An Inconvenient Truth

I decided to go see a movie tonight. Things have been really hectic lately, so I was in the mood for mindless entertainment – and there were plenty of choices to choose from. But on impulse I decided to go and see An Inconvenient Truth instead. If you haven't heard about it, it is essentially a documentary from Al Gore regarding global warming.

Okay, I will admit that it sounded a bit boring. And if there's one impression the Republicans were able to hammer home to the public in 2000, it's that Al Gore is boring.

However, I found the movie energizing – I highly recommend it. (And don't just take my word for it – check out what the critics are saying ). It was engaging, as well as compelling. Even those of you happy with the current U.S. administration should not dismiss this movie as political propaganda, or place it in the Fahrenheit 9/11 category - it's not.

One of the points made in the movie is that a lot of people think global warming is simply a theory, and a controversial one at that. That's not surprising given media reporting on the topic. However, scientific publications on the topic universally agree on the global warming trend: it's not just a natural cycle as in past ice ages and subsequent melts. In media reporting, however, more than half(!) of the reports are sceptical. Sure, it's possible that this reporting imbalance is simply due to lobbyists at work. However, I suspect people want to hear that there's no problem. That absolves all of us of any responsibility. "An Inconvenient Truth" is a fitting title - it's a truth nobody would like to hear.

However, the movie presents irrefutable evidence of the trend. One thing is the temperature and CO2 graphs, but the side-by-side pictures of glaciers, evaporated lakes etc. over very short time intervals are hard to argue with.

In the U.S. we now have an ad campaign against the conclusions in this movie, touting the benefits of carbon dioxide! That's right boys and girls, never mind the connection between CO2 and global temperatures. Carbon dioxide is good! It's natural. It comes from trees. Without it, life wouldn't exist! Thankfully, John Stewart on The Daily Show made fun of these ads. But the problem with comedy is that we laugh, then move on to the next show (in my case, The Colbert Report!) and fail to act.

This movie is pretty effective in trying to inspire people to take some action. Not only is it specific in what you can do, but it also has a pretty positive message. You might think global warming is all gloom and doom – and if we don't do anything, you wouldn't be all that wrong. But it makes a point I was not aware of: that we have averted a global environmental crisis in the past, so we can do it again.

Remember the ozone layer problem? I sure do. To this day I still use deodorant sticks because I remember the environmental campaign to avoid ozone-layer hazardous CFCs used in among other things, deodorant aerosol sprays that were popular at the time. What I had not heard until I saw this movie, is that this effort was successful and things are well within control today.

I was heartened to see that the movie was well attended. But then this is northern California, which politically is "out of touch" with the rest of the U.S. And, I suspect the people least likely to see this movie are the ones who need it the most, and vice versa.

It's very easy to ignore global warming. That's right. Click on the next blog story in your reader, perhaps something regarding Web 2.0, and forget all about it. But if you're reading this, chances are good you're in one of the top CO2 emissions countries causing the problems – and that makes you part of the problem. Ignorance is not an acceptable excuse. Watching the new Superman movie may be entertaining, but please consider assisting Superman in saving the world yourself! Watching this movie will make you think, and perhaps inspire you to do your part.

P.S. After posting this, I watched tonight's Daily Show and they announced that Al Gore will be the guest tomorrow night!

Comments:

Right, and Kyoto is not just a city in Japan: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyoto_Protocol

Posted by Alexis MP on June 27, 2006 at 06:40 PM PDT #

Perhaps these people who are such big fans of carbon dioxide should be placed into sealed rooms filled only with carbon dioxide. Let them become fully immersed in their natural health-giving substance.

Posted by Rob on June 27, 2006 at 10:18 PM PDT #

So we should make scientific decisions based on which side can make the slickest documentary? If that wasn't so sad, it would be funny.

My son went and saw this movie with his school. It makes me so mad that in the U.S. we have to fight to teach established scientific fact (evolution), and at the same time in an area where there really is some controversy, the other side is ignored.

You say that it is not "political propaganda", but I'm sorry, it is, pure and simple. It is loaded with anocdotal evidence and misleading presentations. I know for a fact that Al Gore has mis-represented the views of scientists that he maintains support his cause.

I have no vested interest in the issue either way. I have just not seen any reliable evidence or studies that have convinced me of the validity of either side. I am very frustrated by fact that as each new study comes out that is touted to "prove" global warming, if you actually read the study it does no such thing. The issue is so political, we have reached the point where you cannot even trust scientists to publicly state their actual opinions for fear of professional reprisals.

Don't get me wrong. I think that many, or even most of the proposed "solutions" are worthwhile pursuing. More efficient energy use, cleaner energy consumption, I am all for those. But until we get some real data, we should be looking at "things we should do anyway".

Posted by Brian Utterback on June 27, 2006 at 11:31 PM PDT #

I saw a huge book that goes with the movie while I was at Barnes and Noble this weekend. Thanks for the post on the movie, you've convinced me to take my older son to go see it. He and I have opposing viewpoints in politics but it doesn't hurt to have a couple of hours of submersion on a topic rather than the soundbites he gets from his AM radio.

Posted by Paul Monday on June 28, 2006 at 12:17 AM PDT #

Brian, I am glad you are for energy efficiency. However, since you haven't seen the movie, I don't think you can label it as political propaganda. I am sure conservative talk shows label it that way. However, I think that's more spin - the only way to argue against facts is to attack the messenger and other underhanded tactics. Remember the outrage by scientists that the administration edited reports, told NASA scientists to withhold information etc? Remember the unprecedented petition signed by 49 Nobel laureates and 8,000 other scientists? See this NPR article for example.

Here's what Roger Ebert said in his review:

In 39 years, I have never written these words in a movie review, but here they are: You owe it to yourself to see this film. If you do not, and you have grandchildren, you should explain to them why you decided not to.

Am I acting as an advocate in this review? Yes, I am. I believe that to be "impartial" and "balanced" on global warming means one must take a position like Gore's. There is no other view that can be defended. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Environment Committee, has said, "Global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." I hope he takes his job seriously enough to see this film. I think he has a responsibility to do that.

Take a look what the administration's EPA site says. (source)

Scientists know for certain that human activities are changing the composition of Earth's atmosphere. Increasing levels of greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide (CO2 ), in the atmosphere since pre-industrial times have been well documented. There is no doubt this atmospheric buildup of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases is largely the result of human activities.

It's well accepted by scientists that greenhouse gases trap heat in the Earth's atmosphere and tend to warm the planet.

Posted by Tor Norbye on June 28, 2006 at 01:36 AM PDT #

We went with our kids to watch it and we spend part of our return trip talking about what else we could do. We already own a Prius and I don't want to replace our Corolla until when the next (+90mpg) Prius comes out, but we are going to do a pass and complete switching to compact fluorescents and my wife found some good information into green energy vouchers that seems quite useful. I'll post a URL to the vouchers when I get them from her.
Regarding whether man-made green houses are a fact or not... I think they are but even if there was a doubt, the potential impact is so high (just think of the Gulf Stream shutting down or changing) that simple risk analysis should make us act urgently.

Posted by Eduardo Pelegri-Llopart on June 28, 2006 at 06:30 AM PDT #

Al Gore is playing on your fears. There is no doubt the earth goes through cooling and warming cycles. The climate is ever changing for many reasons, some of which we cannot control. With Republicans it's the war on terror, with the Dems it's global warming. I think it's best to try and remain objective and not drink too much kool aide from either side. As for Gore, I can't stand the way he talks to people as though they're his childeren.

Posted by Rob Abbe on July 03, 2006 at 08:09 AM PDT #

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