by Tony Hake

Climate Change Examiner
December 14, 2009

from Examiner Website


Maybe Al Gore should have stayed home from the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.


Having been shown to being prone to taking liberty with the facts, Gore once again did so by claiming that a computer model determined that there was a 75 percent chance the Arctic would be ice-free in five years.


A dire prediction indeed – if it were true.

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore gestures as he joins cabinet ministers from Nordic countries

for discussion on Greenland's ice sheet at the UN Climate summit in Copenhagen,

Denmark, Monday, Dec. 14, 2009.

During the conference, Gore severely overstated the potential for Arctic sea ice loss.
(AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)


In his speech at the summit today, the former vice president Nobel Laureate and Danish ice scientist Dorthe Dahl Jens presented two slideshows to a packed audience at the Bella Center. The team discussed the loss of sea ice and the danger it presents from rising sea levels.

Gore told the audience,

“These figures are fresh. Some of the models suggest to Dr [Wieslav] Maslowski that there is a 75 per cent chance that the entire north polar ice cap, during the summer months, could be completely ice-free within five to seven years.”

Those estimates far exceed even the direst predictions of climate scientists and set the room abuzz.


The most often cited figure and the one used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns of a loss of sea ice by 2030.

"It is hard to capture the astonishment that the experts in the science of ice felt when they saw this," Gore said.

Not only were the ‘experts in the science of ice’ astonished, so too was Dr. Maslowski of the US Naval Postgraduate School, the scientist whose models supposedly came up with the five to seven year figure.

Maslowski told the UK Times,

“It’s unclear to me how this figure was arrived at. I would never try to estimate likelihood at anything as exact as this.”

Other climate scientists and ice experts immediately disavowed Gore’s claims.


Mark Serreze of the US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado told the Associated Press,

"It's possible but not likely. We're sticking with 2030."

Mr. Gore’s office was quick to start damage control.


The Times reported his office said it was a “ballpark figure” that Dr. Maslowski used in a conversation several years ago. As one of the most visible – and divisive – figures in the debate about manmade climate change, the former vice president’s every word is watched closely.


His movie “An Inconvenient Truth” was found by a British High Court to contain 11 significant errors and his recently released follow on book, “Our Choice” had errors and impossibilities on the cover.

In February his standard presentation depicted,

“weather related disasters that are completely unprecedented.”

He was however forced to yank the slide when the assertion was proven false.


Appearing on the Tonight Show last month, he said the core of the Earth was “several million degrees”, a temperature warmer than the surface of the sun. When asked about the Climategate email scandal last week, he stated thatthe most recent one is more than 10 years old when in fact some of the emails were sent as recently as October.

Update, 12/15/09, 6:00am MDT

There is a bit of he said / he said going on with this whole episode. obtained a brochure late yesterday from the Nordic Council of Ministers and the Danish Meteorological Institute that seemed to back up Gore’s claim about what Maslowski’s studies showed.


However, that brochure does not say anything about the Arctic becoming “completely ice free” as Gore said. Rather it says it “could become near ice free.”

Maslowski emphasized that point in the Times story saying,

“I was very explicit that we were talking about near-ice-free conditions and not completely ice-free conditions in the northern ocean. It’s unclear to me how this figure was arrived at, based on the information I provided to Al Gore’s office.”

Certainly it appears Maslowski does not want to be associated with Gore’s claim and the episode highlights the problems that arise when someone tries to issue dire predictions to try to drive home a point.


Scare tactics like this oftentimes backfire and do nothing but cause problems for those who utter them.


Given the former vice president's track record, he should know that claims such as this are going to bring a great deal of attention, justified or not.