Commentary: British Documentary Counters Gore Movie
Al Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth (AIT) has met its match--a major documentary recently shown on British television.
In spite of its flamboyant title, The Great Global Warming Swindle (TGGWS) is based on sound science, presenting the statements of real climate scientists, including myself. AIT, by contrast, consists mainly of the personal beliefs of Al Gore.
Warming Probably Natural
The scientific arguments presented in TGGWS can be stated quite briefly:
There is no real proof that the current warming is caused by the rise of greenhouse gases from human activities, such as the generation of energy from the burning of fuels. On the contrary, the evidence we have supports natural causes.
The current warming is likely part of a natural cycle of climate warming and cooling that has been traced back almost a million years. It accounts for the Medieval Warm Period around 1100 AD, when the Vikings were able to settle Greenland and grow crops. It also accounts for the Little Ice Age, from about 1400 to 1850 AD, that brought severe winters and cold summers to Europe, accompanied by failed harvests, starvation, disease, and general misery.
If the cause of warming is mostly natural, then there is little we can do about this. We cannot influence the inconstant sun, which is the likely origin of most climate variability. None of the schemes of mitigation currently bandied about will do any good--they are all useless and wildly expensive.
Warmer Climate Beneficial
The film goes on to point out that schemes such as carbon dioxide rationing, a government-directed switch to alternative energy sources, or carbon sequestration would all be ineffective even if carbon dioxide were responsible for the observed warming trend--unless we can persuade every nation, including China, to cut fuel use by 80 percent! Ironically also, most global warming worriers oppose nuclear power, the only realistic alternative to energy from fossil fuels.
Finally, no one can show that a warmer climate would produce net negative impacts. In fact, many economists argue the opposite is more likely--they say warming creates net benefits that will raise incomes and standards of living.
Virtually all economists agree a colder climate would be bad. So why would the present climate necessarily be the optimum? Surely, the chances for this must be vanishingly small.
Resources, Efforts Wasted
The main message of TGGWS is much broader: Why should we devote our scarce resources to what is essentially a non-problem and ignore the real problems the world faces?
We would have a much more positive impact by devoting our resources to reducing hunger, disease, human rights violations, and restrictions on human freedom. Yet so many politicians and environmental activists prefer to toy with and devote our limited resources to fashionable issues rather than concentrate on real ones.
I imagine that in the not-too-distant future all of the hype will have died down, particularly if the climate should decide to cool as it did during much of the past century. We should take note that the planet has not warmed since 1998.
Future generations will look back on the current madness and wonder what it was all about. They will have movies like AIT and documentaries like TGGWS to remind them.
S. Fred Singer (firstname.lastname@example.org) is professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia. He served as founding director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service and was vice chairman of the U.S. National Advisory Committee on Oceans and Atmosphere. His most recent book, Unstoppable Global Warming--Every 1,500 Years, co-written with Dennis T. Avery, is on the New York Times bestseller list. This article was first published on the Science and Environmental Policy Project Web site (http://www.sepp.org) and is reprinted with permission.