AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH by Al Gore
SNL: If Al Gore were President
Warns Congress of ‘Planetary
Inconvenient Truths for Al Gore
By Bjørn Lomborg
Cinemas everywhere will soon be showing former US Vice President Al Gore's film on global warming. "An Inconvenient Truth"has received rave reviews in America and Europe, and it will most likely gain a large worldwide audience. But, while the film is full of emotion and provocative images, it is short on rational arguments.
"An Inconvenient Truth"makes three points: global warming is real; it will be catastrophic; and addressing it should be our top priority. Inconveniently for the film's producers, however, only the first statement is correct.
While it's nice to see Gore bucking the trend in a nation where many influential people deny that global warming even exists, many of his apocalyptic claims are highly misleading. But his biggest error lies in suggesting that humanity has a moral imperative to act on climate change because we realize there is a problem. This seems naïve, even disingenuous.
We know of many vast global challenges that we could easily solve. Preventable diseases like HIV, diarrhea, and malaria take 15 million lives each year. Malnutrition afflicts more than half the world's population. Eight hundred million people lack basic education. A billion don't have clean drinking water.
In the face of these challenges, why should stopping climate change be our top priority? Gore's attempt at an answer doesn't stand up to scrutiny.
Gore shows that glaciers have receded for 50 years. But he doesn't acknowledge they have been shrinking since the Napoleonic wars in the early 1800's - long before industrial CO2 emissions. Likewise, he considers Antarctica the canary in the coalmine, but again doesn't tell the full story. He presents pictures from the 2% of Antarctica that is dramatically warming, while ignoring the 98% that has largely cooled over the past 35 years. The UN climate panel estimates that Antarctica's snow mass will actually increase during this century. And, whereas Gore points to shrinking sea ice in the Northern Hemisphere, he fails to mention that ice in the Southern Hemisphere is increasing.
The movie shows scary pictures of the consequences of the sea level rising 20 feet (seven meters), flooding large parts of Florida, San Francisco, New York, Holland, Calcutta, Beijing, and Shanghai. Were realistic levels not dramatic enough? The United Nations panel on climate change suggests a rise of only 1-2 feet during this century, compared to almost one foot in the last century.
Similarly, Europe's deadly heat waves in 2003 lead Gore to conclude that climate change will mean more fatalities. But global warming would mean fewer deaths caused by cold temperatures, which in most of the developed world vastly outweigh deaths caused by heat. In the UK alone, it is estimated that the temperature increase would cause 2,000 extra heat deaths by 2050, but result in 20,000 fewer cold deaths.
Financial losses from weather events have increased dramatically over the past 45 years, which Gore attributes to global warming. But all or almost all of this increase comes from more people with more possessions living closer to harm's way. If all hurricanes had hit the US with today's demographics, the biggest damage would have been caused not by Katrina, but by a hurricane in 1926. Allowing for changes in the number of people and their wealth, flood losses have actually decreased slightly.
The movie invites viewers to conclude that global warming caused Hurricane Katrina, with Gore claiming that the warm Caribbean waters made the storm stronger. But when Katrina made landfall, it was not a catastrophic Category 5 hurricane; it was a milder Category 3. In fact, there is no scientific consensus that global warming makes hurricanes more destructive, as he claims. The author that Gore himself relies on says that it would be "absurd to attribute the Katrina disaster to global warming."
After presenting the case for the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change, Gore unveils his solution: the world should embrace the Kyoto Protocol, which aims to cut carbon emissions in the developed countries by 30% by 2010.
But even if every nation signed up to Kyoto, it would merely postpone warming by six years in 2100, at an annual cost of $150 billion. Kyoto would not have saved New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina. But improved levees and maintenance could have. While Gore was campaigning for Kyoto in the 1990's, a better use of resources would have been to bolster hurricane defenses.
Indeed, the real issue is using resources wisely. Kyoto won't stop developing countries from being hardest hit by climate change, for the simple reason that they have warmer climates and fewer resources. But these nations have pressing problems that we could readily solve. According to UN estimates, for $75 billion a year - half the cost of implementing the Kyoto Protocol - we could provide clean drinking water, sanitation, basic health care, and education to every single human being on Earth. Shouldn't that be a higher priority?
Recent hurricanes killed thousands in Haiti, and not in Florida, because Haiti is poor and cannot afford even basic preventive measures. Combating disease, hunger, and polluted water would bring immediate benefits to millions and allow poorer countries to increase productivity and break the cycle of poverty. That, in turn, would make their inhabitants less vulnerable to climate fluctuations.
At the climax of his movie, Gore argues that future generations will chastise us for not having committed ourselves to the Kyoto Protocol. More likely, they will wonder why, in a world overflowing with "inconvenient truths,"Gore focused on the one where we could achieve the least good for the highest cost.
Bjørn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, is Director for the Copenhagen Consensus Center and Adjunct Professor at the Copenhagen Business School. His most recent book is How to Spend $50 Billion to Make the World a Better Place.
