Saturday, May 19, 2007
Kevin Libin in the National Post says "First it was his world history class. Then he saw it in his economics class. And his world issues class. And his environment class. In total, 18-year-old McKenzie, a Northern Ontario high schooler, says he has had the film An Inconvenient Truth shown to him by four different teachers this year.
"I really don't understand why they keep showing it," says McKenzie (his parents asked that his last name not be used). "I've spoken to the principal about it, and he said that teachers are instructed to present it as a debate. But every time we've seen it, well, one teacher said this is basically a two-sided debate, but this movie really gives you the best idea of what's going on."
McKenzie says he has educated himself enough about both sides of the climate-change controversy to know that the Al Gore movie is too one-sided to be taught as fact.
Even scientists who back Mr. Gore's message admit they're uncomfortable with liberties the politician takes with "science" in the film. But, McKenzie says most of his classmates are credulous.
His teachers are not much more discerning. "They don't know there's another side to the argument," he says. McKenzie's mother was outraged to find out that Mr. Gore's film was being presented as fact in her son's classroom. "This is just being poured into kids' brains instead of letting them know there's a debate going on," she says. "An educational system falls down when they start taking one side."
But Mr. Gore's filmed climate-change lecture is showing up in classrooms across Canada, frequently unaccompanied by critical analysis or a discussion of competing theories. "One of the teachers at my kid's school showed it and he even said ahead of time, 'There is some propaganda in this,' " says Tim Patterson, a Carleton University earth sciences professor. "I said to him, 'You even knew this was a propaganda film, and you still showed it in your classroom?' " The weirdest part: It was the gym teacher.
If you have children in junior or high school, there is a good chance they have been shown An Inconvenient Truth in school - or they will be soon.
Last month, Vancouver's Tides Canada Foundation and a local eco-friendly courier firm teamed up to buy DVD copies for every public high school in B.C. Climate Learning, a non-profit Vancouver outfit, is a third of the way to raising the $68,000 it needs to buy copies of the film for every high school in the country, after just weeks of campaigning.
"I think it's important for high schools to have this film," says Will Cole-Hamilton, the group's director. "Our objective is to get them into schools by September."
Two weeks ago, 900 students from grade 7 to 12 in Ontario's Halton Region were treated to a screening - sponsored by ethanol producer SunOpta Inc.-with a second showing scheduled at a Georgetown high school this Wednesday. SunOpta has donated 60 copies of the DVD and the book version of An Inconvenient Truth to public and Catholic schools as a resource. After showing the film to students, a London, Ont., board launched a contest for kids to win tickets to hear Mr. Gore address a fundraiser this month, by making their own environmental videos.
Earthcare Canada, an energy-consultant sponsored group, is working with the Ottawa-Carlton school board and one in Belleville, Ont., to raise awareness about energy conservation. The Gore movie is one of the materials it suggests as a teaching resource. "We would definitely recommend it and make them aware that it is there, and then how to use it," says Earthcare's executive director Rose-Marie Batley.
"I get e-mail from parents all across the country about this, in Calgary, B.C., Ontario," says Albert Jacobs, the founder of Friends of Science, a Calgary-based group that promotes alternative theories to climate change. "They say, my kid has been exposed to this stuff which is totally one-sided and totally wrong and we want them to see the other side."
Hand it to Paramount, the studio behind An Inconvenient Truth, for tapping the classroom market in a way skeptics cannot. In addition to a companion book written for school-aged children, producers have created a lesson plan, "AIT in the Classroom," for teachers to download.
In England, the government has made the movie part of the public curriculum. In Spain, the government is buying copies of the movie for all of its schools. In Australia, private donors are buying copies for schools.
Politicians and educators may accept on their face filmed warnings of a world tumbling toward catastrophe if we don't dramatically cut back on our greenhouse gas emissions. But some of Mr. Gore's allies have acknowledged glaring inaccuracies in the film.
Though Mr. Gore was right for "getting the message out," University of Colorado climatologist Kevin Vranes told The New York Times last month that he worried about the film "overselling our certainty about knowing the future." James E. Hansen, a NASA scientist and one of Mr. Gore's advisors, agreed the movie has "imperfections" and "technical flaws." About An Inconvenient Truth's connection of rising hurricane activity to global warming - something refuted by storm experts - Mr. Hansen said, "we need to be more careful in describing the hurricane story than he is." Among other things, since the film's release last year, scientists have rejected Mr. Gore's claims that 2005 was the warmest year on record (temperatures have been receding since 1998), that polar bears are heading for extinction (their numbers are growing), that Antarctica is warming (interior temperature readings show cooling) and that sea levels will "rise 18 to 20 feet," swamping coastal cities (the International Panel on Climate Change predicts a few inches).
