Global Warming: Lie or Fable?

We receive mail criticizing me for my opinons on climate change. This one from James contains some good information and some conclusions I find faulty. I thought I would share our interchange, with a guest appearance from a friend of mine.

Art, I enjoy you shows and this may not be the place to post this but frankly my time is limited and I couldn’t find a better one.

I’m watching your Glacier Bay Alaska show and its great except for your unscientific human induced global warming dig.

I’m a lifelong environmentalist and licensed professional engineer practicing in the field of environmental engineering for 39 years and while agree we need to be concerned about environmental change. There is no doubt Alaska and Greenland are warming.

However, you are totally and absolutely wrong to claim that the natural process is being accelerated by human activity.

The simple fact is Greenland is now almost as warm as it was when Eric the Red Discovered it in 1000 AD. Thats right Art, Greenland was green back then and Vikings farmed the green coastal land for 300 years until the mini ice age. As a fact you can verify if you want to Greenland is still 1 degree C COLDER than it was when Eric the Red Discovered it.

There is no evidence that CO2 is the cause of any acceleration of the natural warming cycle.

BTW Greenland ice cores more than 400,000 years old produce historic factual evidence that a rapid climate change is about 12,000 years and if you want to wait and see the effect of the current cycle of Global Warming you need to live a long time guy. But cheer up the ice cores prove incontrovertibly that the quickest and best way to cool the earth is to put small amounts of particulate matter in the upper atmosphere. Thats right a little air pollution will take care of even the chicken little human induced global warming fanatics claims. Before you open your mouth about global warming you really need to get the facts and the best way to do that is look at both sides of a question.

The best way to understand how fanatical human induced global warmists are is to go back and look at the religious fanatics who predicted the end of the earth and when it didn’t happen they rationalized. For an example of religious rationalization of global warmist theory go to unScinetific American’s recent Hot Times in Alaska and check out the professor from the University of Alaska who shows Alan Alda a paper with three charts on in. One is the inaccurate computer projection which he admits isn’t very good under that is a chart of what actually happened in the same time period and below that is one where he combines the inaccurate prediction with the historical fact and claims that by combining the two makes the predictions of dire immediate global warming in the next 100 years is proved. Aside from the unscientific process of combining fact and fantasy to prove fantasy its no different that what end of the world fanatics have done or said.

Please take the time to know what you are talking about before making a fool of yourself. But cheer up it will be thousands of years before anyone really knows how much of a fool.

As for the computer models they don’t prove anything except that the data and design were faulty. Models don’t prove anything, never have never will.

Personally as an environmentalist I am upset that people like you give credence to t a bunch of fanatics that are trying to create a State of Fear that will cause us to make rash decisions that will damage our country.

A perfect example is the poster boy of green alternative fuels, corn ethanol. Not only does corn ethanol drive up the price of food, its a net user of fossil fuels. Thats right guy it uses more fossil fuel BTU’s to produce a gallon of corn ethanol than the BTU’s in the ethanol. But the real clincher is the additional fertilizer (produced with fossil fuel) adds to the already grossly polluted ground water and run off to the Missisippie River which has a 200 mile dead zone at its mouth were nothing grows. Thats a fact just like like the one about Greenland being Green in 1000 AD.

Hi, James,

Thanks for your note.

We disagree on this subject. I wanted to respond clearly and fairly to your points so I asked my friend James Martin, the author and photographer of the upcoming book Planet Ice to respond for me. He is as well informed as anyone I know, has no axe to grind, but tends to speak bluntly. I give you James’ response:


I think the test of a scientific theory is how well it predicts future discoveries or events. When the climate change model was postulated back in the Seventies, it predicted that global temperatures would rise with the increase in CO2 and related gasses. Further, we would see wider swings in weather.

The predictions were conservative as it turns out. While it is certainly possible that this is a coincidence, I doubt it. When the early proponents of evolution and continental drift made their claims, they made predictions, and the accumulation of evidence supported their predictions.

Ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica prove that this is the high point in atmospheric CO2. The conclusion that CO2 is a major contributor to climate change is accepted by almost all climate scientists and endorsed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which earned one more Nobel Prize than either you or I. Your denial of the relationship between CO2 and climate change is very much in the minority of the scientific community.

Although you seem well informed on much of the data, check out Two Mile Time Machine by Dr. Richard Alley, by all accounts one of the premier paleo-climatologists and a leader of US ice core programs. There is no hint of hysteria or handwaving, yet he makes the connection you deny.