SNL: If Al Gore were President
"Saturday Night Live," opened their show tonight with Al Gore addressing the nation as if he was the President of the United States. Gore was focused and quite funny in this entertaining spoof of the current administration and their long range of failures. He also struck back at the media (update: when they claimed he said he invented the 'internets') by saying that he invented an "Anti-Hurricane and Tornado Machine."
He touched on immigration, oil, the Middle East, judges and a host of other topics that have divided our country since Bush took office. I did enjoy GWB leading the charge to clean up Baseball's steroid problem: "But I have faith in baseball commissioner George W. Bush when he says, "We will find the steroid users if we have to tap every phone in America!" Do you have a favorite line?
(rough transcript by reader Steve)
And now, a message from the President of the United States.
President Al Gore:
Good evening, my fellow Americans.
In 2000 when you overwhelmingly made the decision to elect me as your 43rd president, I knew the road ahead would be difficult. We have accomplished so much yet challenges lie ahead.
In the last 6 years we have been able to stop global warming. No one could have predicted the negative results of this. Glaciers that once were melting are now on the attack.
As you know, these renegade glaciers have already captured parts of upper Michigan and northern Maine, but I assure you: we will not let the glaciers win.
Right now, in the 2nd week of May 2006, we are facing perhaps the worst gas crisis in history.
We have way too much gasoline. Gas is down to $0.19 a gallon and the oil companies are hurting.
I know that I am partly to blame by insisting that cars run on trash.
I am therefore proposing a federal bailout to our oil companies because - hey if it were the other way around, you know the oil companies would help us.
On a positive note, we worked hard to save Welfare, fix Social Security and of course provide the free universal health care we all enjoy today.
But all this came at a high cost. As I speak, the gigantic national budget surplus is down to a perilously low $11 trillion dollars.
And don't get any ideas. That money is staying in the very successful lockbox. We're not touching it.
Of course, we could give economic aid to China, or lend money to the Saudis... again.
But right now we're already so loved by everyone in the world that American tourists can't even go over to Europe anymore... without getting hugged.
There are some of you that want to spend our money on some made-up war. To you I say: what part of "lockbox" don't you understand?
What if there's a hurricane or a tornado? Unlikely I know because of the Anti-Hurricane and Tornado Machine I was instrumental in helping to develop.
But... what if? What if the scientists are right and one of those giant glaciers hits Boston? That's why we have the lockbox!
As for immigration, solving that came at a heavy cost, and I personally regret the loss of California. However, the new Mexifornian economy is strong and el Presidente Schwarznegger is doing a great job.
There have been some setbacks. Unfortunately, the confirmation process for Supreme Court Justice Michael Moore was bitter and devisive. However, I could not be more proud of how the House and Senate pulled together to confirm the nomination of Chief Justice George Clooney.
Baseball, our national passtime, still lies under the shadow of steroid accusations. But I have faith in baseball commissioner George W. Bush when he says, "We will find the steroid users if we have to tap every phone in America!"
In 2001 when I came into office, our national security was the most important issue. The threat of terrorism was real.
Who knew that six years later, Afghanistan would be the most popular Spring Break destination? Or that Six Flags Tehran is the fastest growing amusement park in the Middle East?
And the scariest thing we Americans have to fear is ... Live From New York, its Saturday Night!
New York Times 2007/3/21
Gore Warns Congress of ‘Planetary Emergency’
It was part science class, part policy wonk heaven, part politics and all theater as former Vice President Al Gore came to Congress today to insist that global warming constitutes a “planetary emergency” requiring an aggressive federal response.
Mr. Gore, accompanied by his wife, Tipper, delivered the same blunt message to a joint meeting of two House subcommittees this morning and a Senate hearing this afternoon: Humans are artificially warming the world, the risks of inaction are great, and meaningful cuts in emissions linked to warming will only happen if the United States takes the lead.
In the House of Representatives, there was relatively little debate on the underlying science; the atmosphere was more that of a college lecture hall.
Evoking the hit movie “300,” about the ancient Spartans’ stand at Thermopylae, Mr. Gore called on Congress to put aside partisan differences, accept the scientific consensus on global warming as unambiguous and become “the 535,” a reference to the number of seats in the House and Senate.
In the Senate, it was a different matter. Senator James Inhofe or Oklahoma, the ranking Republican member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, adopted a pugilistic stance, challenging the vice president’s analysis of climate change’s dangers from hurricanes and melting ice in Antarctica.
“It is my perspective that your global warming alarmist pronouncements are now and have always been filled with inaccuracies and misleading statements,” Mr. Inhofe said. He then estimated the cost of proposals to reduce emission of heat-trapping gases at $300 billion and said: “The poor pay for it and the science isn’t there. We just can’t do that to America,” Mr. Vice President. And we’re not going to.”
