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No doubt trying to distract attention from the recent Bush-Hitler ad controversy and its sponsorship of an event where B-list celebrities used the F-word to describe Republicans, the liberal organization MoveOn.org hosted an event on global warming recently in a freezing New York City. The speaker was a man whom few associate with cursing, former Vice President Al Gore. Yet, ironically for an organization called MoveOn, Gore's speech was very much stuck in the past.
Gore advanced essentially the same arguments that he has for years. He blamed global warming for the disappearing snows of Kilimanjaro despite the local weather stations recording no increase in temperature there.
He talked about extreme weather events, even though scientists acknowledge that the supposed increased incidence of such events is probably due to there being more people around to see them.
And he talked about the "boiling frog" syndrome, which is a total fiction since a frog can feel it is being boiled and will leap out of the pot when it gets too hot.
We have heard everything Gore said before, and for several years now. But the science and economics of climate change have changed since the mid-1990s, which is where Gore seems to be stuck.
It is true that when Gore first advanced his views on global warming, many scientists were skeptical that any warming was taking place. That is not the case now. However, far from being a vindication of the alarmist position, as Gore supposes it to be, the scientific agreement that global warming is taking place has knocked the legs out from under the catastrophe theory.
The warming that has taken place has been gradual and concentrated mostly at night and in the winter at high latitudes. It has not approached anywhere near the levels needed to validate the claims of impending disaster. In fact, far from the nightmarish scenario of a 10 degree F temperature rise over the next century, scientists now believe that the rise will be much, much lower. NASA's James Hansen, who first warned of global warming before Al Gore's Senate subcommittee, now thinks that even if nothing is done to reduce greenhouse gases, the world will only warm by 1.5 degrees F by 2050.
So where does all the alarmism come from? Outlandish projections of double-digit temperature increases derive as much from economics as from science, because they depend on estimating how many greenhouse gas emissions the world will need to produce to support industry, allow travel and heat homes. Yet the estimates of massive warming derive from economic projections that are pure fantasy, including ones in which American economic performance is overtaken by Libya, Algeria, and North Korea. No wonder The Economist has called the authors of such models "dangerously incompetent.” Realistic estimates produce nowhere near the warming forecast by Al Gore and his fellow alarmists.
While Gore claims to be listening to scientists, he is simply not doing so responsibly. And, unfortunately, many scientists are prone to exaggeration. For example, recently some scientists claimed that their research showed that global warming would cause over a million species to go extinct, but they only made the claim when talking to reporters, not in their article, published in the journal Nature.
What they had shown was that some species in a non-representative sample of 1,000 (including 250 South African shrubs) might go extinct if global warming caused their habitats to shrink. If they had made the "million extinct species" claim in the article, it would almost certainly not have been published, because it would have gone beyond what the science allows them to say. A responsible review of what science says requires scrutinizing alarmist claims to see if they can be backed up. Time after time, they can't.
Meanwhile, Gore ignores the economics of the issue. He seems oblivious to the fact that the climate issue is as much about economics as about science. And if the world took the steps that he claims the science requires, millions would suffer as a result. Energy prices would increase and people would not be able to heat their homes or travel to work. If the policies recommended by Gore were adopted, the developing world would stop developing. This is not a progressive stance in any way.
Al Gore needs to stop looking at the issue of global warming from a mid-90s perspective. The science tells us that moderate warming is here, and that we can get used to it without any appreciable ill effects. The economics tell us that our future is sustainable. Face it, Al, it's time to move on.