September 30th 2006

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Articles from this issue:

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Debate simmers over Australian values

EDITORIAL: Learn from America and the EU!

NATIONAL SECURITY: Is ASIO the Achilles heel of counter-terrorism?

MERCHANTS OF SLEAZE: Raunchy lingerie for young children

EMPLOYMENT: Guest workers accepted at economy's expense

QUEENSLAND: State election a no-show for Coalition

HUMAN CLONING: U.S. feminists warn on cloning risks

UNITED STATES: Pro-choice feminism's NeW rival

CLIMATE CHANGE: 'An inconvenient truth?' ... or pseudo-science?

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Quadrant reaches 50 / Grassroots journalism / And another flies over the cuckoo's nest / Howard, Beazley and friends - the next 12 months

ASIAN AFFAIRS: China's missile build-up threatens Taiwan

Queensland election: why the Coalition lost (letter)

September 11 remembered (letter)

Behind the Montreal shootings (letter)

BOOKS: THE BEST OF ANDREW BOLT: Australia's most controversial columnist

BOOKS: THUNDER FROM THE SILENT ZONE: Rethinking China, by Paul Monk

Books promotion page

'An inconvenient truth?' ... or pseudo-science?

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, September 30, 2006
Former U.S. Vice-President, Al Gore, recently visited Australia as part of a barnstorming visit to launch his documentary-style movie, An Inconvenient Truth.

Not surprisingly, Gore's message of imminent environmental catastrophe received a warm response from a largely credulous media which have been vigorously promoting the idea that every climatic extreme - from floods, cyclones and droughts to heat waves, freak snowstorms and retreating glaciers - are due to "global warming".

Mr Gore, whose environmental credentials consist of a law degree, claims that the build-up of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide, is bringing the world to the brink of environmental catastrophe.

William Kininmonth, a former head of Australia's National Climate Centre and a consultant to the World Meteorological Organisation, wrote recently that "the former U.S. Vice-President and his fellow travellers would have us believe that the actions of our civilisation are leading to dangerous climate change, but there are many inconvenient truths about climate that are being ignored in the scare campaign that is being waged with relentless determination by sections of the community." (The Australian, September 12, 2006).

Claim wrong

Mr Kininmonth said that the claims that growing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are causing global warming are wrong.

"As a greenhouse gas, it [CO2] is a spent force for climate change; its present concentration is slightly less than 400 parts per million.

"Calculations show that 66 per cent of the greenhouse effect of CO2 is caused by the first 50ppm. With each doubling of concentration, (from 50 to 100, then to 200 and 400ppm), the incremental advance of the greenhouse effect is reduced.

"Even for a further doubling to 800ppm, as projected by 2100 in the case of unabated fossil fuel usage, the increase in the greenhouse effect will only be 10 per cent of the present component attributable to CO2. Overall, CO2 is a relatively minor contributor to the greenhouse effect, which is dominated by the varying water vapour and clouds of the atmosphere.

"Increasing the CO2 concentration will have little additional effect."

Mr Kininmonth said that evaporation of water vapour would constrain the Earth's temperature and prevent a runaway greenhouse effect.

"Back radiation from the atmosphere, because of greenhouse gases (water vapour, CO2 and so on), clouds and aerosols, raises surface temperatures. But surface temperatures are also constrained by evaporation of water from plants, moist soil and the oceans. The tropical oceans generally do not exceed 30C and it is only over the arid inland that daytime temperatures exceed 40C. Any increase in back radiation because of increased CO2 will largely be offset by additional evaporation that will constrain the rise of surface temperature."


Another environmental sceptic is Professor Richard Lindzen, Professor of Atmospheric Science at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States.

Professor Lindzen recently wrote: "When Newsweek featured global warming in a 1988 issue, it was claimed that all scientists agreed.

"Periodically thereafter it was revealed that although there had been lingering doubts beforehand, now all scientists did indeed agree." (Wall Street Journal, July 2, 2006).

During a sympathetic interview by former Clinton staffer, George Stephanopoulos, with Al Gore on America's ABC network, Mr Gore qualified his statement that the debate on climate change was over, only a few minutes after he made it, clarifying things in an important way.

When Mr Stephanopoulos confronted Mr Gore with the fact that the best estimates of rising sea levels are far less dire than he suggests in his movie, Mr Gore defended his claims by noting that scientists "don't have any models that give them a high level of confidence" one way or the other and went on to claim - in his defence - that scientists "don't know ... they just don't know".

