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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Going back a bit.

In this first of a series of posts I will be making, I am going back a fair ways in the responses I got to sending the video link. Before I begin, however, please pause to read this disclaimer.

Next, I wish to apologize for any typos, grammatical errors or unclear sentences that may creep into this post. I haven't had much sleep in the last while, and my thoughts are not as clear as I'd like them to be when I write. Still, I've been procrastinating with this for far to long, so here goes...

One of the first responses I got to sending the Great Global Warming Swindle video link (GGWS from here on) was from someone that, at first, found the idea of Gore making a movie about the environment laughable. After viewing the movie, her opinion changed. To quote...

Lo and Behold I saw the best researched and well presented discussion of just what this planet faces - now and in our lifetimes. The worst of it will happen in our children's lifetimes. If we don't make a lot more progress than most politicians were committing to in January of this year instead of things being difficult for our children - there will be no hope at all.

1- 3 degrees Celsius may be small in local temperature fluctuations. However that type of fluctuation on average for the entire globe we call home is highly dangerous - not minor. And if
mankind is going to push the limits of our normal temperature fluctuations to an extreme we are not likely to survive it. I will watch the debunking website.
Do you know who they are???

There are several issues that come up in these quotes that I wish to respond to. First, is the assertion that Gore's movie was the best researched and well presented discussion she'd ever seen. That may be true for the writer, but not for me.

First off, I have yet to see Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth (AIT from here on) in its entirety. I refuse to pay money to rent it, and have not yet borrowed it. Unlike the documentary, Gore's movie is not available on the internet for all to see - which in itself raises a few questions in my mind, but that's another issue. Of the portions I *have* seen, I've seen so many fallacies and misleading statements in such a short time, it boggles my mind.

I have, for most of my life, had a keen interest in human history - specifically, my interests were in how every day people lived their every day lives. It didn't take me long to notice that our successes or failures as communities, and the developments of cultures and civilizations are closely tied to geography and climate. It was in pursuing these interests that I happened upon correlating themes in climate and global climate change. If I, by accident while looking in other areas, have been seen evidence contrary to claims made in what little of AIT I have seen, how can it be claimed that this movie was so well researched, or that it represents the truth? It seems to me that AIT took the most extreme, disastrous models and presents them as hard truth and fact. Instead of saying "this is what we think might happen," or "this is what could happen under these circumstances," AIT says that these this "will" happen. At that point, it's not longer science, but politics. (I will talk about the inaccuracies of information in another post.)

There's no question that Gore makes a great presentation. He's personable, entertaining, and clearly passionate about his subject. He's an excellent public speaker, comfortable in front of an audience, well spoken, and entertaining. I should hope so, since it seems to be what he does for a living right now. A great presentation, however, does not mean that the presenter is telling the truth - even if they are telling the truth *as they believe it.*

The very last line I quoted, however, is one I've seen variations of many times, and it's one that makes me want to throw my hands up in frustration every time. The "who" of GGWS was answered in the movie itself, and the credentials of these people were upfront. Do I know who these people are? Nope - no more than I know who the researchers used for AIT are. In fact, I know less about the people in AIT than I do about those in GGWS, since I've encountered what the scientists in GGWS put forward before, from many sources.

In the end, very few of us actually know who "they" are, on either side of the table. We can only come to our own conclusions, hopefully through critical thinking and an open mind, based on what knowledge we already have. I found the GGWS movie more believable than even any of the clips of AIT I've seen because the GGWS matches information I *already* had, most of which I gleaned over many decades, often from seemingly unrelated research.

At this point, I will end my post. Time to get back to the real world. ;-)


  1. Anonymous11:33 PM

    I haven't seen Gore's film either, just because I haven't got around to it. I did watch GGWS, at your suggestion, and found it surprising. Unfortunately, further research demonstrates that the filmmaker is highly suspect as to truthfulness, and Carl Wunsch, one of the most respected experts quoted in the film, has strongly objected to his position being completely misrepresented.

    Here are some links to illustrate my points:

    I'm afraid the film is just not credible.

  2. I also didnot watch GGWS. I just think we are an incredibly wasteful society. Our family is trying to live a simpler life.
    Here is an interseting article by George Monbiot
    There is climate change censorship - and it's the deniers who dish it out

    Global warming scientists are under intense pressure to water down findings, and are then accused of silencing their critics

    George Monbiot
    Tuesday April 10, 2007
    The Guardian

    The drafting of reports by the world's pre-eminent group of climate scientists is an odd process. For months scientists contributing to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tussle over the evidence. Nothing gets published unless it achieves consensus. This means that the panel's reports are conservative - even timid. It also means that they are as trustworthy as a scientific document can be.

    Then, when all is settled among the scientists, the politicians sweep in and seek to excise from the summaries anything that threatens their interests.

    Article continues
    The scientists fight back, but they always have to make concessions. The report released on Friday, for example, was shorn of the warning that "North America is expected to experience locally severe economic damage, plus substantial ecosystem, social and cultural disruption from climate change related events".