Last year, when producer Laurie David offered to donate 50,000 DVDs to the National Science Teachers Association, the group refused, citing a policy "prohibiting product endorsement." In the U.K., one parent is taking the Department for Education and Skills to court to stop it from using the film in science, geography and citizenship classes. A Washington-state school board now requires that any teacher showing the film must ensure a "credible, legitimate opposing view will be presented" as well.
In B.C., a Surrey school trustee, Heather Stilwell, has been fighting for a policy to ensure teachers in the Vancouver suburb also present a balancing viewpoint. Meanwhile, Vancouver-based businessman Michael Chernoff, says his charitable foundation will provide to high schools DVD copies of the new British documentary, The Great Global Warming Swindle, featuring interviews with scientists who dissent from Mr. Gore's claims, as soon as the producer is ready to ship the discs. "And if they start sending [An Inconvenient Truth] to all Canadian schools, then I'll buy a copy of Swindle for all the schools, too," Mr. Chernoff says. "I think showing it is fine, but they should present the other side as well."
But even with Mr. Chernoff's gift, there's no requirement teachers to show both sides of the argument unless school boards demand it. "We've gone to school boards offering to provide them with materials that present the other side," says Mr. Jacobs. "You get the same answer, that the teacher has to teach a certain curriculum and how he does it is his business." Some teachers are open to alternative theories, he says.
But others, like Mr. Gore, have an agenda. On a discussion board on the CBC Web site last month, readers debated the Surrey controversy. One commentor, who identified himself as a teacher, wrote this: "Yes students should look at both sides on an issue and learn to judge for themselves. But there are times to do this and times to stop." He is certain Mr. Gore is right. Now, he wrote, "It is time for action." "
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Saturday, May 5, 2007
Lawrence Soloman reported that GORE'S GURU DISAGREES!
The Deniers, Part XX: Gore's guru disagreed by Lawrence SolomonIn the history of the global-warming movement, no scientist is more revered than Roger Revelle of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Harvard University and University of California San Diego. He was the co-author of the seminal 1957 paper that demonstrated that fossil fuels had increased carbon-dioxide levels in the air. Under his leadership, the President's Science Advisory Committee Panel on Environmental Pollution in 1965 published the first authoritative U.S. government report in which carbon dioxide from fossil fuels was officially recognized as a potential global problem. He was the author of the influential 1982 Scientific American article that elevated global warming on to the public agenda. For being "the grandfather of the greenhouse effect," as he put it, he was awarded the National Medal of Science by the first President Bush.
Roger Revelle's most consequential act, however, may have come in his role as a teacher, during the 1960s at Harvard. Dr. Revelle inspired a young student named Al Gore.
Dr. Revelle would change Gore's life, particularly since the climate-change field had become cutting edge, with Dr. Revelle adding to the excitement by giving his students advance notice of the fruits of his research.
"It felt like such a privilege to be able to hear about the readouts from some of those measurements in a group of no more than a dozen undergraduates," Gore later explained. "Here was this teacher presenting something not years old but fresh out of the lab, with profound implications for our future!"
Calling him "a wonderful, visionary professor" who was "one of the first people in the academic community to sound the alarm on global warming," Gore thought of Dr. Revelle as his mentor and referred to him frequently, relaying his experiences as a student in his book Earth in the Balance, published in 1992. Gore's warmth for Dr. Revelle cooled, however, when it became clear that he had misunderstood his former professor: Although Dr. Revelle recognized potential harm from global warming, he also saw potential benefits and was by no means alarmed, as seen in this 1984 interview in Omni magazine:
Omni: A problem that has occupied your attention for many years is the increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, which could cause the earth's climate to become warmer. Is this actually happening?
Revelle: I estimate that the total increase [in CO2] over the past hundred years has been about 21%. But whether the increase will lead to a significant rise in global temperature, we can't absolutely say.
Omni: What will the warming of the earth mean to us?
