By Dr. Roy Spencer: 25 May 2006
Dear Mr. Gore:
I have just seen your new movie, "An
Inconvenient Truth," about the threat that global warming presents to
humanity. I think you did a very good job of explaining global warming
theory, and your presentation was effective. Please convey my
compliments to your good friend, Laurie David, for a job well done.
As a climate scientist myself -- you might remember me...I'm the one
you mistook for your "good friend," UK scientist Phil Jones during my
congressional testimony some years back -- I have a few questions that
occurred to me while watching the movie.
- Why did you make it look like hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires,
floods, droughts, and ice calving off of glaciers and falling into the
ocean, are only recent phenomena associated with global warming? You
surely know that hurricane experts have been warning congress for many
years that the natural cycle in hurricanes would return some day, and
that our built-up coastlines were ripe for a disaster (like Katrina,
which you highlighted in the movie). And as long as snow continues to
fall on glaciers, they will continue to flow downhill toward the sea.
Yet you made it look like these things wouldn't happen if it weren't
for global warming. Also, since there are virtually no measures of
severe weather showing a recent increase, I assume those graphs you
showed actually represented damage increases, which are well known
to be simply due to greater population and wealth. Is that right?
- Why did you make it sound like all scientists agree that climate
change is manmade and not natural? You mentioned a recent literature
review study that supposedly found no peer-reviewed articles that
attributed climate change to natural causes (a non-repeatable study
which has since been refuted....I have a number of such articles in my
office!) You also mentioned how important it is to listen to scientists
when they warn us, yet surely you know that almost all past scientific
predictions of gloom and doom have been wrong. How can we trust
scientists' predictions now?
- I know you still must feel bad about the last presidential
election being stolen from you, but why did you have to make fun of
Republican presidents (Reagan; both Bushes) for their views on global
warming? The points you made in the movie might have had wider appeal
if you did not alienate so many moviegoers in this manner.
- Your presentation showing the past 650,000 years of atmospheric
temperature and carbon dioxide reconstructions from ice cores was very
effective. But I assume you know that some scientists view the CO2
increases as the result of, rather than the cause of,
past temperature increases. It seems unlikely that CO2 variations have
been the dominant cause of climate change for hundreds of thousands of
years. And now that there is a new source of carbon dioxide
emissions (people), those old relationships are probably not valid
anymore. Why did you give no hint of these alternative views?
- When you recounted your 6-year-old son's tragic accident that
nearly killed him, I thought that you were going to make the point
that, if you had lived in a poor country like China or India, your son
would have probably died. But then you later held up these countries as
model examples for their low greenhouse gas emissions, without
mentioning that the only reason their emissions were so low was because
people in those countries are so poor. I'm confused...do you really
want us to live like the poor people in India and China?
- There seems to be a lot of recent concern that more polar bears
are drowning these days because of disappearing sea ice. I assume you
know that polar bears have always migrated to land in late summer when
sea ice naturally melts back, and then return to the ice when it
re-freezes. Also, if this was really happening, why did the movie have
to use a computer generated animation of the poor polar bear swimming
around looking for ice? Haven't there been any actual observations of
this happening? Also, temperature measurements in the arctic suggest
that it was just as warm there in the 1930's...before most greenhouse
gas emissions. Don't you ever wonder whether sea ice concentrations
back then were low, too?
- Why did you make it sound like simply signing on to the Kyoto
Protocol to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions would be such a big
step forward, when we already know it will have no measurable effect on
global temperatures anyway? And even though it represents such a small
emission reduction, the economic pain Kyoto causes means that almost no
developed country will be meeting its emission reductions commitments
under that treaty, as we are now witnessing in Europe.
- At the end of the movie, you made it sound like we can mostly fix
the global warming problem by conserving energy... you even claimed we
can reduce our carbon emissions to zero. But I'm sure you know that
this will only be possible with major technological advancements,
including a probable return to nuclear power as an energy source. Why
did you not mention this need for technological advancement and nuclear
power? It is because that would support the current (Republican)
Mr. Gore, I think we can both agree that if it was relatively easy
for mankind to stop emitting so much carbon dioxide, that we should do
so. You are a very smart person, so I can't understand why you left so
many important points unmentioned, and you made it sound so easy.
I wish you well in these efforts, and I hope that humanity will make
the right choices based upon all of the information we have on the
subject of global warming. I agree with you that global warming is
indeed a "moral issue," and if we are to avoid doing more harm than
good with misguided governmental policies, we will need more
politicians to be educated on the issue.
Your "Good Friend,"
Dr. Roy W. Spencer
(aka 'Phil Jones')