You write as if you presume we are ignorant regarding climate variation in Greenland. You refer to the temperature increase of Younger Dryas event, which was incredibly fast, as much as 11 degrees in decades, but the preconditions for that, a temperature minimum, do not apply under these conditions.

You have a point regarding global warming alarmists. People on both sides of the issue tend to cherry pick the data they prefer; it’s human nature. Conflating alarmists with scientists is an ad hominum argument, though. The fact that Al Gore made an unsupportable connection between climate change and Katrina doesn’t mean his other points are without merit.

I’ve read about the idea of using certain particulates to cool the earth. Maybe. I agree completely regarding ethanol.

In the end, either of us could be wrong. The question is whether our positions are falsifiable. What set of facts would change your mind, or mine? If there is no set of facts, then we are being irrational. Certainty has no place in issues such as these and your arrogant and dismissive comments on those who disagree do harm to your argument.

James Martin

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New Mexico and NANPA

I’m back from NANPA. I was gratified by the response to my keynote presentation Between Heaven and Earth and got to meet a lot of interesting people.

Before NANPA I ventured out to Bosque del Apache to photograph swans, cranes, and snow geese with some friends. We had some luck at one sunrise, with large groups of birds exploding into the air in soft light. It seems that the birds are less wary than in the past so it’s easier to get full frame shots of individuals. The visit put me in a great frame of mind for NANPA.


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Facebook Reverses Course

Facebook announced that it has reverted to it’s old terms of service. Even the old terms give them too many rights over one’s photographs. I intend to use Facebook only for communication from now on, not to post images. And again, we all must play lawyer and read the terms carefully before uploading anything copyrighted.

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Facebook and Photographer Rights

Facebook has made an incredible and indefensible rights grab that should outrage any photographer. They assert they have the right to use your images, including your portrait, in any way they wish. Under Licensing in Terms of Use it reads (with my emphasis added in bold):

“You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers), any User Content you (i) Post on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof subject only to your privacy settings or (ii) enable a user to Post, including by offering a Share Link on your website and (b) to use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising, each of (a) and (b) on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof.”

Furthermore, they retain these rights even if you terminate your account.

“The following sections will survive any termination of your use of the Facebook Service: Prohibited Conduct, User Content, Your Privacy Practices, Gift Credits, Ownership; Proprietary Rights, Licenses, Submissions, User Disputes; Complaints, Indemnity, General Disclaimers, Limitation on Liability, Termination and Changes to the Facebook Service, Arbitration, Governing Law; Venue and Jurisdiction and Other.”

These provisions were added on February 4, virtually in the dark of night. Zuckerberg asserts that Facebook would never use the provisions they just added and that the language means other than what it plainly states. This is, to put it charitably, disingenuous. Whether these provisions are enforceable or not is immaterial. They are an attempt to grab our intellectual property.

There is a firestorm of criticism over the new policy yesterday. The Consumerist website, a division of the Consumer Union, drew attention to the issue. The same day groups sprang up on Facebook itself calling for the withdrawal of the new terms.

We should complain vociferously and refuse to post any content beyond chatter until these provisions are rescinded. Furthermore, read the terms of service for every site you use. We are swimming with sharks.

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NANPA Excursion

I’m flying to Albuquerque, New Mexico today to attend the NANPA (North American Nature Photography Association) Summit and Trade Show, which runs February 18-22. I will open the show and deliver a keynote address focusing on the influence of the Himalaya on my life and photography. But first, I am heading out to shoot wildlife and landscapes for a couple days.

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Miss Aniela


The day before Miss Aniela was scheduled to speak at a Microsoft-sponsored event at Pravda Studios in Seattle, my staff got wind of the event and arranged for me to interview her at my home.

Miss Aniela, born Natalie Dybisz, is an Internet phenomenon. She started creating digital self-portraits just three years ago, often cloning herself, to create surreal tableaux and striking melancholy portraits. She posted them on Flickr and became an overnight sensation. I’m impressed by her imagination, her craft, and her ability to seize the moment. In her photographs she can appear glamorous, challenging, and dreamy, but in person she comes across as very well-spoken and thoughtful as well as somewhat shy.

