Friday, June 16, 2006

An Inconvenient PR Stunt

I saw Al Gore's film "An Inconvenient Truth" yesterday. It's really well made, and it's going to convince a lot of people.

Because people are stupid. Gore doesn't actually present any science in the film. He presents a lot of anecdotal evidence, and he does a lot of apples to oranges comparisons with datasets (and he hardly ever uses numbers - just charts and trendlines). Plus, his datasets are often incomplete enough to require the viewer to extrapolate the actual consequences of what he's saying.

Think about that. In one case, he presents a bunch of information about historical carbon dioxide levels and historical temperatures (measured using Antarctic ice cores). The two lines match pretty closely going back over 600,000 years. Then, he appends modern carbon dioxide levels (measured directly from the atmosphere, so that's arguably an apples to oranges comparison) to the end of the chart, and they vastly exceed anything reported in the earlier ice core data. The unspoken conclusion is that temperatures are vastly higher by a similar margin than they have ever been before.

But why is that unspoken? Surely the chart would be even more compelling if you could draw that extra line for people.

Maybe the extra carbon dioxide breaks the system. It had been a pretty steady cycle throughout the whole chart, within an easily definable range that never varied. Now the carbon dioxide levels are vastly higher than that - what's that doing to the temperature? Why doesn't he show us that last piece of data. We know people are measuring it.

If the global warming community is so interested in convincing me of something, why don't they use actual science to do it, rather than hints and suppositions?

I was happy to see, however, that Gore did specifically mention carbon sequestration as a possible strategy. One thing the global warming community has done consistently (and it has really annoyed me) is ignore the possibly of large-scale industrial solutions to atmospheric problems. If we can build giant plants that change the composition of the atmosphere by accident, imagine how much we could do if we were actually trying.

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