After each of Al Gore’s prior 24 Hours of Reality broadcasts, climate experts have publicly corrected his many basic science errors. But he pays no attention whatsoever, committing the same blunders year after year. As a consequence, the former vice president’s initiative encourages the continuation of one of the greatest tragedies of all time.
Leading up to the fourth annual Climate Reality marathon starting at noon EDT on Tuesday, Gore is promoting Climate-101, a website dedicated to the science of the issue as he understands it. Like his global warming presentations, Climate-101 is riddled with fundamental mistakes. Especially irksome to anyone with a science background is the statement:
Carbon pollution is warming our planet and creating dirty weather like extreme droughts, flooding, wildfires, and superstorms.
Gore frequently says this sort of thing. During last year’s Climate Reality broadcast he told a worldwide audience of millions:
The Earth’s atmosphere is awfully thin and we are now filling it up with 90 million tons of global warming pollution being spewed into the atmosphere every 24 hours as if the atmosphere is an open sewer.
Scientists have repeatedly explained that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which are Gore’s principal concern, are neither “carbon” nor “pollution.” Reporters on both sides of the debate understand this, of course, but give him a pass on the error. They should no longer do this. Carbon is a naturally occurring, non-toxic element found in all living things. Everything from medicines to trees to oil to our own bodies and those of all other creatures are made of carbon compounds. Pure carbon occurs in nature mainly in only two forms: graphite and diamonds.
Ignoring the oxygen atoms and calling CO2 merely “carbon” makes about as much sense as ignoring the oxygen in water (H2O) and calling it “hydrogen.”
This is not just an academic point. This is part of the way in which Gore distorts language to bolster concerns about human-caused climate change. University of Florida linguist M.J. Hardman explains:
Language is inseparable from humanity and follows us in all our works. Language is the instrument with which we form thought and feeling, mood, aspiration, will and act[ion], the instrument by whose means we influence and are influenced. (Language and War, 2002)
It is not surprising that language has always been a crucially important weapon of war. Gore, President Obama, and their allies use language tricks to justify the unjustifiable in the war of words over global warming and its recent offspring, the “war on coal,” coal being the world’s least expensive and most abundant energy source. Calling the gas “carbon” encourages people to think of CO2 as pollution or something dirty, like graphite or soot.
Calling CO2 by its proper name would help people remember that — regardless of its role in climate change — it is an invisible gas essential to plant photosynthesis and thus all life.
Commercial greenhouse operators routinely run their internal atmospheres at up to 1,500 parts per million (ppm) CO2, more than four times the “safe” limit of 350 ppm that Gore promoted at the 2008 UN Climate Change Conference. Yet there is no hint of any consequent temperature rise, while the plants inside grow far more efficiently than at the 400 ppm in the outside atmosphere. This is not surprising. Grade school students understand that CO2 is plant food.
Interestingly, CO2 concentrations in submarines can reach levels well above 10,000 ppm — thirty times the “safe” limit — with no harmful effects to the crew.
While 90 million tons/day of CO2 emissions sounds like a lot, scientists tell us this is only a small fraction of the amount nature emits on its own. Almost ten times more comes each year from the consumption of terrestrial vegetation by animals and microbes (i.e., rotting). Respiration by vegetation also emits almost ten times that produced by human activities.
Similarly, depending on temperature and rates of phytoplankton photosynthesis, parts of the oceans release over twelve times as much CO2 as we do. Environmental consultant Dr. Tim Ball, former climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg, explains that the uncertainty alone in our estimates of CO2 emitted by oceans and decomposition of vegetation is greater than the emissions of all human sources combined.
We are actually near the lowest level of CO2 in Earth’s history.
During a multi-million year period around 440 million years ago, CO2 was about 14 times today’s level, while Earth was stuck in the coldest period of the last half-billion years. The climate models’ assumption that temperature is driven by CO2 is clearly mistaken.
