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A political cartoonist's take on the 'Gore Effect'
2008 sees a sea change in the face of the global warming debate.

When I began writing about global warming climate change, public outcry was tremendous.  Amid a sea of media stories about the sins of our wasteful lifestyle, no one wanted to hear about contradictory research, conflicting data, or skeptical scientists.

Now, over two years later, a funny thing has happened. The roles have shifted. My stories are the staid and ordinary ones.  It's the fellows predicting flood, famine, and disaster who are generating all the controversy.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry. What happened? 

2008 was the year predicted to be the "hottest in a century".  Instead it became the coldest of the decade. It was the year the North Pole would "melt entirely, allowing you to swim to it".  Instead, nuclear-powered icebreakers became trapped in unseasonably thick ice. It was a year of record-breaking cold and snow, everywhere from Baghdad to the beaches of Malibu. It was the year the "Gore Effect" entered the public vocabulary, as whenever global warming protestors got together to march, they were met with blizzards and ice storms. Let's hope schadenfroh isn't a sin.

Polls are clear.  Despite the media's increasingly shrill tone and ever-more unrealistic predictions, the public has lost all faith in global warming. After all, how many times can you say that this time the science is now finally proven, without being laughed at?

In some respects, that's good.  It means less chance of implementing incredibly damaging policies, policies that will have disastrous impacts on standards of living, especially among the poor.

In other ways, it's bad. The overselling of inconclusive conjectures as "proven science" is leading some to distrust science itself. Given that, I think the year should conclude with a reminder of just what the scientific debate -- minus its alarmist media trappings-- is really all about.

As a moderately well known skeptic, I sometimes surprise people when I say I believe in global warming. If we define the term as, "man is having some impact on global temperatures", then the evidence is fairly clear. That statement in itself, though, means nothing. Are we impacting it enough to matter? Can CO2 cause catastrophic climate change?

That debate revolves around a single number, one so important we have a special name for it.

Climate Sensitivity
How much will the earth warm if we double the amount of atmospheric CO2, or its equivalent in other greenhouse gases? That value is called climate sensitivity. If all else remains equal, it’s fairly easy to calculate: about half a degree C, a figure accepted by most proponents and skeptics of AGW alike. It's also a value far too small for concern. With that sensitivity, the planet would warm by maybe a quarter of a degree by the year 2100. Yawn.

But there's a wrinkle in that simple calculation. As greenhouse gases rise, other things change as well. Some are positive feedbacks, which lead to more warming. Some are negative feedbacks, which counteract the warming. Scientists in the modeling community tend to believe positive effects predominate; they bandy about sensitivity values from 2C all the way up to 6C or more. Observational earth scientists (primarily geologists, meteorologists, and some atmospheric physicists) tend to believe negative effects dominate, and that the actual value may be even smaller than 0.5C.

The problem is that no real evidence exists for strong positive feedbacks. Worse, they seem contradicted by the paleoclimatic history of the planet, which has never experienced runaway warming even when CO2 levels were ten or more times higher than they are today. Over geologic time, CO2 correlates very poorly with temperature, leading one to conclude that it's a very weak greenhouse gas.

There is other evidence against a high sensitivity. But the real point is this. Whichever side is right, the media (and a few researchers) have forgotten one of the basic rules of science. Until a theory can predict the unexpected, it should always be viewed critically. The ancient Greeks knew the stars moved, and they had a thousand theories to predict why it would keep happening.  Until we can explain past climate shifts and successfully predict future trends, global models are educational toys. Not indisputable evidence.

Some pundits are calling 2008 the year global warming was disproven. I prefer to call it the year science triumphed over alarmism.

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Not over yet.
By Brian Valentine on 12/30/2008 10:46:21 PM , Rating: 5
Will someone please inflorm the new US President's hand-picked science flunkies about this?

And Barb Boxer. And Nancy Pelosi too, don't forget her.

And Al Gore. It's going to break his heart when he finds out he's not going to be as wealthy as Bill Gates as a result of carbon credits becoming a commodity - along with a host of other scams he cooked up to fleece the public.

RE: Not over yet.
By greenchasch on 12/31/2008 10:58:01 AM , Rating: 3
Gore's still doing alright. The Church of England just gave his investment company $200M to invest in his "green" scams:

RE: Not over yet.
By FITCamaro on 12/31/2008 4:01:17 PM , Rating: 5
Wow....the British really are getting dumber by the month.

Lets see for 2008 they:
1) Made police dogs wear booties in the homes of Muslims which are being searched so as not to offend them

2) Gave Islamic courts the ability to enforce Shariah law

3) Have stopped teaching about the Holocaust in schools with large Muslim populations since they don't believe it happened

And a host of other things.

RE: Not over yet.
By Ordr on 12/31/2008 5:05:17 PM , Rating: 2
Please tell me the dog thing is a joke...

RE: Not over yet.
By FITCamaro on 1/3/2009 8:24:16 AM , Rating: 2

RE: Not over yet.
By Ringold on 12/31/2008 6:02:29 PM , Rating: 5
Have you read anything about their proposed education reforms?

In January the government commissioned Sir Jim Rose, a former chief inspector of primary schools, to trim ten existing required subjects to give extra space to computing skills and to accommodate two new compulsory subjects: a foreign language and the now-optional “personal, social, health and economic education” (eating fruit and veg, refraining from hitting one’s classmates and much more). On December 8th he published his interim report—and many fear that, as well as losing fat, education will see a lot of meat go too.

Sir Jim proposes merging the subjects into six “learning areas”. History and geography will become “human, social and environmental understanding”; reading, writing and foreign languages, “understanding English, communication and languages”. Physical education, some bits of science and various odds and ends will merge into “understanding physical health and well-being”, and so on. His plan would “reduce prescription”, he says, and, far from downgrading important ideas, “embed and intensify [them] to better effect in cross-curricular studies”.

Thats an excerpt from an Economist article. The title had a picture of a cute little girl and the words "Please, sir, what's history?" That's what it's going to come to.. sad, sad. I bet the D-Day invasions will be mentioned, but probably along with a note about the environmental damage the Allies did to the pristine French beaches. :P

RE: Not over yet.
By FITCamaro on 1/3/2009 8:26:22 AM , Rating: 2
Wow.....just wow.....christ I hope we're able to stave off that stupidity here in the US. Our kids are dumb enough. I'm seriously considering home schooling for when I have kids.

RE: Not over yet.
By sweetsauce on 1/5/2009 6:43:30 PM , Rating: 2
Judging from your history of comments, i never expected anything less from you. Be sure to shelter your potential kids from "the evil sinful world" and teach them your good, wholesome ideals...

RE: Not over yet.
By phxfreddy on 1/9/2009 7:52:07 AM , Rating: 2
get real. The guy has reasons to want to keep his kids out of public schools. Only a liberal robot could ignore them. And then only with other peoples children.

Even in the 70's when I was in grade school the teachers were pathetic. We would do better just buying each home a computer and telling kids to google it then with a public teacher ( essentially government er. I would way worker but they do not do any work )

RE: Not over yet.
By Bruce Frykman on 1/6/2009 6:58:01 PM , Rating: 2
But isnt the ultimate use of ALL money to be used to consume earths resources?

And isn't consumption what were all agaisnt?

Its seems to me that the only useful thing that a solid "envirometalist" like Al Gore should be doing with the billions he's raking in on this scam is use it for wallpaper in one of the 20 apartments carved out of his present house that should be allocated for his use.

“Then they pop up and say ‘Hello, surprise! Give us your money or we will shut you down!' Screw them. Seriously, screw them. You can quote me on that.” -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng referencing patent trolls

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