Professor Lindzen commented: "So, presumably, those scientists do not belong to the 'consensus'. Yet their research is forced, whether the evidence supports it or not, into Mr Gore's preferred global-warming template - namely, shrill alarmism.

"To believe it requires that one ignore the truly inconvenient facts. To take the issue of rising sea levels, these include: that the Arctic was as warm or warmer in 1940; that icebergs have been known since time immemorial; that the evidence so far suggests that the Greenland ice sheet is actually growing on average.

"A likely result of all this is increased pressure pushing ice off the coastal perimeter of that country, which is depicted so ominously in Mr Gore's movie. In the absence of factual context, these images are perhaps dire or alarming.

"They are less so otherwise. Alpine glaciers have been retreating since the early 19th century, and were advancing for several centuries before that. Since about 1970, many of the glaciers have stopped retreating and some are now advancing again. And, frankly, we don't know why."

Professor Lindzen said that the other elements of the global-warming scare scenario are predicated on similar misstatements.

"Malaria, claimed as a byproduct of warming, was once common in Michigan and Siberia and remains common in Siberia - mosquitoes don't require tropical warmth.

"Hurricanes, too, vary on multi-decadal time scales; sea-surface temperature is likely to be an important factor. This temperature, itself, varies on multi-decadal time scales. However, questions concerning the origin of the relevant sea-surface temperatures and the nature of trends in hurricane intensity are being hotly argued within the profession."

Professor Lindzen said that a general characteristic of Mr Gore's approach is to assiduously ignore the fact that the earth and its climate are dynamic; they are always changing even without any external forcing.

"To treat all change as something to fear is bad enough; to do so in order to exploit that fear is much worse.

"Regardless, these items are clearly not issues over which debate is ended - at least not in terms of the actual science."

Predictions of imminent environmental disaster have been regularly trotted out for at least the past 40 years, and every time, they have been proved false.

Among the first of these were the doomsday scenarios put forward by Paul Ehrlich, who predicted, in 1970, that the world would run out of oil, food and major resources such as aluminium in the 1980s or, at the latest, the 1990s.

In fact, despite current shortages of oil (caused by the explosive growth of the Chinese economy), world production of oil and gas is far higher than ever before, and the principal health problem in Europe, Asia, Australia and North America is obesity, not starvation.

Ehrlich's populist writings, which sold millions of books, spawned a movement, ZPG [zero population growth], which had branches in many countries, including Australia. It advocated forced population control, including compulsory sterilisation for the world's poor.

This was followed by the notorious Club of Rome report around 1970, and the pretentiously-titled Global 2000 Report, commissioned by the Carter Administration in the United States in 1980. A million copies of it were circulated in the U.S., and other countries produced similar reports.

The Global 2000 Report predicted, "If present trends continue, the world of 2000 will be more crowded, more polluted, less stable ecologically, and more vulnerable to disruption than the world we live in now. ... Despite greater material output, the world's people will be poorer in many ways than they are today."

It added: "For hundreds of millions of the desperately poor, the outlook for food and other necessities of life will be no better. For many it will be worse.

"Barring revolutionary advances in technology, life for most people on earth will be more precarious in 2000 than it is now - unless the nations of the world act decisively to alter current trends."

To counter this nonsense, two respected scientists, Professor Julian Simon and Herman Kahn, head of the Hudson Institute, compiled The Resourceful Earth, with the aid of some of the world's most respected demographers, agricultural and environmental scientists.

It was published in 1983, and predicted that at every point, the Global 2000 Report was wrong. In the event, Simon and Kahn were proved right.

Al Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth, follows a succession of similar doomsday scenarios. It aims to scare people into believing that the world faces an ecological catastrophe by the selective use of environmental evidence, the elaborate use of emotional imagery and, in the words of Professor Lindzen, "a clear attempt to establish truth not by scientific methods but by perpetual repetition".

As the former Democrat President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt once commented, "Repetition does not turn a lie into the truth."

One American reviewer, who agreed with Mr Gore's gloom-and-doom scenario, but was not entirely convinced, commented, "Frankly, this is a guy who was VP of the United States, and he wasn't able to affect change. Now he's telling me to fix it by ... recycling?"

- Peter Westmore.

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