Gore’s basic climate assumptions must be challenged



By Tom Harris

Al Gore expects us to believe that climate change science is settled. According to the former Vice President, scientists know, with a high degree of certainty, that our emissions of greenhouse gases, 82% of which is carbon dioxide (CO2) in U.S., is causing dangerous climate change. The solution, Gore tells us, is a dramatic reduction in our use of fossil fuels, the source of 86% of the world’s energy supply.

For Gore’s position to be rational, there is a string of postulates that would have to be known to be true, or, at least very likely. The Trump administration’s proposed ‘red team-blue team’ climate science investigation must carefully examine each of these suppositions. For essentially nothing in science, especially a discipline as immature and rapidly evolving as the study of climate, is a known fact. They are merely the opinions of experts based on their interpretations of the observations and their understandings of today’s theory. And different experts have different opinions, even about issues that many scientists assume are settled.

Scientists taking part in the red team-blue team exercise will undoubtedly examine the degree to which recent climate change is natural versus human-caused, the efficacy of computer modeling for forecasting future climate, trends in extreme weather, and other topics of current debate. What they will probably not look at, but should, are the very basics underlying today’s climate change concerns. For example, the experts should be asked to properly re-examine whether the Earth really has warmed in the past century. They should look more closely at the CO2 record and determine if levels really have risen since the 1800s and whether human activities are known to be the main cause of the assumed CO2 rise.

Contrary to Gore’s assertions, these sorts of basic issues are not settled. Former University of Winnipeg climatology professor Dr. Tim Ball is an example of a well-qualified expert who does indeed question these fundamentals of the climate debate.

For instance, Ball explains that, while it is claimed that there has been a 0.7 degree Celsius temperature rise in the past century, it is not really possible to know this.

“The best weather stations in the world, in terms of the density of the network, the quality of the instruments, and the monitoring of the sites, are in the United States,” said Ball. “But, even there, meteorologist Anthony Watts’ Surface Stations study showed that only 7.9% of existing stations achieved accuracies better than +/-1 degree Celsius. So how can you claim that a 0.7 degree increase over 100 years has any meaning whatsoever?”

While many people assume that CO2 concentrations have risen in recent decades, some scientists dispute this. Ball said, “The COlevel from pre-industrial times was completely manipulated to show a steady rise from 270 parts per million [ppm] to the current 400 ppm. Scientifically valid chemical measurements of 19th century CO2 levels in excess of those of today were simply ignored.”

And if there has been a rise in CO2 levels, it may not be as a result of human activities. It could simply be a result of outgassing from the oceans as they warmed due to solar changes. Ball points out that the total estimated human contribution to atmospheric COconcentration is less that the uncertainty in the estimate of CO2 emitted from the oceans, so detecting the human contribution is not currently possible.

There are scientists who do not agree with Ball, of course. But even they cannot rationally claim to be 100% sure of their position. The red team-blue team participants must leave no stone unturned and assign probabilities to even these, the most basic assumptions of the climate change debate. For, as Mark Twain said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

Tom Harris is executive director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition.

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7 Responses to Gore’s basic climate assumptions must be challenged

  1. Phil Erwin August 4, 2017 at 3:24 pm

    How fitting that Mr. Harris’ recommendation to challenge Al Gore’s basic tenets comes at precisely the moment when Gore’s energy consumption in his Tennessee “residence” is reported to rival that of a small village — more than 20 times a normal American family’s use of electricity. And that says nothing about Gore’s other homes, his fleet of SUVs, or his constant use of private jets. One would think that, if Gore were truly worried about the carbon “footprint” of Western Civilization, he might be at least a tiny bit embarrassed about having carbon consumption that mirrors his own obviously out-of-control appetite. (Wonder what that guy has for breakfast… Probably a loaf of toast!)

