A Degree of Folly in Al Gore Doctorate

A Degree of Folly in Al Gore Doctorate
March 20, 2007

James M. Taylor

James M. Taylor is managing editor of Environment & Climate News, a national monthly... (read full bio)

University of Minnesota President Bob Bruininks announced at the university's February Board of Regents meeting that Al Gore is being considered for an honorary doctorate in climatology for his 2006 movie, "An Inconvenient Truth." Considering the multitude of misleading and inaccurate assertions Gore delivered in the film, Gore is better fitted for a dunce cap.

A complete list of Gore's false and misleading statements would fill an entire book, but here are some of the highlights:

Gore claims Antarctic ice melt is a "canary in the coal mine" demonstrating dramatic global warming. However, more than 90 percent of Antarctica is getting colder and the Antarctic ice sheet as a whole is growing. Gore misleadingly highlights data from the small section of West Antarctica that is the exception to the overall trend. Indeed, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) forecasts no net ice loss in Antarctica for at least the next full century.

Gore asserts the Gulf Stream is likely to shut down, plunging the world into a renewed ice age. But New Scientist and Science magazines reported in November 2006 that the Gulf Stream shows no signs of slowing and climate scientists feel a shutdown "is not a realistic scenario for the 21st century."

Gore claims the alpine glacier atop Mt. Kilimanjaro is melting and global warming is to blame. As far back as 2003, however, journals such as Nature, Journal of Geophysical Research, and International Journal of Climatology documented that a decrease in mountaintop precipitation, linked to deforestation at the base of the mountain, was the true cause of the receding glacier. Indeed, temperature readings in the Kilimanjaro region are actually declining rather than increasing.

Gore claims declining rainfall (allegedly caused by global warming) is leading to a dramatic southern expansion of the Sahara Desert. However, the New Scientist reported as recently as 2002 that "Africa's deserts are in 'spectacular' retreat," with vegetation reclaiming large expanses of barren land across the entire southern edge.

Gore says Himalayan glaciers are rapidly melting, threatening the water supply of hundreds of millions of people. However, just months before Gore filmed his slideshow presentation, Insurance Digest reported Himalayan Mountain glaciers are as large as ever.

Gore warns us the Greenland ice sheet is rapidly disintegrating and threatening a massive rise in sea level. However, Greenland's ice sheet was gaining mass until 2003, and the shrinking observed since amounts to a minuscule fraction of Greenland's existing ice sheet. Indeed, the IPCC estimates sea levels will rise only a foot or so during the entire next century

Asserting that global warming is clearly impacting his hometown of Carthage, Tennessee, Gore said, "Here on this farm, the patterns are changing. ... In the course as defined by this river, it's happening very, very quickly." Yet temperature readings in the nearby communities of Clarksburg, Murfreesboro, and McMinnville show regional temperatures have actually cooled 3 degrees in the past 80 years.

Gore asserts global warming is causing alpine glaciers in Glacier National Park to recede. However, temperature readings in the nearby community of Telluride show temperatures have declined 3 degrees since 1989. Temperature readings in the nearby community of Boulder show temperatures have declined 6 degrees since 1953.

Gore claims a 5-degree rise in temperatures this century is "on the low end of the projections." In fact, a 5-degree rise in temperatures is on the high end of projections offered by the IPCC.

Inaccuracy is the norm rather than the exception in Gore's movie. He would receive no better than an "F" in any serious course on climatology. The question is, given the current crisis in our public schools, does giving a bad scientist an honorary degree really send the right message?


James M. Taylor (taylor@heartland.org) is senior fellow for environment policy at The Heartland Institute.

James M. Taylor

James M. Taylor is managing editor of Environment & Climate News, a national monthly... (read full bio)