An Inconvenient Truth About An Inconvenient Truth

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I understand and agree with the premise that our planet is getting warmer and I am fully in line with the belief that humans are, at least in part, to blame through our use of fossil fuels and their emissions.

Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” highlights the changes we are effecting on our planet. I haven’t seen it. Generally, stuff like this just ends up pissing me off, so I try to refrain though I’ll probably watch it at some point.

However, a couple of people brought it up with me and the one issue I struggled with was the use of Katrina as an example of the impact of global warming on “killer” storms. This doesn’t frustrate me so much because of the hyperbole as it does because it is really only a partial truth and I really don’t think they needed to use it as an affirmation of the problem.

Many of you know I’m a big-time hurricane nerd. I like following the storms and I know a lot about them. The fact is that using Katrina as an example of the effects of global warming is not just ineffective, it’s inaccurate. And, given the HUGE amount of documented evidence in other areas, the use of the storm in the film seems unnecessary if not sensational.

Jeff Masters, one of the foremost experts on the web on hurricanes, posted his thoughts in his Wunder Blog and this is why I posted myself. I wasn’t even going to discuss it, but Masters hits upon the same things I’ve felt all along.

Masters, like me, agrees with virtually everything but the hurricane info.

The biggest failure in the movie’s presentation of science comes in the discussion hurricanes and severe weather events. The devastation wrought by Katrina is used to very dramatic effect to warn of the dangers climate change presents. We are told that Katrina grew “stronger and stronger and stronger” as it passed over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico that were heated up by global warming. We are told that global warming is increasing the intensity of hurricanes, but not provided information on the great amount of uncertainty and vigorous scientific debate on this issue. Graphs showing recent record insurance losses from natural disasters are presented, but no mention is made of how increasing population and insistence on building in vulnerable areas are the predominant factors causing recent high insurance claims from disasters such as Katrina. Gore points to some unprecedented events in 2004 as evidence of increasing severe weather events worldwide–the record 10 typhoons in Japan, the most tornadoes ever in the U.S., and the appearance of Brazil’s first hurricane ever. However, examples of this kind are meaningless. No single weather event, or unconnected series of severe weather events such as Gore presents, are indicative of climate change. In particular, the IPCC has not found any evidence that climate change has increased tornado frequency, or is likely to. Gore doesn’t mention the unusually quiet tornado season of 2005, when for the first time ever, no tornadoes were reported in Oklahoma in the month of May.

I’m about as bleeding heart liberal as they come and nothing would please me more than to see us reverse the trend of global warming (or at least slow it down) through a reduction in fossil fuel emissions. Presenting a strong case, as Gore apparently did, is great. Just don’t reach or it will make all your data look inaccurate.

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