A 2009 comment by former U.S. vice president Al Gore that the North Pole would be ice-free by summer 2013 has gone viral in tandem with COP26 climate talks in Glasgow. The quote has been used to claim he made bogus predictions. While he did say something similar, the claim misrepresents his statement, which was attributed to researchers. Gore has also since cited other predictions of Arctic ice melting at a later date.
"The North Pole will be ice-free in the summer by 2013 because of man-made global warming,” a quote attributed to Gore in a social media post reads (here). A photo below the quote shows a man standing in a snowy landscape with ice in his hair and beard. Text over the image says: "2018 nope it's still cold!"
Social media users have shared the claim widely, with some discrediting climate science more generally.
“The left has been spreading ‘climate misinformation’ for 50 years!” one user wrote (here). “2008: Al Gore Predicts Ice-Free Arctic by 2013,” they added.
Gore didn’t make this prediction himself but was citing findings from a climate researcher. He did, however, appear to misrepresent the data.
“These figures are fresh,” Gore said on Dec. 14, 2009, during the COP15 climate change conference in Copenhagen (here).
He added: “Some of the models suggest to Dr [Wieslav] Maslowski that there is a 75% chance that the entire north polar ice cap during some of the summer months could be completely ice-free within the next five to seven years.”
Gore cited findings from climatologist Dr Wieslav Maslowski, a research professor at the Naval Postgraduate School (here).
However, it appears he mis-stated the forecast, according to reporting at the time.
In an interview with The Times published on Dec. 15, 2009 (here), Dr Maslowski said: “It’s unclear to me how this figure was arrived at. I would never try to estimate likelihood at anything as exact as this.”
According to the report, Gore’s office acknowledged after his speech that the 75% figure was used by Dr Maslowski as a “ballpark figure” in a conversation with the vice president several years before COP15.
Gore made several, similar statements in the late-2000s about ice melting during summer months due to climate change.
In the 2006 documentary “An Inconvenient Truth”, which illustrated his global warming activism, Gore said studies suggested “in the next 50 to 70 years in summertime [the Arctic ice cap] will be completely gone” (here).
In his 2007 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech (here) he also said: "One study estimated that it could be completely gone during summer in less than 22 years. Another new study, to be presented by U.S. Navy researchers later this week, warns it could happen in as little as 7 years.”
Missing context. Gore did not himself predict that the North Pole would be ice-free in summer by 2013. However, he did mischaracterise others’ findings. Gore also made a range of statements during this period, citing varied predictions.
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here.
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