[asa] Don J. Easterbrook geologist at Western Washington University

From: Janice Matchett <janmatch@earthlink.net>
Date: Tue Mar 13 2007 - 23:55:33 EDT

Two items of possible interest. ~ Janice

[1] Click link to watch the Don Easterbrook
interview on video right side of page:
Exaggerated Truth? Is Al Gore coming clean when
it comes to global warming? http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,258462,00.html

Scientists: Gore Goes Too Far in 'An Inconvenient Truth'
Tuesday , March 13, 2007

Several experts on climate change, including both
proponents and skeptics of the man-made global
warming theory, question former Vice President Al
Gore's assertions in his Academy Award-winning
documentary film "An Inconvenient Truth."

"I don't want to pick on Al Gore," said Don J.
Easterbrook, a geologist at Western Washington
University, told an annual meeting of the
Geological Society of America, according to a
report in The New York Times. "But there are a
lot of inaccuracies in the statements we are
seeing, and we have to temper that with real data."

In the slideshow presentation that is the central
part of "An Inconvenient Truth," Gore lays out
what most researchers consider to be the
worst-case scenario for global warming, with
total melting of polar ice caps, a sea-level rise
of 20 feet and catastrophic flooding and droughts. ..." [snip]

[2] New York Times March 13, 2007

 From a Rapt Audience, a Call to Cool the Hype By WILLIAM J. BROAD

Hollywood has a thing for
Gore and his three-alarm film on
warming, “An Inconvenient Truth,” which won an
Academy Award for best documentary. So do many
environmentalists, who praise him as a visionary,
and many scientists, who laud him for raising
public awareness of climate change.

But part of his scientific audience is uneasy. In
talks, articles and blog entries that have
appeared since his film and accompanying book
came out last year, these scientists argue that
some of Mr. Gore’s central points are exaggerated
and erroneous. They are alarmed, some say, at what they call his alarmism.

“I don’t want to pick on Al Gore,” Don J.
Easterbrook, an emeritus professor of geology at
Western Washington University, told hundreds of
experts at the annual meeting of the Geological
Society of America. “But there are a lot of
inaccuracies in the statements we are seeing, and
we have to temper that with real data.”

Mr. Gore, in an e-mail exchange about the
critics, said his work made “the most important
and salient points” about climate change, if not
“some nuances and distinctions” scientists might
want. “The degree of scientific consensus on
global warming has never been stronger,” he said,
adding, “I am trying to communicate the essence
of it in the lay language that I understand.”

Although Mr. Gore is not a scientist, he does
rely heavily on the authority of science in “An
Inconvenient Truth,” which is why scientists are
sensitive to its details and claims.

Criticisms of Mr. Gore have come not only from
conservative groups and prominent skeptics of
catastrophic warming, but also from rank-and-file
scientists like Dr. Easterbook, who told his
peers that he had no political ax to grind. A few
see natural variation as more central to global
warming than heat-trapping gases. Many appear to
occupy a middle ground in the climate debate,
seeing human activity as a serious threat but
challenging what they call the extremism of both skeptics and zealots.

Kevin Vranes, a climatologist at the Center for
Science and Technology Policy Research at the
of Colorado, said he sensed a growing backlash
against exaggeration. While praising Mr. Gore for
“getting the message out,” Dr. Vranes questioned
whether his presentations were “overselling our
certainty about knowing the future.”

Typically, the concern is not over the existence
of climate change, or the idea that the human
production of heat-trapping gases is partly or
largely to blame for the globe’s recent warming.
The question is whether Mr. Gore has gone beyond the scientific evidence.

“He’s a very polarizing figure in the science
community,” said Roger A. Pielke Jr., an
environmental scientist who is a colleague of Dr.
Vranes at the University of Colorado center.
“Very quickly, these discussions turn from the
issue to the person, and become a referendum on Mr. Gore.”

“An Inconvenient Truth,” directed by Davis
Guggenheim, was released last May and took in
more than $46 million, making it one of the
top-grossing documentaries ever. The companion
book by Mr. Gore quickly became a best seller,
reaching No. 1 on the New York Times list.

Mr. Gore depicted a future in which temperatures
soar, ice sheets melt, seas rise,
batter the coasts and people die en masse.
“Unless we act boldly,” he wrote, “our world will
undergo a string of terrible catastrophes.”

He clearly has supporters among leading
scientists, who commend his popularizations and
call his science basically sound. In December, he
spoke in San Francisco to the American
Geophysical Union and got a reception fit for a
rock star from thousands of attendees.

“He has credibility in this community,” said Tim
Killeen, the group’s president and director of
the National Center for Atmospheric Research, a
top group studying climate change. “There’s no
question he’s read a lot and is able to respond in a very effective way.”

Some backers concede minor inaccuracies but see
them as reasonable for a politician. James E.
Hansen, an environmental scientist, director of
Goddard Institute for Space Studies and a top
adviser to Mr. Gore, said, “Al does an
exceptionally good job of seeing the forest for
the trees,” adding that Mr. Gore often did so “better than scientists.”

Still, Dr. Hansen said, the former vice
president’s work may hold “imperfections” and
“technical flaws.” He pointed to hurricanes, an
icon for Mr. Gore, who highlights the devastation
of Hurricane Katrina and cites research
suggesting that global warming will cause both
storm frequency and deadliness to rise. Yet this
past Atlantic season produced fewer hurricanes
than forecasters predicted (five versus nine),
and none that hit the United States.

