Al Gore has been seen muttering disconsolately to himself lately. The hysteria he helped whip up about global warming has sprung a large leak as the scientific evidence for the climate melodrama turned out to be a congeries of misstatements, exaggerations, cover-ups, dubious extrapolations, and (last but not least) outright lies.
You have to hand it to the purveyors of apocalypse, though. If they cannot bring trade to a standstill by threatening environmental catastrophe if the ignition on one more SUV is turned on, there are plenty of other expedients.
Consider the hysteria surrounding the volcanic eruption in Iceland. As everyone who has not spent the last week in a coma knows, the volcanic ash can be highly abrasive. Airplane engines do not like it. As the Volcanic Ash Advisory in Alaska tells viewers of its web site:
- A Boeing 747 will travel 9 miles every minute and 540 miles in an hour.
- Volcanic ash clouds can cause jet engines to stall.
- You want your pilot to know ASAP about volcanic eruptions and ash clouds ahead of your aircraft.
Moreover (though they do not mention this side of the story), you want a quasi-governmental, U.N.-informed bureaucracy to be a watchdog monitoring the amount of volcanic ash floating about and telling governments whether it is safe to let their airplanes fly.
There are nine of these VAACs world wide, and the one getting a big workout at the moment is the London branch. I wonder what connections, if any, they have with the folks at the University of East Anglia who did so much to misrepresent the threat of global warming by covering up studies that provided (as Al Gore might have put it) inconvenient truths about what was really happening in the realm of climate change.
As of yesterday, more than 63,000 flights had been cancelled because of concerns about what the abrasive particulates in the volcanic plumes would do to jet engines. The Wall Street Journal raised a different set of concerns when it reported that Airspace Closure May Kill EU Recovery. The question is, are the people at the Volcanic Ash Advisory center overstating the danger? Some airlines, faced with huge losses, are asking the same thing:
“Air France-KLM and Deutsche Lufthansa AG were among those flying test flights without passengers, with KLM saying that it had successfully flown 10 flights at normal flying altitudes without any problems and no damage to aircraft. The Dutch carrier said it had sent the results of its tests to the Dutch Transport Ministry and is hoping to receive permission to resume part of its operations as quickly as possible.”
Naturally, safety must be the airlines’ first concern. But solvency is also a concern. And one wonders to what extent the danger posed by these dramatic eruptions from Iceland is exaggerated. When Mount St Helen erupted in 1980, there was a lot of damage and a lot of ash. But air travel in the U.S. was hardly affected. Are the restrictions being imposed in Europe an expression of laudable caution? Or are they an expression of politically motivated hysteria? I’m not sure we have the answer to those questions yet.