Later, Senator Christopher Bond, Republican of Missouri, raised the question of whether sunspots are the cause of global warming. He also argued that the carbon-controlling legislation favored by many Democrats would send his poor constituents’ heating bills up 80 percent.
Mr. Gore responded that scientists have discarded the sunspot theory.
With his command of the science of climate change, Mr. Gore took on a professorial air in both sets of hearings, but it was touched with a preacher’s fire as he urged action.
Waving his finger at some 40 House members, he said, “A day will come when our children and grandchildren will look back and they’ll ask one of two questions.”
Either, he said, “they will ask: what in God’s name were they doing?” or “they may look back and say: how did they find the uncommon moral courage to rise above politics and redeem the promise of American democracy?”
Democrats and Republicans, Mr. Gore said, should emulate their British counterparts and compete to see how best to curb emissions of smokestack and tailpipe “greenhouse” gases that scientists have now firmly linked to a global warming trend.
Mr. Gore, who arrived this morning at the Rayburn House Office Building in his new black Mercury Mariner hybrid sports utility vehicle, also proposed a 10-point legislative program to conserve energy. His proposals ranged from a tax on carbon emissions to a ban on incandescent light bulbs and a new national mortgage program to promote the use of energy-saving technologies in homes.
As the vice president was speaking, first in the House and then in the Senate, the Internet erupted with organized criticism and praise for his remarks.
Hitting a note that some of the vice president’s critics have sounded in recent weeks ? the size and energy-consuming properties of his new home in Tennessee, Senator Inhofe sought to exact a pledge from Mr. Gore to cut electricity use so that his mansion outside Nashville used no more than the average American home within a year.
This set off a verbal jousting match with both Mr. Gore and Senator Barbara Boxer, the committee chairwoman.
The chairman turned to Mr. Inhofe and said, “I want to talk to you a minute.” She went on, “Will you agree to let the vice president answer your questions?” As the Oklahoma senator argued back, she made a tart reference to the change in power in the Senate, saying:, “You’re not making the rules. You used to when you did this” ? here she waved her gavel ? “but you don’t do this any more.”
Mr. Inhofe told Mr. Gore that there were “peer-reviewed scientists” who are “radically at odds with your claims.”
Mr. Gore stood by his conclusion that the warming trend and consequences were caused by human activity and constituted a planetary emergency.
“I’m fully aware that that phrase sounds shrill to many peoples’ ears, but it is accurate,” he said.
The House hearing in the morning was in part a reunion ? Mr. Gore had served on the House Energy and Commerce Committee as a young congressman in the 1980s ? and in part an opportunity for the vice president’s Republican detractors to question the science of climate change and argue about the cost of Mr. Gore’s proposed solutions.
There were no references to the 2000 election, which Mr. Gore conceded to President Bush after a monthlong battle, except perhaps for the small slip by Representative John D. Dingell, the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, who referred to Mr. Gore as “Mr. President.”
But there were plenty of references to Mr. Gore’s Academy Award-winning documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.” Representative Bob Inglis, Republican of South Carolina, said he had paid to see it, while Republicans like Representative Joe Barton of Texas, the ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, challenged its conclusions.
Mr. Gore, facing a litany of criticisms of his portrayal of the science from Mr. Barton, threw out his hands and smiled in exasperation. Mr. Barton, however, appeared out of step with some of his Republican colleagues, including Representative J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, the former House speaker, who accepted the scientific consensus that humans are warming the climate.
A few minutes later, Mr. Gore said, “The planet has a fever. If your baby has a fever, you go to the doctor.” He added, “If the doctor says you need to intervene here, you don’t say ‘I read a science fiction novel that says it’s not a problem.’ You take action.”
He credited hundreds of mayors and many states for moving ahead with pledges or laws limiting carbon emissions, but said regional actions were insufficient.
Mr. Gore also conceded that without meaningful shifts in energy use in countries with the world’s fastest-growing economies, global warming would not be curtailed, but he asserted that the United States, the main source of the gases so far, still had to act first.
“The best way ? and the only way ? to get China and India on board is for the U.S. to demonstrate real leadership,” he said in written testimony prepared for both hearings. “As the world’s largest economy and greatest superpower, we are uniquely situated to tackle a problem of this magnitude.”
Representative Ralph Hall, Republican of Texas, said that calls for cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases amounted to an “all-out assault on all forms of fossil fuels” that could eliminate jobs and hurt the economy.
In written testimony for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Bjorn Lomborg, a Danish statistician and author critical of people who present environmental problems as a crisis, asserted that Mr. Gore’s portrayal of global warming as a problem and his prescription for solving it were both deeply flawed.
Mr. Lomborg said that “global warming is real and man-made,” but that a focus on intensified energy research would be more effective and far cheaper than caps or taxes on greenhouse gas emissions or energy sources that produce them.
“Statements about the strong, ominous and immediate consequences of global warming are often wildly exaggerated,” he said. “We need a stronger focus on smart solutions rather than excessive if well-intentioned efforts.”