Guest Opinion: Dr. Tim Ball
A major reason why Al Gore’s deceptive use of the melting Arctic ice was so effective is because most people have little idea what the real world is like. They have no image of the Arctic Oceans, shape or size, partly because they effectively live in a two-dimensional world. That is not a problem for them or society until someone exploits it. Gore was part of a global political agenda that exploited it. It was an agenda that expanded H L Mencken’s comment about politics to a global scale.
“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed, and hence clamorous to be led to safety, by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”
Now, it was less likely people would know it was imaginary.
People have no accurate image of the Arctic Ocean because of how they are born, nature, and educated, nurture. They are primarily a combination of nature/nurture that prioritizes what is necessary for individual survival. In addition, their inabilities are a result of several things, but primarily, a limited ability to grasp and imagine three dimensions. Their daily visual stimuli tell them it is a flat earth. As humans moved to expand their horizons, they were confronted with the challenge of producing two-dimensional maps that attempt to portray a three-dimensional world. I learned about all these limitations when teaching and running labs for students using weather maps, topographic maps, aerial photographs and satellite imagery. It is why two-dimensional weather maps are adequate, but a forecaster needs to be able to visualize the third dimension depicted by isobars.
One of the most difficult ideas to explain to students about weather and climate is the Coriolis Effect. First, there is the challenge of it causing a change, so it appears logical to assume there is a force involved. As a result, people speak incorrectly of a Coriolis Force. Second, is the challenge of understanding a three-dimensional world, when our perceptions are essentially two-dimensional. Nowhere is this more evident than in map projections and people’s perceptions and understanding of the world.
Human adaptation of the third dimension is very much an intellectual, philosophical, and perceptual issue. The “Greek Miracle”, from approximately 700 to 400 BC, is embodied in the Parthenon. It wasn’t just the mathematical proportions, but also accommodation to a world seen by the curvature of the eye. The base of the Parthenon is not level, but raised in the center. If built level then, if viewed from either end, it would appear to dip in the middle.
The third dimension returned as an intellectual view of the world with the Renaissance or rebirth of the Greek ideas. Depth perception became important with introduction of the “vanishing point” in art and architecture. Canaletto made the idea a major part of his paintings (Figure 1)
Figure 1. Doge’s Palace, Canaletto 1725
Other intellectual applications of the third dimension at approximately the same period include, harmony in music and a Copernican Solar system in astronomy.
In the section of a first-year climate course discussing Coriolis, I used a prop to illustrate the mental gymnastic our two-dimensional brains find difficult to comprehend. The prop was a globe on a spindle. I pointed it at them so they were looking down on the North Pole. I set it spinning in the proper direction, and then turned it around so they were looking down on the South Pole. Now, it was spinning in the opposite direction yet they knew it continued spinning. Many of the challenges for understanding climate are created by the Earth’s rotation. This requires facility with grasping three dimensions that a two-dimensional public, do not have.
Map projections are a classic example of the challenges. Throughout history people produced maps that met their needs, rather than ones that represented reality. Two examples I have studied, illustrate the point. A 19th century map, drawn by Chipewyan aboriginals of the west coast of Hudson Bay, was a straight line with rivers running at right angles. It was all they needed as they followed the coast and the only challenge was the rivers they had to cross. Another map of the Arctic coastline, drawn by Inuit, the Canadian name for Eskimos, was very accurate in most details.
Most people do not have a map or vertical view of the world, unless it is required for their survival. A helicopter pilot friend was working in Somalia and had aerial photographs to help him. I knew from teaching labs on reading aerial photographs that many students could not relate. He was surprised to find the local Somalis had no difficulty. The apparent reason was, like the Inuit, they already had a mental map. The region was very uniform over large areas with no outstanding salient features. They hunted larger game with a slow acting poison arrow, which required tracking for many hours over great distance. It required a mental map to assure getting home.
An example of a map designed for a specific need was the Mercator projection (Figure 1). European colonial powers were sailing the world in search of new territory and resources. They needed maps that provided accurate information for ocean travel. There were two parts, one was on the open ocean they wanted the shortest distance between two points, known as the Great Circle line. The second were detailed coastlines, with descriptive place names that could be sung out in sequence in sea shanties.
Mercator maps (Universal Transverse Mercator)
The only part of this map that is accurate is right along the Equator. Distortion increases as you move away until at the top and bottom you have a single point, the Poles, represented by a line equal to the Equator. This is the map most used in schools and known to the public. It is the main reason that they have no image of the Arctic Ocean (Figure 2) or even know it is 14,056,000 km2. By comparison the US is 9,889,000 km2.
