All told, Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth was quite impressive. The combination of factual information and moral or political argumentation was generally well done, though some of the personal asides about Gore’s life were somewhat tangential to the point being made. This is a film I would recommend to almost anyone: regardless of your level of knowledge or existing stance on climate change. It certainly helped to change my thinking on some of the issues.
Gore’s basic argument is really the only sane position on climate change right now: We know for sure that it is taking place. We know that human beings are causing it. Finally, we are not at all certain what the consequences will be, or even their magnitude, but there is reason to be concerned, on the basis both of evidence in the world as it is now and on the basis of reasonable projections. His massive chart showing world temperatures and CO2 concentrations over the past 650,000 years is an especially convincing element of the film. While natural cycles are certainly evident, we are already outside all previous ranges for CO2 and will go far, far beyond in the next fifty years if nothing is changed.
I am increasingly convinced that the potential consequences of global warming justify efforts to stabilize greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere, ideally at a point lower than their present concentration. While doing so will certainly have costs, it is also likely to have considerable benefits. Products of greater energy efficiency and alternative energy sources could include reduced dependence on places like Venezuela, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. Likewise, improved urban design has the prospect of making our cities rather better places to live, undoing some of the enormous harm done to human population centres by the ready availability of automobiles.
By the end of the film, I had the unusual feeling that it just might be possible to do something effective about climate change in the decades immediately ahead. The barriers are arguably mostly in the form of entrenched interests, as is so often the case when big changes in policy are needed. Hopefully, at the very least, the Canadian government can be pressured into living up to the modest promises we made in Kyoto.
[Update: 3 October 2006] While I am unlikely to trek all the way to London for a lecture, those already there might find parts of this series interesting. My thanks to Ben for passing the information along.