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Willisms

« GOP Presidential Debate - October 9, 2007 in Dearborn, Michigan. | WILLisms.com | Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 455 -- Health Care. »

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 454 -- Air Quality & Global Warming.

Environmental Levelheadedness-

Al Gore recently made his way to Austin on his An Inconvenient Truth tour. About 3,000 tickets were sold for the event, which was held in the 16,755+ capacity Frank Erwin Center.

I've actually watched the "documentary," and it strikes me that Al Gore is one of the worst spokespeople possible for just about any cause, because he has a strange tendency to stretch the truth when it doesn't even need to be stretched, all while inventing truth when it does need to be invented. Credibility is so precious in the world of politics and policy and science, and Al Gore just simply has no credibility. Also, Gore is a poor choice for the environmental movement due to his narcissism and hypocrisy on this and other issues.

In the film, Al Gore brings in all sorts of irrelevant tangents about his family life, including his son's car accident as a young boy, his sister's cancer, and his family's farm in Tennessee. The film also lingers on the 2000 election aftermath, as if to say, "had I been elected, we wouldn't have global warming." Watching the film, you can't help but feel like you've been cornered in Al Gore's den, and he's compelling you to watch film reels from his life on his dusty old projector screen. In between reels, he's showing off how smart and worldly he is by citing carbon dioxide statistics and showing you pictures of polar bears.

Indeed, the film truly is more of an "Al Gore is awesome!" movie than an educational movie about the environment. To the extent that it even is an educational film about the environment, it gets so much, so incredibly wrong:

ERROR: Mr Gore asserted that a sea-level rise of up to 20 feet would be caused by melting of either West Antarctica or Greenland "in the near future".

The judge said: "This is distinctly alarmist and part of Mr Gore's "wake-up call".

It was common ground that if Greenland melted it would release this amount of water - "but only after, and over, millennia."

ERROR: The film had also asserted that low-lying inhabited Pacific atolls "are being inundated because of anthropogenic global warming" - but there was no evidence of any evacuation having yet happened.

ERROR: The documentary had also spoken of global warming "shutting down the Ocean Conveyor" - the process by which the Gulf Stream is carried over the North Atlantic to western Europe.

The judge said that, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it was "very unlikely" that the Ocean Conveyor, also known as the Meridional Overturning Circulation, would shut down in the future, though it might slow down.

ERROR: Mr Gore had also asserted - by ridiculing the opposite view - that two graphs, one plotting a rise in C02 and the other the rise in temperature over a period of 650,000 years, showed "an exact fit".

The judge said that, although there was general scientific agreement that there was a connection, "the two graphs do not establish what Mr Gore asserts".

ERROR: Mr Gore had asserted that the disappearance of snow on Mt Kilimanjaro was expressly attributable to global warming. The judge said this had "specifically impressed" the Environment Secretary David Miliband.

But the scientific consensus was that it cannot be established that the recession of snows on Mt Kilimanjaro is mainly attributable to human-induced climate change.

ERROR: The drying up of Lake Chad was used in the film as a prime example of a catastrophic result of global warming, said the judge.

"However, it is generally accepted that the evidence remains insufficient to establish such an attribution.

"It is apparently considered to be far more likely to result from other factors, such as population increase and over-grazing, and regional climate variability."

ERROR: Mr Gore ascribes Hurricane Katrina and the consequent devastation in New Orleans to global warming, but there was "insufficient evidence to show that".

ERROR: MR Gore had also referred to a new scientific study showing that, for the first time, polar bears were being found that had actually drowned "swimming long distances - up to 60 miles - to find the ice".

The judge said: "The only scientific study that either side before me can find is one which indicates that four polar bears have recently been found drowned because of a storm."

That was not to say there might not in future be drowning-related deaths of bears if the trend of regression of pack ice continued - "but it plainly does not support Mr Gore's description".

ERROR: Mr Gore said in the film that coral reefs all over the world were bleaching because of global warming and other factors.

The judge said the IPCC had reported that, if temperatures were to rise by 1-3 degrees centigrade, there would be increased coral bleaching and mortality, unless the coral could adapt.

