Comments Policy...

You need to be logged in to post a comment. Login via the left margin or if you're new, register here.

Link to this page



The Consensus Project Website

TEXTBOOK

THE ESCALATOR

(free to republish)

THE DEBUNKING HANDBOOK

BOOK NOW AVAILABLE

The Scientific Guide to
Global Warming Skepticism

Smartphone Apps

iPhone
Android
Nokia

© Copyright 2014 John Cook
Home | Links | Translations | About Us | Contact Us