A Chinese helicopter on Thursday rescued passengers from a ship stuck in Antarctic sea ice for nine days, sparking discussion about scientists’ questionable ability to predict climate change. Ironically, the passengers were researchers studying the impact of global warming on Antarctica.
The dramatic display of increasing Antarctic sea ice provides an opportunity to highlight the many predictions that have not come to pass. For instance, the 2007 Climate Change Synthesis Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projected sea ice would shrink in both the Arctic and Antarctic, with Arctic late-summer sea ice almost entirely disappearing by the latter part of this century.
But ice surrounding Antarctica set a new record high this year, reaching its annual winter maximum in September. Sea ice extended over 19.47 million square kilometers according to NASA, breaking the previous record of 19.44 million square kilometers set the year before.
In his 2007 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Al Gore claimed the earth has a rising fever that is causing the North Polar ice cap to fall off a cliff. He offered results of a study conducted by U.S. Navy researchers warning that the summer arctic ice cap could be completely gone by 2014.
But these projections too have proved to be false prophesy. Sea ice at the North Pole increased this year by 50 percent from a record low one year ago, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado in Boulder.Global warming scientists attribute the increase to natural weather variations—a chilly, cloudy spring and summer.
Some accuse global warming supporters of attempting to side-step embarrassment by neglecting to mention the nature of the research conducted onboard the ice-bound ship. According to the Business and Media Institute, as of Dec. 30, only one out of 23 network news shows mentioned that the scientists onboard the MV Akademik Shokalskiywere studying climate change. Time Magazine mentioned only that the ship was on a research expedition and stated that while stuck in the ice scientists continued their research counting birds and photographing sea life. James Taylor, writing for Forbes Magazineoffers satirical examples of global warming enthusiasts back-pedaling on former predictions.
Don Easterbrook, Professor of Geology at Western Washington University, wrote in a 2008 article that by examining records of natural climate changes over the past several hundred years, he believes the earth is actually in a cooling period. He contends the global warming observed since 1977 was part of a natural 30-year cycle of global warming and cooling periods, with the planet now cooling until 2030, followed by another warming period.
Controversy surrounding the issue of global warming is fueled by contradictory statistics, confusing factors, and failed predictions. But it may take a boatful of climate change scientists stuck in ice to reveal how little we understand about the world.