Revelle: There may be lots of effects. Increased CO2 in the air acts like a fertilizer for plants . . . you get more plant growth. Increasing CO2 levels also affect water transpiration, causing plants to close their pores and sweat less. That means plants will be able to grow in drier climates.
Omni: Does the increase in CO2 have anything to do with people saying the weather is getting worse?
Revelle: People are always saying the weather's getting worse. Actually, the CO2 increase is predicted to temper weather extremes . . . .
While Gore in the late 1980s was becoming a prominent politician, loudly warning of global warming dangers, Dr. Revelle was quietly warning against taking any drastic action.
In a July 14, 1988, in a letter to Congressman Jim Bates, he wrote that:
"Most scientists familiar with the subject are not yet willing to bet that the climate this year is the result of 'greenhouse warming.' As you very well know, climate is highly variable from year to year, and the causes of these variations are not at all well understood. My own personal belief is that we should wait another 10 or 20 years to really be convinced that the greenhouse is going to be important for human beings, in both positive and negative ways." A few days later, he sent a similar letter to Senator Tim Wirth, cautioning ". . . we should be careful not to arouse too much alarm until the rate and amount of warming becomes clearer."
Then in 1991, Dr. Revelle wrote an article for Cosmos, a scientific journal, with two illustrious colleagues, Chauncey Starr, founding director of the Electric Power Research Institute and Fred Singer, the first director of the U.S. Weather Satellite. Entitled "What to do about greenhouse warming: Look before you leap," the article argued that decades of research could be required for the consequences of increased carbon dioxide to be understood, and laid out the harm that could come of acting recklessly:
"Drastic, precipitous and, especially, unilateral steps to delay the putative greenhouse impacts can cost jobs and prosperity and increase the human costs of global poverty, without being effective. Stringent controls enacted now would be economically devastating, particularly for developing countries for whom reduced energy consumption would mean slower rates of economic growth without being able to delay greatly the growth of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Yale economist William Nordhaus, one of the few who have been trying to deal quantitatively with the economics of the greenhouse effect, has pointed out that '... those who argue for strong measures to slow greenhouse warming have reached their conclusion without any discernible analysis of the costs and benefits . . . .' It would be prudent to complete the ongoing and recently expanded research so that we will know what we are doing before we act. 'Look before you leap' may still be good advice."
Three months after the Cosmos article appeared, Dr. Revelle died of a heart attack. One year later, with Al Gore running for vice-president in the 1992 presidential election, the inconsistency between Gore's pronouncements � he claimed that the "science was settled" then, too � and those of his mentor became national news. Gore responded with a withering attack, leading to claims that Dr. Revelle had become senile before his death, that Dr. Singer had duped Dr. Revelle into co-authoring the article, and that Dr. Singer had listed Dr. Revelle as a co-author over his objections. The sordid accusations ended in a defamation suit and an abject public apology in 1994 from Gore's academic hit man, a prominent Harvard scientist, who revealed his unsavory role and that of Gore in the fabrications against Dr. Singer and Dr. Revelle.
That was then. Would Dr. Revelle, if he were still alive, believe that global warming now demands urgent action? We can never know. We do know, however, that Dr. Revelle had no time for the alarmist views of Al Gore in the 1980s. We also know that those whose views Dr. Revelle respected continue to caution us against precipitous action: Dr. Revelle's colleague and friend, Fred Singer, is among the most prominent of Al Gore's critics, and economist William Nordhaus, generally considered the leading expert in the field, continue to warn of the economic danger of climate alarmism.
We also know that the science is still not settled, and that in the years since Dr. Revelle's death, new research from many of the world's most respected scientists bears out the cautions that Dr. Revelle bequeathed us.
Lawrence Solomon is executive director of Urban Renaissance Institute and Consumer Policy Institute, divisions of Energy Probe Research Foundation.
Any open-minded person should read Lawrence Soloman's articles on the climate change politico-scientific exaggeration! Global Warming!????
Articles by Lawrence Solomon
Lawrence Solomon, Urban Renaissance Institute's executive director, is a columnist for the National Post and past editor of The Next City magazine. Most of the pieces below were originally published in these two periodicals.
