An Inconvenient Truth

2006-09-27

in Films and movies, Politics, Science, The environment

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.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Milan September 28, 2006 at 2:18 am

Here is one of Gore’s graphics, which was emailed to me. It shows the aforementioned 650,000 year dataset.

If it will help convince people to take action, Gore will probably forgive the borrowing (with accreditation) of the image.

I will probably buy Gore’s book, as a thesis-related text.

Milan September 28, 2006 at 2:19 am

It seems to be an amalgam of two images, so they may not be aligned properly with one another. It looks like the grey line was matched, while the blue one was partly drawn.

This illustrates the point, but should not be considered authoritative.

Milan September 28, 2006 at 2:20 am

Here is a more scientific graph of the same data. The URL was also suggested to me by email.

anonymous September 28, 2006 at 2:07 pm

didn’t harper just pull us out of kyoto

Milan September 28, 2006 at 4:08 pm

Environment Minister Rona Ambrose has said: “it is impossible, impossible for Canada to reach its Kyoto targets.”

That said, I do not think we have formally withdrawn.

Anonymous September 29, 2006 at 7:59 pm

Canada may well be in a similar situation to Japan in that its emissions are almost a quarter above its 1990 levels even though it has a target to reduce them by 6%. Yet since its election eight months ago, Canada’s Conservative government has done nothing about the problem, other than scrapping a plan from the previous government. While many believe that it is still possible to meet the targets if a serious enough effort were engaged immediately, this is getting less possible with each passing day. The government has explicitly ruled out buying credits in the carbon market from abroad, which is the only way to meet Canada’s legally binding commitments under the Kyoto protocol if it fails to meet its targets. Thus, Canada appears to be the only country in the world that has announced its refusal to respect its commitments under Kyoto, apparently in the belief that its sanctions have no bite.

Philip Raphals
Executive director
Helios Centre
Montreal

Milan October 1, 2006 at 6:47 pm
Milan January 1, 2007 at 6:28 pm

An Inconvenient Truth (2006) – Al Gore’s presentation detailing every aspect of global warming . Comprehensive but no new information.

R.K. October 11, 2007 at 2:09 pm

Gore climate film’s ‘nine errors’

A High Court judge who ruled on whether climate change film, An Inconvenient Truth, could be shown in schools said it contains “nine scientific errors”.

The nine errors alleged by the judge included:

* Mr Gore’s assertion that a sea-level rise of up to 20 feet would be caused by melting of ice in either West Antarctica or Greenland “in the near future”. The judge said this was “distinctly alarmist” and it was common ground that if Greenland’s ice melted it would release this amount of water – “but only after, and over, millennia”.

* Mr Gore’s assertion that the disappearance of snow on Mount Kilimanjaro in East Africa was expressly attributable to global warming – the court heard the scientific consensus was that it cannot be established the snow recession is mainly attributable to human-induced climate change.

* Mr Gore’s reference to a new scientific study showing that, for the first time, polar bears had actually drowned “swimming long distances – up to 60 miles – to find the ice”. The judge said: “The only scientific study that either side before me can find is one which indicates that four polar bears have recently been found drowned because of a storm.”

Anon October 12, 2007 at 4:23 pm

On those nine errors:

An ‘error’ is not the same thing as an error
Category: Global Warming
Posted on: October 11, 2007 11:39 PM, by Tim Lambert

A UK High Court judge has rejected a lawsuit by political activist Stuart Dimmock to ban the showing of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth in British schools. Justice Burton agreed that

“Al Gore’s presentation of the causes and likely effects of climate change in the film was broadly accurate.”

There were nine points where Burton decided that AIT differed from the IPCC and that this should be addressed in the Guidance Notes for teachers to be sent out with the movie.

Unfortunately a gaggle of useless journalists have misreported this decision as one that AIT contained nine scientific errors. Let me name some of the journalists who got it wrong: Sally Peck in the Daily Telegraph, Nico Hines in the Times, Mike Nizza in the New York Times, James McIntyre in the Independent, PA in Melbourne’s Herald Sun, David Adam in the Guardian, Daniel Cressey in Nature, the BBC, Mary Jordan in the Washington Post, Marcus Baram for ABC News, and (of course) Matthew Warren in the Australian.

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