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| Human World on Apr 30, 2012

Al Gore at Hampshire College: Global warming is real

We sometimes see in the comments to EarthSky posts that Al Gore has “refuted” his claims about global warming. He has not.

A few media outlets are running a story today (April 30, 2012) about former Vice President Al Gore saying on April 27 that global warming is real. I was curious about this story, because we sometimes see in the comments to EarthSky posts that Al Gore has “refuted” his claims about global warming. He has not. In fact, on April 27 he said:

Global warming is an urgent problem that requires urgent attention and must be addressed.

Gore made these remarks as keynote speaker at an inauguration ceremony for Hampshire College President Jonathan Lash. In a story that originated on MassLive.com, Al Gore is reported as having told the group:

Now there are some talk radio show hosts, they say that (global warming is) not (real). It’s up to you. My point is we must respond. What the scientists tell us is going to take place if we do not is too awful to contemplate.

You can watch Al Gore’s entire address to Hampshire College in the video below.

Too awful to contemplate is a strong statement, and Fox News today is already poking fun at Gore for saying it. For us in the developed world, the effects of global warming might be awful, or they might not be. It’s too early to say. However, global warming is indeed expected to have awful effects for people in less developed countries. Consider the issue of food, for example. Of the world’s 7 bilion human inhabitants, 1 billion currently are hungry. By 2050, according to recent projections by global trends experts, Earth should have 9 billion human inhabitants with 2 billion hungry, in part due to the effects of global warming.

Gore told the Hampshire College audience that 97 to 98 percent of climate scientists attest to the reality of global warming. In that, he is correct. There is not a controversy about global warming among climate scientists. What you read about is a political controversy, or a media controversy, but not a scientific controversy. You can read about surveys of climate scientists and the scientific literature on climate change online. Or you can follow the conversations among scientists at RealClimate.org. Or just pay attention to who says what on the subject of climate. A lot of what gets said against global warming is on the opinion page of this or that website. We’ve seen some websites with people calling themselves “climatologists” who are nothing of the kind. Here in the U.S., most jobs for climate scientists are at universities or federal agencies, so that’s something else to watch for.

21st century annual temperature ranks. This table lists the global combined land and ocean annually-averaged temperature rank and anomaly for each of the years to date in the 21st century. You can read more about this chart and other climate data from NOAA.

Click here to expand chart above

Al Gore isn’t a climate scientist, either, so why am I quoting him on our science site? Many know that, in 2007, Gore won the Nobel Prize with the U.N Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. His film about climate change An Inconvenient Truth won two Oscars in 2006. I wrote my first article about global warming in the late 1970s and have followed the science on it since then. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, here at EarthSky, we wrote and broadcast news of hundreds of studies by scientists indicating that Earth was warming. These weren’t just temperature studies, although of course those indicated warming as well (see chart above). But other sorts of studies – animals changing their ranges, earlier springs, shrinking ice sheets, rising seas – all showed the overall trend. It was strange that no one seemed to be listening. I never saw Gore’s film, but when it became popular in 2006, global warming became a big topic, and the media controversy began. I’m grateful to him for that. At least, now people are talking about it.

Bottom line: Former Vice President Al Gore said on April 27, 2012 that global warming is real. Gore was addressing an audience at Hampshire College where he was keynote speaker at an inauguration ceremony for President Jonathan Lash.