The Deniers, Part XX: Gore's guru disagreed by Lawrence Solomon
The famed scientist Dr. Roger Revelle changed Al Gore's life but Gore's warmth for Dr. Revelle cooled when it became clear he had misunderstood his former professor's position on global warming. National Post April 28/2007
The Deniers, Part XIX: Science, not politics by Lawrence Solomon
Dr. Friis-Christensen questions the very premise that human activity explains most of the global warming that we see, and through his work he has convinced much of an entire scientific discipline to explore his line of inquiry. National Post April 13/2007
The Deniers, Part XVIII: Fighting climate 'fluff' by Lawrence Solomon
Physicist Freeman Dyson knows from long experience that models containing numerous fudge factors are worthless. National Post April 5/2007
The Deniers, Part XVII: Little Ice Age is still with us by Lawrence Solomon
The Arctic offers evidence of global warming as a result of a natural process. National Post March 30/2007
The Deniers, Part XVI: Bitten by the IPCC by Lawrence Solomon
The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is very particular about the scientists it selects to investigate the health consequences of global warming. National Post March 23/2007
The Deniers, Part XV: Unsettled science by Lawrence Solomon
A new no-holds-barred documentary on global warming is destined to raise a storm of controversy in the climate-change debate, with one particular scientist destined to be uncomfortably at its centre. National Post March 14/2007
The Deniers, Part XIV: The heat's in the sun by Lawrence Solomon
Earth hasn't been this hot in 8,000 years and, the hot spell is likely to carry on for a few more decades before the sun turns down the heat. National Post March 9/2007
The Deniers, Part XIII: Allegre's second thoughts by Lawrence Solomon
Leading French scientist Claude Allegre found, much to his surprise, that many climate models and studies failed dismally in establishing a man-made cause of catastrophic global warming. National Post March 2/2007
The Deniers, Part XII: Clouded research by Lawrence Solomon
The world of climate science is all but ignoring the breakthroughs in climate knowledge a path-breaking new CERN experiment is about to reveal. National Post February 23/2007
The Deniers, Part XI: End the chill by Lawrence Solomon
Answers concerning climate change will come more quickly in a climate less chill to scientific investigation. National Post February 9/2007
The Deniers, Part X: Limited role for CO2 by Lawrence Solomon
CO2 does play a role in climate change, but a secondary role, one too small to preoccupy policymakers. Which isn't to say fossil fuels shouldn't be controlled � they should but not because of their adverse affects on climate. National Post February 2/2007
The Deniers, Part IX: Look to Mars for the truth on global warming by Lawrence Solomon
The real climate change news is solar irradiance: the Earth has hit its temperature ceiling and a protracted cooling period is predicted to take affect in 2012. The even bigger news: a deep freeze around 2055-60. National Post January 26/2007
The Deniers, Part VIII: The limits of predictability by Lawrence Solomon
Henk Tennekes is an object lesson in the limits of scientific inquiry. Lesser scientists, seeing that even a man of Tennekes's reputation was not free to voice dissent on climate change, learned their lesson: keep quiet. National Post January 19/2007
The Deniers, Part VII: Will the sun cool us? by Lawrence Solomon
The science is anything but settled, except for one virtual certainty: The world is about to enter a cooling period, says leading astronomer and mathematician, Nigel Weiss. National Post January 12/2007
The Deniers, Part VI: The sun moves climate change by Lawrence Solomon
A clear, verifiable mechanism showing how a greenhouse gas or other physical entity can drive climate change has eluded science. Until now. National Post January 5/2007
The Deniers, Part V: The original denier: into the cold by Lawrence Solomon
Dr. Lindzen is one of the original deniers � among the first to criticize the scientific bureaucracy, and scientists themselves, for claims about global warming that he views as unfounded and alarmist. National Post December 22/2006
The Deniers, Part IV: Polar scientists on thin ice by Lawrence Solomon
Antarctica's advance or retreat represents the greatest threat to the globe from global warming, bar none. National Post December 15/2006
The Deniers, Part III: The hurricane expert who stood up to UN junk science by Lawrence Solomon
How the International Panel on Climate Change in 2004 skipped the science in favour of capitalizing on the publicity opportunity the hurricane season presented to substantiate its claims about global warming. National Post December 8/2006
The Deniers, Part II: Warming is real � and has benefits by Lawrence Solomon
The science is not settled on global warming. National Post December 1/2006
The Deniers, Part I: Statistics needed by Lawrence Solomon
Prominent statistician Edward Wegman says climate scientists have done an inadequate job of incorporating statistical know-how. National Post November 28/2006