    This is the opposite of the story endlessly repeated in the rightwing press: that the IPCC, in collusion with governments, is conspiring to exaggerate the science. No one explains why governments should seek to amplify their own failures. In the wacky world of the climate conspiracists no explanations are required. The world's most conservative scientific body has somehow been transformed into a conspiracy of screaming demagogues.

    This is just one aspect of a story that is endlessly told the wrong way round. In the Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Mail, in columns by Dominic Lawson, Tom Utley and Janet Daley, the allegation is repeated that climate scientists and environmentalists are trying to "shut down debate". Those who say that man-made global warming is not taking place, they claim, are being censored.

    Something is missing from their accusations: a single valid example. The closest any of them have been able to get is two letters sent - by the Royal Society and by the US senators Jay Rockefeller and Olympia Snowe - to that delicate flower ExxonMobil, asking that it cease funding lobbyists who deliberately distort climate science. These correspondents had no power to enforce their wishes. They were merely urging Exxon to change its practices. If everyone who urges is a censor, then the comment pages of the newspapers must be closed in the name of free speech.

    In a recent interview, Martin Durkin, who made Channel 4's film The Great Global Warming Swindle, claimed he was subject to "invisible censorship". He seems to have forgotten that he had 90 minutes of prime-time television to expound his theory that climate change is a green conspiracy. What did this censorship amount to? Complaints about one of his programmes had been upheld by the Independent Television Commission. It found that "the views of the four complainants, as made clear to the interviewer, had been distorted by selective editing" and that they had been "misled as to the content and purpose of the programmes when they agreed to take part". This, apparently, makes him a martyr.

    If you want to know what real censorship looks like, let me show you what has been happening on the other side of the fence. Scientists whose research demonstrates that climate change is taking place have been repeatedly threatened and silenced and their findings edited or suppressed.

    The Union of Concerned Scientists found that 58% of the 279 climate scientists working at federal agencies in the US who responded to its survey reported that they had experienced one of the following constraints: 1. Pressure to eliminate the words "climate change", "global warming", or other similar terms from their communications; 2. Editing of scientific reports by their superiors that "changed the meaning of scientific findings"; 3. Statements by officials at their agencies that misrepresented their findings; 4. The disappearance or unusual delay of websites, reports, or other science-based materials relating to climate; 5. New or unusual administrative requirements that impair climate-related work; 6. Situations in which scientists have actively objected to, resigned from, or removed themselves from a project because of pressure to change scientific findings. They reported 435 incidents of political interference over the past five years.

    In 2003, the White House gutted the climate-change section of a report by the Environmental Protection Agency. It deleted references to studies showing that global warming is caused by manmade emissions. It added a reference to a study, partly funded by the American Petroleum Institute, that suggested that temperatures are not rising. Eventually the agency decided to drop the section altogether.

    After Thomas Knutson at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published a paper in 2004 linking rising emissions with more intense tropical cyclones, he was blocked by his superiors from speaking to the media. He agreed to one request to appear on MSNBC, but a public affairs officer at NOAA rang the station and said that Knutson was "too tired" to conduct the interview. The official explained to him that the "White House said no". All media inquiries were to be routed instead to a scientist who believed there was no connection between global warming and hurricanes.

    Last year Nasa's top climate scientist, James Hansen, reported that his bosses were trying to censor his lectures, papers and web postings. He was told by Nasa's PR officials that there would be "dire consequences" if he continued to call for rapid reductions in greenhouse gases.

    Last month, the Alaskan branch of the US fish and wildlife service told its scientists that anyone travelling to the Arctic must understand "the administration's position on climate change, polar bears, and sea ice and will not be speaking on or responding to these issues".

    At hearings in the US Congress three weeks ago, Philip Cooney, a former White House aide who had previously worked at the American Petroleum Institute, admitted he had made hundreds of changes to government reports about climate change on behalf of the Bush administration. Though not a scientist, he had struck out evidence that glaciers were retreating and inserted phrases suggesting that there was serious scientific doubt about global warming.

    The guardians of free speech in Britain aren't above attempting a little suppression, either. The Guardian and I have now received several letters from the climate sceptic Viscount Monckton threatening us with libel proceedings after I challenged his claims about climate science. On two of these occasions he has demanded that articles are removed from the internet. Monckton is the man who wrote to Senators Rockefeller and Snowe, claiming that their letter to ExxonMobil offends the corporation's "right of free speech".

    After Martin Durkin's film was broadcast, one of the scientists it featured, Professor Carl Wunsch, complained that his views on climate change had been misrepresented. He says he has received a legal letter from Durkin's production company, Wag TV, threatening to sue him for defamation unless he agrees to make a public statement that he was neither misrepresented nor misled.

    Would it be terribly impolite to suggest that when such people complain of censorship, a certain amount of projection is taking place?


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