The speech by former US Vice-President Al Gore was apocalyptic. ‘The North Polar ice cap is falling off a cliff,’ he said. ‘It could be completely gone in summer in as little as seven years. Seven years from now.’
Those comments came in 2007 as Mr Gore accepted the Nobel Peace Prize for his campaigning on climate change.Al Gore is a politician and environmentalist, not a scientist. He is interested in using science to reach a political goal.
But seven years after his warning, The Mail on Sunday can reveal that, far from vanishing, the Arctic ice cap has expanded for the second year in succession – with a surge, depending on how you measure it, of between 43 and 63 per cent since 2012.
Al Gore is also a businessman and he is selling "green." He was worth only a couple of million dollars in 2000 when he left the vice-presidency. He is now worth several hundreds of millions of dollars.
In order to get to his alarming prediction he had to employ a logical fallacy that I call, "if this trend continues."
Sometimes trends do continue (the population of the US continues to grow, and I have never heard of any period of time in our history when it had not.) Most trends do not continue.
Thomas Malthus predicted over 2 centuries ago that England was about to experience famine due to over-population based on "if these trends continue" logic. He was wrong. In the 1960's neo-Malthusians prophesied the same disaster by the end of the 1970's. They were wrong.
We experienced a global cooling trend from the 1950's to the late 1970's. It was heralded as the "coming global ice age." The trend did not continue.
The most widely used measurements of Arctic ice extent are the daily satellite readings issued by the US National Snow and Ice Data Center, which is co-funded by Nasa. These reveal that – while the long-term trend still shows a decline – [on] Monday, August 25, the area of the Arctic Ocean with at least 15 per cent ice cover was 5.62 million square kilometres.So, the long-term trend is down, with a significant up-tick at the present. This is to be expected because the Northern Hemisphere has been cooler the last two years.
This was the highest level recorded on that date since 2006, and represents an increase of 1.71 million square kilometres over the past two years – an impressive 43 per cent.
Crucially, the ice is also thicker, and therefore more resilient to future melting. Professor Andrew Shepherd, of Leeds University, an expert in climate satellite monitoring, said yesterday: ‘It is clear from the measurements we have collected that the Arctic sea ice has experienced a significant recovery in thickness over the past year.Good news. If the sea ice diminishes next year, it will do so more slowly.
Dr Hawkins warned against reading too much into ice increase over the past two years on the grounds that 2012 was an ‘extreme low’, triggered by freak weather.
‘I’m uncomfortable with the idea of people saying the ice has bounced back,’ he said.
However, Dr Hawkins added that the decline seen in recent years was not caused only by global warming. It was, he said, intensified by ‘natural variability’ – shifts in factors such as the temperature of the oceans. This, he said, has happened before, such as in the 1920s and 1930s, when ‘there was likely some sea ice retreat’.Before NOAA and other climate change advocating agencies "normalized" the temperatures of the 1930's down, the 1930's were the hottest on record, and these records still stand, if the original numbers are used.
If they were as warm as the records say, then what is happening in the Arctic is normal.
"There was likely some sea ice retreat..." We do not know what the extent of the sea ice was because we do not have good data from that period. We only have estimates based on limited data points.