2011-03-31 11:02:04Muller Misinformation #3: Al Gore and polar bears
John Cook


Note - Brad was happy for me to SkSify his Wonkroom post to bring it to the milder tone of SkS:

Muller Misinformation #3: Al Gore and polar bears

Many thanks to Brad Johnson for allowing SkS to repost an amended version of a Wonkroom post.

In previous posts, we've looked at how Muller confuses "Mike's trick" with "hide the decline" and how he falsely claims the "decline" data was leaked rather than publicly released. Muller also provides misinformation regarding Vice President Al Gore, whom he calls an “extremist” and “alarmist.” In a recent lecture at the University of California at Berkeley, Muller claimed that Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, was lambasted by esteemed climate scientist Dr. Ralph Cicerone, the head of the National Academy of Sciences:

Al Gore, when he talks about the polar bears being killed by the receding glaciers, no basis for that. In fact, let me jump ahead and tell a little story. Ralph Cicerone, head of the National Academy, said there are lots of things wrong in his movie, and Al Gore asked him to come and explain this to him, and he did come. And he said, “Well, what’s wrong with my movie?”

“Well, lots of things, like the polar bears. We track polar bears. Not a single polar bear has died because of retreating ice.”

And Al Gore turned to his movie producer and said, “So, why did we put that in?” The movie producer said, “Well, it really gets people emotionally involved.”

See, this is what politicians do. They put in things that they consider a real danger that represents what they consider to be reality. Doesn’t matter if it’s technically true or not. So, there’s so much misinformation on this field. Global warming is real. I am deeply concerned about it. I am leading a major study on global warming. But most of what made the newspaper headlines is either wrong, or backward, or simply exaggerated.

Muller’s story is not “technically true.” In fact, it’s false. The meeting between Gore and Cicerone that Muller describes is apocryphal. A fiction.

After ThinkProgress queried Cicerone’s office, Bill Skane, the Executive Director of News & Public Information for the National Academy of Sciences explained in an email that the supposed conversation never took place:

There was no meeting or conversation between Dr. Cicerone and Vice President Gore or his film producer regarding An Inconvenient Truth and thus no comment about polar bears. We’ve contacted Dr. Muller today about his speech and are hoping to hear back from him.

“Thanks for taking the time to check this material before using it in something you might write,” Skane concluded. “Dr. Muller’s remarks regarding Dr. Cicerone were in error.”

Gore’s spokesperson Kalee Kreider confirmed to ThinkProgress that the Cicerone-Gore confrontation was a fantasy.

Not only did the conversation not take place, Muller’s depiction of An Inconvenient Truth was false as well. Here’s the transcript of what Gore actually said about polar bears in his documentary, which was released in 2006:

Right now, the Arctic ice cap acts like a giant mirror, all the sun’s rays bounce off, more than 90%. It keeps the Earth cooler, but as it melts, and the open ocean receives that sun’s energy instead, more than 90% is absorbed, so there is a faster buildup of heat here, at the North Pole, in the Arctic Ocean, and the Arctic generally than anywhere else on the planet. That’s not good for creatures like polar bears, who depend on the ice. They’re now, actually, looking for other ecological niches. It is sad what’s going on in the Arctic ecosystem.

Unsurprisingly, Cicerone said essentially the same thing a year before Gore’s documentary came out, in testimony before the U.S. Senate:

The Arctic has warmed at a faster rate than the Northern Hemisphere over the past century. A Vision for the International Polar Year 2007-2008 (2004) reports that this warming is associated with a number of impacts including: melting of sea ice, which has important impacts on biological systems such as polar bears, ice-dependent seals and local people for whom these animals are a source of food; increased rain and snow, leading to changes in river discharge and tundra vegetation; and degradation of the permafrost.

Both Gore and Cicerone’s statements succinctly summarized the known science on the radical changes of the Arctic ecosystem and the threat to polar bears. In the Hudson Bay, for example, where sea ice breaks up three weeks earlier than it did in 1980, the average weight of female polar bears had dropped by about 21 percent, and the population declined by 22 percent, by 2004.

Since An Inconvenient Truth, the situation has grown increasingly dire for the Arctic. The rate of Arctic sea ice decline has increased precipitously, from a decline of 8.6 percent per decade to 11.5 percent per decade. In 2005, five of 19 polar bear subpopulations were known to be in decline (5 stable, 2 increasing, 7 unknown); by 2009, eight of the 19 subpopulations were known to be in decline (3 stable, one increasing, 7 unknown).

2011-03-31 14:38:06comments
Dana Nuccitelli

1) I'd get rid of the bold text in the quotes

2) apocryphal?  Damn, we're way past 10th grade level writing there!  Might want to dumb that down a bit. 

3) Might be good to throw in a concluding statement at the end

2011-03-31 19:50:19


"how he falsely claims" => "how he incorrectly claims"


Maybe a direct appeal to Mulller should be included: "We ask Muller to correct his account in future presentations." Something like that.

2011-04-17 04:27:32


John.  I found this on Brad Delong's blog.  Apparently Muller replied to Brad Johnson.  I can't find this anywhere else, but it is an update to the story, even though Muller doesn't explain himself at all.


Dear Brad,
In the olden days, you would have checked with me before publishing something about me. It is interesting how the time pressure of blogging has changed the standards. You might consider writing an article about that.
Here is a guideline that I strive to maintain: I am often mistaken, but I never lie.
It would be good to discuss the facts of "An Inconvenient Truth" sometimes. In my book, "Physics for Future Presidents", I go into some details about the misleading statements former VP Al Gore makes. I'd be happy to send you a paperback copy.

2011-04-17 06:06:23


So maybe we should shape a couple of the MM write-ups into a direct letter and send them directly to Muller.

2011-04-17 07:29:45wow
Dana Nuccitelli

WTF?  Muller completely makes shit up without checking with Gore, I'm sure.  Then criticizes Brad for actually getting the facts right but not contacting him first?

I'm sorry, but that's bullshit.  Don't dish it out if you can't take it.

2011-04-17 18:02:56


My point is that since Muller's invited direct contact, we should take the opportunity to address him directly, rather than assuming that he is following SkS blogging.

2011-04-17 18:27:58Muller reaction
John Cook

What I know is one scientist who has been in contact with Muller in the past forwarded my first MM1 to Muller who responded by saying Steve McIntyre rebutted that. This is despite the fact that McIntyre actually affirmed Muller's error. So I question Muller's good faith.
2011-04-17 18:52:51


A referral is different than a direct communication.