Saturday, 7 November 2015

No, Patrick Moore, Al Gore did not predict the Arctic would be ice free by now

A couple of days ago I commented on a Twitter encounter with claimed "founder of Greenpeace" (on Ian Plimer's most recent book cover) Patrick Moore. He had said he would consider my statement if I backed it up. I did, with video evidence, but he studiously ignored his mistake. I don't think he can bring himself to admit he was wrong. But this post isn't about that.

Someone had tweeted at me intimating that because there was still ice in the Arctic, global warming must be false. I pointed out that it wasn't a logical argument. This morning I saw that Patrick Moore had piped up:

Now, of course the Arctic ice ice in serious decline. There's variation around the trend, and deniers do like to use that variability to occasionally proclaim a recovery, as the below chart from Skeptical Science shows:

Plummeting faster than my respect for Patrick Moore*
Graphic by SkepticalScience,com

And yes, deniers really do make such recovery claims, and even publish them in the UK's Daily Mail (1, 2, 3). I've linked those numbers up to examples, but you might better off reading the Guardian's discussion of the Daily Mail's stupidity.

But that's not what this post is about. It's the second part I really want to discuss here. Did Al Gore predict that the ice would be gone by 2013/14?

The claim that Al Gore predicted the Arctic would be ice free by 2013 or 2014 is a commonly repeated meme from deniers, and is rather well known to people like me who watch the deniers. I was surprised that Patrick Moore, who I thought had a reputation as being one of the "serious skeptics", would trot this lie out. Deniers usually like to point out one of two occasions to support their claim that Al Gore predicted the Arctic would be ice free by now.

In 2007, Al Gore received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work promoting understanding of climate change. In his acceptance speech he referred to recent studies showing that the Arctic ice was declining:
Last September 21, as the Northern Hemisphere tilted away from the sun, scientists reported with unprecedented distress that the North Polar ice cap is "falling off a cliff." One study estimated that it could be completely gone during summer in less than 22 years. Another new study, to be presented by U.S. Navy researchers later this week, warns it could happen in as little as 7 years.

Seven years from now.
So in one sentence Gore says a study says 22 years, and then in the next that another study says 7 years. Somehow this is twisted by deniers into "AL GORE PREDICTED THE ARCTIC WOULD BE GONE BY NOW!!!!". This is, of course, immensely dishonest. It's curious that deniers like to make it into a claim that Al Gore predicted it. I don't see deniers saying "THE US NAVY PREDICTED SEA ICE WOULD BE GONE BY NOW!!!!!".

The other possibility is from 2009, when Al Gore addressed a UN conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen, Gore discussed the modelling of arctic sea ice, and again referenced the US Navy study. He reportedly said:
Some of the models suggest that there is a 75 percent chance that the entire north polar ice cap during some of the summer months will be completely ice-free within the next five to seven years
Again, this is not Al Gore predicting that there would be no Arctic ice by now. Gore was correctly reporting on the available science - science conducted by the US Navy in order to facilitate the movement of submarines in the Arctic. I'll note that Gore's office, mindful of having his words twisted by deniers, reportedly clarified his statement, saying he meant nearly ice-free, because ice would be expected to survive in island channels and other locations.

This type of misrepresentation of "predictions" is common among deniers. We saw an example of it in the Cairns Post this week in the columns by Andrew Bolt. I'm hoping to have more on that later in the weekend. Bolt's columns, and his episode of the Bolt Report on Ten last week with Ian Plimer, had a great deal of absolute bollocks in them. But that's another post.

Given the attention paid to Gore by the deniers, and the utterly debunked nature of the "Gore predicted the Arctic would be ice free by now" claim, I find it immensely difficult to believe that Moore, claimed co-founder of Greenpeace (although challenged by, among others, Greenpeace), occasional guest commenter in conservative media, and someone who one assumes must spend a lot of time looking at the subject, is unaware that the claim is utterly false.

There's a phenomenon called "throwing red meat to the base", and I think this is what Moore engaged in. I think he knows what he said is a lie. But he also thought that it would get retweets and adulation from the simpletons that follow him. I think he just didn't care that it was a lie, and didn't think it was wrong to lie. If this is the case, you should not trust what Moore says about climate change.

But I could be wrong. It's possible that, contrary to my impression, Moore is incredibly stupid. Maybe he had checked what Gore had said but is enough of a simpleton to have misunderstood Gore as predicting the Arctic would be ice free by now. If this is the case, you should not trust what Moore says about climate change.

It's also possible that he's not a complete idiot but, although he promotes himself as an expert commentator, he just doesn't bother doing basic research and fact checking. Perhaps he repeats oft repeated lies spread among the deniers. If this is the case, you should not trust what Moore says about climate change.

Another possibility is that he's a cynical individual profiting off the denial movement, using his notoriety to get speaking gigs. Maybe he knows he's talking bollocks but just thinks of himself as providing entertainment value for the simpletons that follow him. If this is the case, you should not trust what Moore says about climate change.

Or maybe he's a parody, performance art. If this is the case, well, Viscount Christopher Monckton of Brenchley is much better at it than Moore. That guy's a comedy genius.

I'm struggling to think of any other possibilities.


* While I say in the caption to that chart that the ice is plummeting faster than my respect for Patrick Moore, I should note that I didn't have much respect for him before this. I knew he was a denier, just not that he was such a clown.

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