There are many other distortions that make proper understanding of the world and the events that occur. Most of these are created by how we see and are educated about the world. For example, traditionally the Eskimo held that the world was saucer shape rising up all around them. This is a result of a regular phenomenon in the Polar Regions called “looming”. An optical effect, created by a thin layer of warm air at the surface, makes the horizon appear elevated. It was an effect used by people to navigate more easily because they could “see” over the horizon.
Relative distortions occur because of social and economic factors. Most people think North America (NA) is much closer to Europe than South America (SA) is to Africa. In fact it is approximately half the distance at the closest point. Distortion occurs because of the amount of contact between the two regions. There are likely as many flights in a few hours between NA and Europe as there are in a week between SA and Africa. One map (Figure 3) tried to offset this by weighting size of countries according to population. It is a form of application of Newton’s gravitational theory that the force of gravity is proportional to the distance, times the mass (population).
The underlying theme of environmental and climate alarmism is claims the world is overpopulated and using up resources at an unsustainable rate. Chief architect of the overpopulation issue was Paul Ehrlich. Few know that he admitted that humans occupy no more than three percent of the Earth’s land surface. A map of world population density by nation, illustrates the point (Figure 4).
Ehrlich admits the population only occupies about 3 percent of the land surface. The question is why is the overpopulation claim so effective? The answer is in the Eskimo saucer perception of the world. People see the world in the horizontal. They drive along roads and travel railways that take them through the inhabited regions. They occasionally get a sense of the vastness of the empty spaces, but they are not used to a bird’s eye view, as the Arctic projection illustrates.
I became aware of the problem while flying search and rescue in northern and Arctic Canada. We were on a search for missing US private airplane that left Fort Chipweyan to fly to Edmonton. The family, which we were told owned most of the California redwood saw mills, were visiting a sawmill they owned in Fort Chipweyan. Bush pilots opted not to fly, but they left anyway and never arrived at their destination. The search began and on the third day members of the family showed up with plans to walk line abreast along the route. When we asked them if they had any idea of the conditions they said they looked at the map and it looked fine. They agreed to act as spotters on search aircraft.
One brother of a missing passenger flew with us as a spotter. By noon he angrily accused us of flying in circles. His proof was he had not seen a road, a settlement, and no sign of life at all. We said welcome to Canada .We had actually covered most of Wood Buffalo National Park (Figure 5), which is three times larger than Connecticut. To help him understand, because he remained skeptical, we flew him back to Fort Chipewyan along the Peace River then the Slave River letting him stand in the cockpit and follow on a map. His only comment on landing was, “I will never worry about overpopulation again.”
Figure 5. “A” marks Fort Chipewyan. Adjacent green area is Wood Buffalo Park.
To most people the world is flat, with a limited horizon determined by their height. Worse, they cannot imagine what is beyond that horizon. People I took on tours east of Winnipeg into the Boreal forest could not believe there was nothing to the north until they reached the southern region of Russia thousands of miles away (Figure 6).
Our view of the world is determined by our senses and those are very limited. We have extended that view with technology and every time we do our science, philosophy and societies are changed and expanded. Jacob Bronowski made this point in his superb 1973 book and documentary, The Ascent of Man. The telescope, the microscope, and satellites, especially Hubble, have all significantly changed our view of our world, the universe and thereby ourselves.
Meanwhile most people continue to live in a two dimensional world.
The survey of 2,200 people in the United States was conducted by the NSF in 2012 and released on Friday at an annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago.
To the question “Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth,” 26 percent of those surveyed answered incorrectly.
The truth is it doesn’t matter to the 26 percent or even most of the people for that matter. As long as the sun rose and set, there was no problem. All this changed with environmentalism and global warming and exploitation of those ideas for a political agenda. It was necessary to have a threat that was universal crossed national boundaries, and required a singular global government.
Maurice Strong organized, through his position at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), a 1983 book titled, Only One Earth. Fellow authors were Barbara Ward Jackson and Rene Dubos. Slogans were created that are essential to a political campaign. Dubos coined the phrase, “think globally, act locally.” Another Strong initiative produced Gro Harlem Brundlandt’s report, Our Common Future with the ambiguous phrase, Sustainable Development, that means everything to everyone and nothing to anyone.
Most people don’t know that the troposphere, within which most weather occurs, is twice as deep at the Equator as it is at the Poles and it is of little or no consequence to them. The myth of us all being interconnected and that what happens in one region is of consequence to everyone is a myth exploited to perpetuate global governance. Gore exploited this myth and did it in the Arctic, a remote little known or understood area, because it is of little consequence to most people.
Democracy is also a form of worship. It is the worship of Jackals by Jackasses. Democracy is also a form of worship. It is the worship of Jackals by Jackasses.