Dr. Ball adds:
The only place CO2 is significantly altering our climate is in the computer models of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). They are programmed so that an increase in CO2 causes a temperature increase. But, in every record for any time period, temperature increases before CO2, so Gore’s fundamental assertion is absolutely wrong.
Gore is also wrong about extreme weather events. This is one of the few areas of agreement between the IPCC and the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC).
In 2012, the IPCC asserted that a relationship between global warming and wildfires, rainfall, storms, hurricanes, and other extreme weather events has not been demonstrated. The 2013 NIPCC report states that:
In no case has a convincing relationship been established between warming over the past 100 years and increases in any of these extreme events.
University of Ottawa Earth Sciences Professor Ian Clark:
The idea that we are responsible for extreme weather, let alone that we can change weather patterns, is preposterous. Extreme weather is not new, it is natural. For any extreme event we have now, there is precedence in the recent past or distant past. The only difference between past events and now is our greatly expanded population and development of infrastructure that increases impact of extreme weather. The recent events Gore calls dirty weather come at a time when the planet has stopped warming. Only the rhetoric is increasing.
Besides 24 Hours of Reality, we will be bombarded with even more climate rhetoric than usual in late September:
• Working with television weather presenters and national broadcasters from around the world, the UN World Meteorological Organization is releasing “weather reports from the future,” a sensationalist series of films depicting what they claim are realistic scenarios for the year 2050 if we do not dramatically cut back on CO2 emissions.
• The People’s Climate March, a massive rally to be held in New York on September 21, will involve 950 organizations with 63 other events in North America, six in South America, 54 in Europe, 10 in South Asia, and 32 in Australia.
• The last three of Leonardo DiCaprio’s four-film series, Green World Rising, are about to be released.
Like Gore’s event, all of these are designed to influence the UN’s Climate Summit 2014 in New York City on September 23. Hosted by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the Climate Summit is intended “to mobilize political will for a meaningful universal agreement at the climate negotiations in Paris in 2015.” Inevitably, the summit will result in pronouncements from governments about new taxes, regulations, and agreements to “save the climate,” paid for by the citizens of developed countries, of course.
The real tragedy in all of this is clear: because of the unfounded belief that humanity is the master controller of our planet’s climate, the focus is always on mitigation: trying to stop climate change in the distant future instead of helping vulnerable people adapt to climate change today. Consequently, of the almost $1 billion per day spent on climate finance across the world, only 6% of it goes to adaptation. The rest is wasted trying to control what might happen someday.
Allocating more importance to the unpredictable problems of people yet to be born than to the serious issues faced by those suffering in the present is immoral. Denying poor nations — many of whose citizens lack adequate sanitation, schooling, clean water, and health services — the finances to build inexpensive hydrocarbon-fired power stations is immoral.
Africa, for example, has plenty of coal, oil, and natural gas. But they often cannot develop these resources because governments and financial institutions insist the focus be on “climate-friendly” energy sources that are too expensive even for wealthy countries.
India has long appreciated the immorality of the current approach. In its June 2008 National Action Plan on Climate Change, the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change explained that India would not cut growth to reduce CO2 emissions since it would rather save its people from poverty than global warming. Disputing the link between CO2 emissions and climate problems, the report declared:
It is obvious that India needs to substantially increase its per capita energy consumption to provide a minimally acceptable level of well-being to its people.
Although the UN pushed for a 50:50 division of funding between mitigation and adaptation, it did not happen. Mitigation projects are far more attractive to players who have motivations other than environmental protection, such as: energy companies, environmental groups, carbon traders seeking to maximize revenue, media executives in search of exciting headlines to boost circulation, politicians wanting to increase taxes and control over their citizens, and, of course, one-world government advocates. The “boots on the ground” approach typically required by adaptation initiatives do not so nearly fulfill the ulterior motives of these groups. Al Gore is right, in one respect. The way the world handles climate change is a moral issue. Sadly, our current approach is a tragic blunder that his 24 Hours of Reality is helping to prolong.