But separating the impacts of stresses due to climate change from other stresses, such as over-fishing, and pollution was difficult.

Given these errors and others, plus the heavy doses of Al Gore personal nonsequiturs, it seems strange that it would ever be shown in schools, let alone British schools. But that's the world today.

Meanwhile, how is the world doing? You know, the actual world. Are we killing the earth? Is the planet in peril? Is our air unbreathable?

What do the facts say about the environment?

Well, for one, ambient levels of various air pollutants here in America are significantly down in recent decades:

ambientairpollutants.gif

Sure, a portion of that decline is probably directly related to the sort of environmental regulations Al Gore and others routinely call for. On the other hand, this graphic shows how technology can improve our world. In the 1960s, vehicles were clunkier, louder, and emitted more pollution than vehicles today. Factories spat out more smoke and chemicals than they do today. Our appliances are much more energy efficient today than they were four decades ago. Much of this is simply attributable to consumer preferences. American consumers have become more sophisticated. We want our cars to make less noise and pollute less. We want our industrial facilities to be cleaner. We want our refrigerators to keep our food fresher, longer, all while using less energy. Let's not underestimate the greening impact of individual choice.

The graphic above also gives us reason for optimism about the health of our planet, and reason to pause before overreacting to the alleged threat of anthropomorphic global warming. It should also cause us to question why so many of the current models and predictions of future environmental indicators (INCLUDING the very ones in the graphic above) are so terribly negative and pessimistic, when, in reality, the trends are often quite positive, with or without drastic government intervention.

Indeed, as noted here at WILLisms.com back in February, the United States, without ratifying Kyoto, has done a better job than nearly every other country in the world, when it comes to reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Moreover, the United States produces a higher proportion of the world's economic growth than carbon dioxide emissions and is roughly on par with The Netherlands in that regard. The Netherlands is extremely environmentally conscious. Practically the entire country is below sea level. So being roughly on par with The Netherlands is kind of a big deal.

Indeed, the authors of the 2007 Leading Index of Environmental Indicators (.pdf) crunched the numbers similarly and found that the United States is becoming more energy efficient, all without Kyoto:

ghgintensity.gif

GHG Intensity refers to greenhouse gas intensity. It's essentially a ratio of greenhouse gas emissions and economic prowess. This particular graphic refers to improvements in that GHG intensity since 1991; America has done a better job than Europe over this period at growing its economy faster and greener. The authors also note that Germany improved their numbers mostly by shutting down old Soviet-era facilities in the East, and the UK improved in a one-time move from coal to natural gas production of electricity.

Essentially, it is economic growth and economic necessity that will drive the greatest environmental advancements of the 21st century. Economic growth drives cleaner, more efficient, and just plain better technologies. Economic growth drives consumer preferences toward more environmentally-friendly products. There is no need for any sort of federalized Manhattan project on alternative energy; if oil really is too expensive and/or about to run out, there are billions of dollars in new wealth just ripe for the picking for those who develop something that is better. Indeed, venture capital in alternative energies is becoming big business (unfortunately, some of that is due to rent-seeking as a consequence of poor government policy) and has more than quadrupled as a percentage of total venture capital spending, in the past half-decade (.pdf):

venturecapitalincleanenergy.gif

If America were engaged in a modern "space race" against the Europeans on alternative energy and ways to improve the environment, there is little doubt that the United States would win-- but only if the U.S. harnesses the power of economic growth, individual choice, and entrepreneurialism to win.


-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: Liberal Media Bias.

Posted by Will Franklin · 10 October 2007 01:48 PM

Comments

Not good enough!

The hairshirt greens won't be happy until our only mode of transportation is bicycles.

Posted by: Ken McCracken at October 11, 2007 12:01 AM

Great post Will. I wish Ken's comment weren't true, but it is. And the greens use the courts as effectively as any group ever to attain their goals. If a democrat is elected President, their power will increase with each liberal activist apponted to a federal panel. By the way, I will miss Ken's contributions to Willisms, but it is good to see you posting consistently again Will.

Posted by: b from t at October 11, 2007 07:43 PM