31 March, 2011

Rising Seas & Drowning Bears

Two egregious claims in the film, “An Inconvenient Truth”, were, in the English court-case of Dimmock v. Secretary of State for Education and Skills ([2007] EWHC 2288 (Admin), [2008] 1 All ER 367), specifically mentioned in Justice Burton’s decision as erroneous:
1.  ‘Error’ 11:  Sea level rise of up to 20 feet (7 metres) will be caused by melting of either West Antarctica or Greenland in the near future.
In scene 21 (the film is carved up for teaching purposes into 32 scenes), in one of the most graphic parts of the film Mr Gore says as follows:
If Greenland broke up and melted, or if half of Greenland and half of West Antarctica broke up and melted, this is what would happen to the sea level in Florida.  This is what would happen in the San Francisco Bay.  A lot of people live in these areas.  The Netherlands, the Low Countries:  absolutely devastation.  The area around Beijing is home to tens of millions of people.  Even worse, in the area around Shanghai, there are 40 million people.  Worse still, Calcutta, and to the east Bangladesh, the area covered includes 50 million people.   Think of the impact of a couple of hundred thousand refugees when they are displaced by an environmental event and then imagine the impact of a 100 million or more.  Here is Manhattan.  This is the World Trade Center memorial site.  After the horrible events of 9/11 we said never again.   This is what would happen to Manhattan.  They can measure this precisely, just as scientists could predict precisely how much water would breach the levee in New Orleans.
This is distinctly alarmist, and part of Mr Gore’s ‘wake-up call’.  It is common ground that if indeed Greenland melted, it would release this amount of water, but only after, and over, millennia, so that the Armageddon scenario he predicts, insofar as it suggests that sea level rises of 7 metres might occur in the immediate future, is not in line with the scientific consensus.
8.  ‘Error’ 15:  Death of polar bears.
In scene 16, by reference to a dramatic graphic of a polar bear desperately swimming through the water looking for ice, Mr Gore says:  “A new scientific study shows that for the first time they are finding polar bears that have actually drowned swimming long distances up to 60 miles to find the ice.  They did not find that before.”  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 is not to say that there may not in the future be drowning-related deaths of polar bears if the trend of regression of pack-ice and/or longer open water continues, but it plainly does not support Mr Gore's description.
You may notice that ClimateCrisis.net is still (as of March, 2011) supplying such erroneous, alarmist claims and unscientific exaggerations—or, in other words, lies—to schools and to schoolchildren.

UPDATE (10 May):  on the alleged decline of polar bears, see Kirk Myers, in the Seminole County Environmental News Examiner, “Canada’s growing polar bear population ‘becoming a problem,’ locals say”.

UPDATE II (3 August):  see also, in International Business Times, Amrutha Gayathri’s “Polar Bear Population Higher than in 20th Century: Is Something Fishy about Extinction Fears?”.

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