Al Gore’s Apocalyptic Fantasy Lecture at Rice University

As promised, I attended Al Gore’s climate change lecture at Rice University last night. Rice University is one of the most beautiful university campuses I’ve ever seen, so it was a delight to see it again. The architecture is outstanding, and the buildings are placed in a garden-like setting. It was lovely to walk from the parking lot to the fieldhouse. The speech was held in a packed Tudor Fieldhouse which seats 5,750. By the time the Rice University Provost was introducing Al Gore, there were no empty seats that I could see, see Figure 1.

Figure 1

A couple of minutes later, when Al Gore came on stage he received a standing ovation, I must say I was a little surprised, like I was in an alternate universe. However, about 40% of Texans vote Democratic and these voters are concentrated in Houston, San Antonio and Austin. As an example, Houston went for Hillary Clinton by over 160,000 votes. This was very apparent in Tudor Fieldhouse. The crowd even cheered when Gore railed against the fossil fuel industry and called for dismantling it. Although, I noticed lots of people (including the couple next to me) got up and walked out at that point. When the lights came up for questions, there were many empty seats, perhaps a quarter or more, had walked out during the speech.

As some predicted, prior to the speech, questions were pre-screened by the provost (Professor of statistics Marie Lynn Miranda). She is an unquestioning true believer in catastrophic man-made global warming (CAGW) just like Al Gore, so the three hand-picked questions she asked were softballs that merely prompted more vitriol about “deniers.” Yes, he used the word a few times. Once he said, “I know I’m being dismissive of them, but what can I do?” This was accompanied with an irritatingly smug and superior smile, like the one that lost him the election in 2000.

The first question is the only one I’ll discuss here. It was (paraphrasing): Why is the media ignoring climate change? Al Gore’s answer was very long and rambling, but he essentially said, even though climate change is the most important issue facing human civilization ever, the media ignores it because too many people turn off their TV’s or radios or change the channel whenever it comes up. He believes the media are not informing any more but, they are entertainment only. That was interesting, I agree with him on that point. Then he went on to say the internet and social media are not a positive thing today, they are divisive; but he had hopes for the future of social media. The media is toast, since both sides now think it has devolved to entertainment.

Points made in the lecture

The lecture was in two parts. In the first Gore asserted that humans are causing “dangerous” climate change, without offering any proof. He further asserted that 16 of the 17 warmest years “on record” were in this century, asserted that greenhouse gases (“mainly carbon dioxide”) were the cause since they “trap” 400,000 Hiroshima bombs worth of heat on the Earth every year. He presented no evidence that the greenhouse connections are related to the warming or that heat is “trapped” by them. The “evidence” that man’s emissions cause climate change is computer-model based, and not based on, or supported by, observations as discussed here. The popular concept of greenhouse gases “trapping” heat is very misleading and inaccurate as described by Rasmus Benestad here.

The idea that 16 of the 17 warmest years “on record” are in this century is debatable and depends upon which surface temperature record one chooses to use and the estimate of error-of-measurement one chooses to use. For a discussion of this see Pat Frank’s post here. This statement also ignores the very small change in temperature in this century, versus the latter part of the 20th century, as can be seen here. Further, the measured global temperature record only goes back to 1880, at the earliest, and this was the end of the Little Ice Age. The Little Ice Age is the coldest period on Earth since the beginning of the Holocene as can be seen here in figures 3A and 3B. Do we really want to go back to the cold and miserable Little Ice Age? This was a very difficult time, as discussed here. I and most people like it warmer than that.

So, Gore’s assertions are very contestable, yet he moves on undeterred, and describes cherry-picked catastrophes all over the world, with emotional pictures. According to him, all are linked to man’s supposed changes to the global climate. He asserts that hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria were all made worse by global warming. He acknowledges “some say no link of climate change to extreme weather can be shown.” He doesn’t mention a source, but I suspect he was referring to the excellent work by Dr. Roger Pielke Jr. (here) and Dr. Cliff Mass (here). Dr. Judith Curry, a hurricane expert, has also discussed global warming and hurricanes here. Dr. Curry, in the cited post, says:

“Thinking that reducing fossil fuels is going to help with extreme events on the timescale of the 21st century is a pipe dream. Even if you believe the climate models, and we are able to drastically reduce fossil fuel emissions by 2050, we’re going to see miniscule impacts on the climate and the weather by the end of the 21st century. Any benefits would be realised in the 22nd and 23rd centuries. If we think we have enough wisdom and knowledge to what might happen in the 22nd and 23rd Century — personally I’d rather see us deal with here and now, and maybe focus on what we might be facing out to 2050. That seems a more practical and realistic goal, for what we should be trying to do. That’s my opinion.”

But, then he asserts that the “probability” of “record breaking” extreme weather events are increased, although he contradicts himself to the “extreme” within a few seconds, the crowd did not seem to notice.

He moves on to blame global warming (or climate change) for “record breaking” precipitation, droughts, wildfires, etc. Sea level rise will flood Miami and other low-lying cities. “Rain bombs” are the new scary monster. He says CO2, through warming, supposedly increases water use by plants, ignoring evidence that CO2 decreases water use per pound of plant. Further, he says climate change also caused the “Arab Spring,” destabilizes governments, and we are in the sixth great extinction event. Fifty percent of all species will be wiped out, and on and on. If it’s in the news, global warming caused it.

Al Gore believes that fossil fuels receive $700 billion in subsidies. He didn’t supply a period of time, but this was just for U.S. A 2015 report by the EIA, exclusive of welfare programs like LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance), the U.S. industry receives $3.4 billion in subsidies per year (see here).

He also believes that solar and wind are at grid parity (cost of producing electricity) with coal and other fossil fuels and soon will be cheaper. This is sheer fantasy as explained here and here.

At the end he received a standing ovation.

Conclusions

The climate alarmists appear to be losing the battle for public attention and concern, but you would never know it from the reception to this speech. Those opposed to the idea of catastrophic man-made global warming, if they even came to the talk, left before the end.

The speech was all over the place, floods here, droughts there, sea level rise, wildfires, etc. Mr. Gore, there is always a flood, a drought or a very high tide somewhere, they don’t have to be caused by the same thing. As a skeptical scientist, with some knowledge in the area, I was unconvinced, but the others in the audience seemed happy with what he had to say.

I interpreted Gore’s speech to be more anti-fossil-fuels than pro-CAGW. He stated that he wanted to completely replace fossil fuels with other sources of energy. He is also pro-nuclear.

These issues are very political these days and very unscientific, which is a shame. But, then, many other issues are as well.

I had two questions, but was never asked for them, they are below:

16 of the 17 hottest years on record have occurred in this century. The record goes back to 1880, the end of the Little Ice Age, which geologists believe is the coldest period since the end of the last glacial period, 12,000 years ago. Why use such an unusually cold period as a benchmark temperature?

Both Nature magazine (2012 editorial) and the IPCC (in AR5, 2013) have determined that we cannot compute the man-made global warming contribution to any storm or to any trend (increasing or decreasing) in extreme weather. This is also the conclusion of Dr. Roger Pielke (University of Colorado). Can you comment on this?

If I had been allowed to ask the questions, I wonder what he would say? Would he call me a denier and go to the next question?