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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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An inconvenient truth about ‘An Inconvenient Truth’

By Aaron Zundel

The earth is heating up, no doubt about that. There is ample scientific evidence to support the fact that the temperature of the planet has risen a little more than half a degree Celsius in the last three decades. Originally the pet issue of environmentalists, the global warming phenomenon has been getting an increasing amount of attention in the mainstream.

However — though many wish to deny it — the causes of global warming, as well as the long-term effects, are still up for debate.

While many people would have you believe that the entire scientific community agrees on the causes and implications of global warming, that’s just not the case. Take, for instance, the claim in the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” that if current icecap-melting trends continue, the sea-level will rise 20 feet by the year 2100, displacing more than 100 million people. In truth, however, the actual figure for estimated rise in sea level by 2100, as given by the United Nations, sits at about 19 inches. So according to the United Nations and contrary to Gore’s claim, Shanghai, Calcutta and Florida would all still be well above the water line.

Richard Lindzen, a meteorology professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is perhaps the most outspoken critic of the global warming debate. He argues that — despite claims of scientific “consensus” by activists — many scientists don’t agree with the alarmist take on global warming. He also claims that embracing global warming is becoming a fad in the scientific community and the few researchers whose work takes a contrary stance to are seeing their funding cut.

In spite of the stigma, Lindzen’s not alone when it comes to being vocal. In April, 60 scientists from universities and institutions across the globe wrote an open letter to the prime minister of Canada asking him to reconsider his stance on recent plans that the Canadian government made to accommodate the Kyoto Protocol.

It’s clear that not even the activists believe everything they’re peddling. In 2006, while being interviewed by ABC’s chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos about “An Inconvenient Truth,” Gore admitted that when it comes to the actual impact of global warming on the planet, “(scientists) don’t know, they just don’t know.”

Additionally, on Monday the Tennessee Center for Policy Research reported that, according to public records, Al Gore spent more than $30,000 last year on the energy bill for his 20-room mansion. By the center’s calculations, Gore used more than 220,000 kilowatt-hours (numbers he doesn’t dispute) of electricity in 2006?that’s 20 times the national average. Talk about a carbon footprint. That’s pretty audacious for a guy who screams at others to conserve.

Disingenuous activists aside, scientists like Lindzen who oppose the global warming hysteria aren’t denying that global warming is occurring. They agree with the data. The planet is warming up. It’s just that those scientists aren’t convinced about what the cause of global warming is, what the impacts will be or how long it will even last. Many scientists cite insufficient historical data and a lack of scientific understanding when it comes to the planet’s climate. Indeed, much like today’s scientific “consensus” on global warming, back in the 1970s there was a similar “consensus” among climatologists that the planet was cooling down (also, believe it or not, by about a half degree Celsius). This drop in temperature caused such alarm among some scientists that they proposed we cover the polar ice caps with soot to help them melt.

That is not to say that there isn’t credence to humanity’s responsibility for global warming. No. The point is simply that there’s more research to be done. The evidence goes both ways. There is data to suggest that fossil-fuel emissions have negative and lasting effects on the atmosphere and the climate, but there is also sufficient data to suggest that we may be in a natural state of climatological flux. Most likely, it’s a combination of the two.

Many people who dismiss the idea of global warming outright do it because it would truly be an inconvenient truth for them and they don’t like the implications to either their sense of reality or their financial bottom line. That’s ignorant and irresponsible. However, an equal number of people eagerly jump on the global-warming bandwagon, thinking that they are being smart, enlightened, compassionate or embodying any number of other granola-munching sensibilities. This is equally ignorant and irresponsible.

When people mix flawed or incomplete science with politics and feel-good self-indulgence, bad things happen. As responsible students and citizens we ought to continue to support research for, and practically work against, global warming, but at the same time we ought to try to restrain ourselves from zealotous overreaction and sensationalizing the issue until we have a definitive answer.

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