As talented as she is, I am certain she will continue to grow as she seizes masterly control of her tools. You can watch part one of the interview below. We are posting part two on the Microsoft Pro Photo site,

You can see more of her work at

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Handheld Graduated Neutral Density Filter


People are often surprised when they see me holding my graduated neutral density filter in my hand instead of putting it in a holder. The reason is simple: speed. When conditions are changing rapidly, or even when they aren’t, it’s a lot faster to hold the filter in front of the lens. If I change lenses, I don’t have to take the time to remove holder from one lens and place it on the other. I can reframe or switch from horizontal to vertical in an instant.

You need to watch out for reflections, though. The filter will reflect light if pulled away from the lens too far.

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The Nevada Wier Experience

Allison McLean took Nevada Wier’s class last fall and sent us an account of the experience and what she learned.

Photographing on the Move, with Nevada Wier
The Art Wolfe Digital Photography Center, October 2008
by Allison McLean


Thursday, October 2, 2008

I’ve just finished the first day of my first photography workshop. I’m tired and my brain is full, but I’m more excited about photography than ever, and can’t wait to see what the next three days have to hold.

The instructor, Nevada Wier, has been a travel photographer for decades, and has shot for magazines such as National Geographic, Smithsonian and Geo. She began by telling us a bit about her background – she’s self-taught in photography and learned early on to ask herself, “Why do I like that image?” She talked about how a successful photo needs any two of these four elements – Color, Light, Action, and Pattern/Composition (CLAP), then discussed several of her own shots in this context.

As I imagine is true of any pro, she has mastered all types of shots and their concomitant gear requirements, but her preference is to shoot handheld with a 20mm lens. She likes shooting this way for the “airy” look and the way a lot of context gets included, but also because “It’s hard”! As she spoke this morning, I was impressed by the various parameters she’s put on her shooting – they’re all there to keep her eye fresh and prevent her from giving in to inertia, or “Photo Enemy #1”. Here are the “personal disciplines” she mentioned:
• handheld whenever possible
• prefers 20mm lens
• crops only in camera
By shooting mostly handheld, she’s mobile and light, and because she uses a 20mm lens and crops in camera, she needs to move in very close to her subject – “so close I’m practically drooling on them.” She says, “Everything in the image matters”, and that’s why you can’t have extraneous junk in the shot but must MOVE to frame!

As we students were to discover, it’s one thing to hear about the difficulties in using these techniques and another thing entirely to actually try one’s hand at them! Our late afternoon assignment was to head to Pike Place Market and take wide-angle shots of people in their work environment. The first thing I realized was, Oh, yeah, I do have a wide-angle lens (a 24-85mm zoom) – I just never use it as a wide angle! After all, it’s much easier to get “close enough” and then just zoom, right? For shooting people, I normally keep my 70-200mm lens on and zoom away like the furtive little people-watcher I am. No such luck when you’re using the widest angle you’ve got: to make the composition look right, you’re going to have to introduce yourself to your subject and then get close and personal. Any discomfort I felt at the time is outweighed by the images I got, though, and the gift of suddenly having a fun new technique in my skill kit.

Quote of the day
“The point of this class is to utilize the whole frame.”
– Nevada Wier

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While we do our best to provide high-quality educational programs at our Digital Photography Center and in the Field Seminars, we understand not everyone can attend. Betterphoto founder Jim Miotke has assembled a battery of online courses taught by exemplary photographers and digital artists such as Jim Zuckerman, Tony Sweet, William Neill, Canon Explorer of Light Lewis Kemper, and the newest Canon Explorer of Light, Jennifer Wu. They perform weekly individual student critiques of the coursework to keep you on track. Also, they run contests and other community features. If online learning appeals to you, Betterphoto is a good option.

This summer Betterphoto will hold a summit at our Digital Photography Center in Seattle July 11 followed by a shoot on the 12th. Contact Betterphoto at for more information on that event.

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Michael and Jeanne Adams

I was invited to Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands recently. Barbara Cox, the owner of Photokunst, a photographic fine arts marketing firm, had arranged an event to support a new photography museum. While there I had the good fortune to meet Michael Adams and his wife Jeanne, the owners of the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite. As you might imagine, Michael is the son of the seminal photographer. Michael spoke about nature photography and about Ansel. I was delighted to hear that Michael thought Ansel would have embraced our new digital tools just as he did the tools of his darkroom.

They are a delightful couple, well-versed in the photography of the natural world and completely gracious. They invited me to place some of my prints in their gallery, and of course I was honored to accept. Ansel Adams’ career, melding artistic pursuits with environmental messages, has been one of my lasting inspirations.

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