“We need to be more careful in describing the
hurricane story than he is,” Dr. Hansen said of
Mr. Gore. “On the other hand,” Dr. Hansen said,
“he has the bottom line right: most storms, at
least those driven by the latent heat of
vaporization, will tend to be stronger, or have
the potential to be stronger, in a warmer climate.”

In his e-mail message, Mr. Gore defended his work
as fundamentally accurate. “Of course,” he said,
“there will always be questions around the edges
of the science, and we have to rely upon the
scientific community to continue to ask and to
challenge and to answer those questions.”

He said “not every single adviser” agreed with
him on every point, “but we do agree on the
fundamentals” ­ that warming is real and caused by humans.

Mr. Gore added that he perceived no general
backlash among scientists against his work. “I
have received a great deal of positive feedback,”
he said. “I have also received comments about
items that should be changed, and I have updated
the book and slideshow to reflect these
comments.” He gave no specifics on which points he had revised.

He said that after 30 years of trying to
communicate the dangers of global warming, “I
think that I’m finally getting a little better at it.”

While reviewers tended to praise the book and
movie, vocal skeptics of global warming protested
almost immediately. Richard S. Lindzen, a
climatologist at the
Institute of Technology and a member of the
Academy of Sciences, who has long expressed
skepticism about dire climate predictions,
accused Mr. Gore in The Wall Street Journal of “shrill alarmism.”

Some of Mr. Gore’s centrist detractors point to a
report last month by the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change, a
Nations body that studies global warming. The
panel went further than ever before in saying
that humans were the main cause of the globe’s
warming since 1950, part of Mr. Gore’s message
that few scientists dispute. But it also
portrayed climate change as ___a slow-motion___ process.

It estimated that the world’s seas in this
century would rise a maximum of 23 inches ­ down
from earlier estimates. Mr. Gore, citing no
particular time frame, envisions rises of up to
20 feet and depicts parts of New York, Florida
and other heavily populated areas as sinking
beneath the waves, implying, at least visually, that inundation is imminent.

Bjorn Lomborg, a statistician and political
scientist in Denmark long skeptical of
catastrophic global warming, said in a syndicated
article that the panel, unlike Mr. Gore, had
refrained from scaremongering. “Climate change is
a real and serious problem” that calls for
careful analysis and sound policy, Dr. Lomborg
said. “The cacophony of screaming,” he added, “does not help.”

So too, a report last June by the National
Academies seemed to contradict Mr. Gore’s
portrayal of recent temperatures as the highest
in the past millennium. Instead, the report said,
current highs appeared unrivaled since only 1600,
the tail end of a temperature rise known as the medieval warm period.

Roy Spencer, a climatologist at the
of Alabama, Huntsville, said on a blog that Mr.
Gore’s film did “indeed do a pretty good job of
presenting the most dire scenarios.” But the June
report, he added, shows “that all we really know
is that we are warmer now than we were during the last 400 years.”

Other critics have zeroed in on Mr. Gore’s claim
that the energy industry ran a “disinformation
campaign” that produced false discord on global
warming. The truth, he said, was that virtually
all unbiased scientists agreed that humans were
the main culprits. But Benny J. Peiser, a social
anthropologist in Britain who runs the
Cambridge-Conference Network, or CCNet, an
Internet newsletter on climate change and natural
disasters, challenged the claim of scientific
consensus with examples of pointed disagreement.

“Hardly a week goes by,” Dr. Peiser said,
“without a new research paper that questions part
or even some basics of climate change theory,”
including some reports that offer alternatives to
human activity for global warming.

Geologists have documented age upon age of
climate swings, and some charge Mr. Gore with ignoring such rhythms.

“Nowhere does Mr. Gore tell his audience that all
of the phenomena that he describes fall within
the natural range of environmental change on our
planet,” Robert M. Carter, a marine geologist at
James Cook University in Australia, said in a
September blog. “Nor does he present any evidence
that climate during the 20th century departed
discernibly from its historical pattern of constant change.”

In October, Dr. Easterbrook made similar points
at the geological society meeting in
Philadelphia. He hotly disputed Mr. Gore’s claim
that “our civilization has never experienced any
environmental shift remotely similar to this” threatened change.

Nonsense, Dr. Easterbrook told the crowded
session. He flashed a slide that showed
temperature trends for the past 15,000 years. It
highlighted 10 large swings, including the
medieval warm period. These shifts, he said, were
up to “20 times greater than the warming in the past century.”

Getting personal, he mocked Mr. Gore’s assertion
that scientists agreed on global warming except
those industry had corrupted. “I’ve never been
paid a nickel by an oil company,” Dr. Easterbrook
told the group. “And I’m not a [R-word]."

Biologists, too, have gotten into the act. In
January, Paul Reiter, an active skeptic of global
warming’s effects and director of the insects and
infectious diseases unit of the Pasteur Institute
in Paris, faulted Mr. Gore for his portrayal of
global warming as spreading

“For 12 years, my colleagues and I have protested
against the unsubstantiated claims,” Dr. Reiter
wrote in The International Herald Tribune. “We
have done the studies and challenged the
alarmists, but they continue to ignore the facts.”

Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences
and international affairs at Princeton who
advised Mr. Gore on the book and movie, said that
reasonable scientists disagreed on the malaria
issue and other points that the critics had
raised. In general, he said, Mr. Gore had
distinguished himself for integrity. [cough! cough!]

“On balance, he did quite well ­ a credible and
entertaining job on a difficult subject,” Dr.
Oppenheimer said. “For that, he deserves a lot of
credit. If you rake him over the coals, you’re
going to find people who disagree. But in terms
of the big picture, he got it right.” [CYA - big time!]

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Received on Tue Mar 13 23:56:13 2007

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