    The reality is that many of Gore’s sky-is-falling predictions from his first disaster-coming film have already been “missed” — which bodes poorly for another collection of predictions to come in his latest film. Is he worth listening to? Sure — as much as is any filmed commercial designed to sell you (on) something that you likely don’t need, probably shouldn’t want, and almost certainly will regret buying later.

    Now… Where’s that MUTE button?

    • Dave James August 4, 2017 at 5:02 pm

      Al Gore’s energy consumption or the # of SUV he owns says nothing about climate science. Rather than address the science you choose to attack Al Gore.

      The evidence of climate change is complelling. According to NASA, “Ice cores drawn from Greenland, Antarctica, and tropical mountain glaciers show that the Earth’s climate responds to changes in greenhouse gas levels. Ancient evidence can also be found in tree rings, ocean sediments, coral reefs, and layers of sedimentary rocks. This ancient, or paleoclimate, evidence reveals that current warming is occurring roughly ten times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming.” https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/

  2. Dave James August 3, 2017 at 6:15 pm

    Tom Harris writes the climate science Vice-President Gore and President Obama rely upon is “unfounded” because “…nothing in science… is a known fact. “Mr. Harris excuses Tim Ball’s dubious claims for the same reason. It is strange for the director of a supposed science organization to dismiss science and embrace junk-science because scientists “cannot claim to be 100% sure of their position.”

    Tom Harris mistakes scientific uncertainty for a lack of understanding. As the American Meteorological Society recently noted, “In climate science unresolved questions remain—issues that currently lack conclusive evidence. However, there are also very solid conclusions that are based on decades of research and multiple lines of evidence. Skepticism that fails to account for evidence is no virtue. …the role of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases as the primary driver for the warming the Earth has experienced over the past several decades is extremely well established.” https://www.ametsoc.org/ams/index.cfm/about-ams/ams-position-letters/letter-to-doe-secretary-perry-on-climate-change/

    So what explains Mr. Harris mistaken argument that science is just one of many opinions? Mr. Harris’s past letters-to-the-editor offer an explanation.

    First, in the Daily Caller Mr. Harris writes that Donald Trump should withdraw from the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change [UNFCCC] because: A) “Trump needs to Democrat-proof his agenda.” B) “Actions that significantly reduce CO2 emissions would entail dramatically cutting back on the use of coal…” http://dailycaller.com/2017/05/08/killing-the-paris-agreement-is-not-enough/

    Second, in “Coal’s troubles should concern all Americans” 04/23/16, Houston Chronicle, Mr. Harris wrote, “Representatives of the natural gas, nuclear and hydroelectric sectors, and citizens who live in states that rely on these sources, must join forces with coal to fight environmental extremism.” (Mr. Harris even compares the conventional power suppliers to the victims of the Holocaust!) http://www.chron.com/neighborhood/pasadena/opinion/article/HARRIS-Coal-s-troubles-should-concern-all-9730622.php

    Tom Harris agenda is clear and it is not science.

    • Phil Erwin August 4, 2017 at 3:42 pm

      Mr. James, your comment indicates you misunderstand what science is, as well as what you read. Mr. Harris’ was pointing out that science is inherently an uncertain activity, and that a “young” science such as modern climatology, is even less “certain.” Science produces, not “facts,” but opinions as to what facts mean. (They are called “hypotheses.”) Al Gore is presenting man-caused climate change as a “fact,” when the best that can be said for it is that it is an unproven hypothesis with little supporting experimental proof as yet. And Tim Ball’s “dubious” claim was actually that even the “data” used to “prove” that the climate is warming is in fact “dubious,” because the change touted is less than the finest measurements available to demonstrate that change. An interesting, and potentially argument-ending, point. (I don’t claim to know that’s true, but I doubt seriously whether you know, either.)

      I might also point out that Mr. Harris having a coal-positive “agenda,” as you suggest, doesn’t have any bearing whatever on whether Gore’s spouting truth or stupidity. But I’m pretty sure we DO know Gore’s agenda — It’s to be able to pay for those huge homes, the SUVs, and his jet-setting lifestyle.


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