The Old-School Liberal

“Freedom granted only when it is known beforehand that its effects will be beneficial is not freedom” — Friedrich Hayek

Getting the Facts Straight About Global Warming

Posted by Poorsummary on November 12, 2007

Global Warming

A few weeks ago, I posted a link to a John Stossel article on global warming. My link to the article elicited the following response from Jonnonogood:

“This is wrong. Maybe get your facts correct…Thats is a 20ft rise if Greenland melted. This what the 2007 IPCC report agrees with. You sad little man, learn your facts. He never stated a date to when this would happen. Go read a book!”

Jonnonogood wants me to get my facts correct– or to be more precise, he wants me to get Stossel’s facts correct, since I merely posted a link to Stossel’s article– but fair enough. Let’s consider the facts in my excerpt of Stossel’s article:

Fact 1: “Gore says that if we allow the globe to warm, ‘sea levels worldwide would go up 20 feet.'”

This should be easy enough to check. Either Gore said that allowing the globe to warm would result in a 20 foot increase in sea levels, or he didn’t. Thankfully, Greg Hoke has posted the transcript to Gore’s movie (from which Jonnonogood quoted in his comment) here. Here’s what Gore said:

“I want to focus on West Antarctica, because it illustrates two factors about land-based ice and sea-based ice. It’s a little of both. It’s propped on tops of islands, but the ocean comes up underneath it. So if the ocean gets warmer, it has an impact on it. If this were to go, sea levels worldwide would go up 20 feet. They’ve measured disturbing changes on the underside of this ice sheet. It’s considered relatively more stable, however, than another big body of ice that is roughly the same size. Greenland”

Just to be clear– Gore said: “If the ocean gets warmer, it has an impact on [West Antarctica]. If [West Antarctica] were to go, sea levels worldwide would go up 20 feet.” Although Gore never says “If the ocean gets warmer West Antarctica will go,” it can reasonably be inferred from the above, otherwise, why on earth are we talking about West Antarctica “going” at all? Either Gore meant to imply such a statement, or he was being intentionally misleading.

Fact 2: “Then he [Gore] shows his audience terrifying maps of Florida and San Francisco submerged under rising sea levels.”

From the transcript of Gore’s documentary:

“In 1992 they measured this amount of melting in Greenland. 10 years later this is what happened. And here is the melting from 2005. Tony Blair’s scientific advisor has said that because of what is happening in Greenland right now, the map of the world will have to be redrawn. If Greenland broke up and melted, or if half of Greenland and half of West Antarctica broke up and melted, this is what would happen to the sea level in Florida. This is what would happen in the San Francisco Bay…”

Fact 3: “But the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared last week’s Nobel Prize with Gore, said that would probably take thousands of years to happen.”

Here’s the quote of them saying just that (from Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis):

“Ice sheets will continue to react to climate change during the next several thousand years even if the climate is stabilised. Models project that a local annual-average warming of larger than 3°C sustained for millennia would lead to virtually a complete melting of the Greenland ice sheet. For a warming over Greenland of 5.5°C, consistent with mid-range stabilization scenarios, the Greenland ice sheet contributes about 3 m [9.8 ft] in 1,000 years. For a warming of 8°C, the contribution is about 6 m [19.7 ft], the ice sheet being largely eliminated. For smaller warmings, the decay of the ice sheet would be substantially slower.”

Fact 4: “Over the next 100 years, sea levels are expected to rise seven to 24 inches, not 20 feet.”

Here’s a summary table from the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report:

Sea Level Rise
(m at 2090-2099 relative to 1980-1999)
Case Model-based range
excluding future rapid dynamical
changes in ice flow
B1 scenario 0.18 – 0.38
A1T scenario 0.20 – 0.45
B2 scenario 0.20 – 0.43
A1B scenario 0.21 – 0.48
A2 scenario 0.23 – 0.51
A1FI scenario 0.26 – 0.59

As you can see, the most severe scenario that the IPCC analyzed had a sea level rise of anywhere from 0.26 to 0.59 meters. For my American brethren, that’s 10.2 to 23.2 inches (less than 2 feet). And that’s the most severe case. It could be as little as 7 inches. And take a look at the time frame in that table. Yup. 2090-2099 relative to 1980-1999. That’s roughly a 100 year period.

Of course, Jonnonogood pointed out that Gore “never stated a date to when this would happen.” That’s true, he didn’t state a particular date, but he certainly talked about it as if it were happening in the relatively near future, not thousands of years from now:

“The area around Beijing is home to tens of millions of people. Even worse, in the area around Shanghai, there are 40 million people. Worse still, Calcutta and, to the East Bangladesh the area covered includes 50 million people. Think of the impact of a couple hundred thousand refugees when they are displaced by an environmental event and then imagine the impact of a hundred million or more. Here is Manhattan. This is the World Trade Center Memorial Site. After the horrible events of 9/11 we said never again. But this is what would happen to Manhattan.”

So, as you can see, Stossel does indeed have his facts straight, at least in the portion of his article I quoted. Now that’s not to say that global warming isn’t happening, or that we’re not contributing– merely that Stossel is correct in asserting that the story Gore is telling is dramatically different from the story being told by his nobel prize co-laureates. But that probably doesn’t matter much to Gore, because alarmism sells, that is, as long as the public buys into it and pays to see alarmist documentaries.

Speaking of getting facts straight, check out this next quotation from Gore’s movie:

“They can measure this precisely, just as the scientists could predict precisely how much water would breech the levy in New Orleans. The area where the World Trade Center Memorial is to be located would be under water.”

The IPCC can measure precisely what’s going to happen hundreds (thousands, really) of years from now? That’s not what they said in their IPCC Fourth Assessment Report:

“An important uncertainty relates to whether discharge of ice from the ice sheets will continue to increase as a consequence of accelerated ice flow, as has been observed in recent years. This would add to the amount of sea level rise, but quantitative projections of how much it would add cannot be made with confidence, owing to limited understanding of the relevant processes.”

Again, the debate about the appropriate response to global warming will go nowhere as long as we refuse to listen to each other’s arguments, consider the objective facts, and stop claiming consensus and certainty where neither exist. To quote Dr. Richard Lindzen of MIT:

“Why, one might wonder, is there such insistence on scientific unanimity on the warming issue? After all, unanimity in science is virtually nonexistent on far less complex matters. Unanimity on an issue as uncertain as ‘global warming’ would be surprising and suspicious. Moreover, why are the opinions of scientists sought regardless of their field of expertise? Biologists and physicians are rarely asked to endorse some theory in high energy physics. Apparently, when one comes to ‘global warming,’ any scientist’s agreement will do.”


5 Responses to “Getting the Facts Straight About Global Warming”

  1. Even if scientists disagree I list on my site ways to save money and help the environment.

  2. Anonymous said

    if the ocean is included into the melting process how long until this 3 feet of water covers the shoreline cities?

  3. I don’t believe we have models sophisticated enough to predict what will happen to the planet after a millenia.

    Heck, we can’t even predict that lending $500,000 to a man making $30,000 will result in foreclosures and leveraging this “investment” 20 times will cause major investment banks to go bankrupt!

    Its just improper use of stats to prove a point to make money. Gore is reported to have made $100 million from his global warming campaign.

  4. tom banks said

    I just need to know 5 cause to global warming

  5. Let a ice cube swim in your whiskey. Let it smelt down. How many inches will the glass be more filled?

    Here in Germany the global warming is true sometimes in summer. But in winter? Never!

    Since about ten years the global average temperature is falling and the CO2 level in the atmosphere is rising.

    Result: There is and there was no man made global warming at all.

    Best regards

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