“An Inconvenient Truth”

I rarely blog about non-technical issues here, and even more rarely about non-mozilla.org stuff. I have to say something, though, about the film Al Gore has recently starred in, “An Inconvenient Truth”.

Go. Watch. This. Film.

I liked the film – it’s raising a challenge for all of us. Personally, there’s not much more I feel I can do directly to reduce my impact (I ride a bike, walk, and take the bus just about everywhere except when I’m visiting my parents – I don’t own a car and don’t want one, thank you very much). About the only idea I have would be to start putting holes in paper bags again, so I can stick them on my bike’s handles the same way I do for plastic bags. But that becomes a problem for businesses, convincing them that it’s a Good Idea to carry special paper bags.

Now, if only tickets to the film were tax-deductible. (Hey, it’s Al Gore, right?) 🙂

30 thoughts on ““An Inconvenient Truth””

  1. Too bad much of it is only inconvenient and not truth at all.
    I am all for lowering greenhouse gasses and all, and I try to only use natural items that harm nature the least, but to much hysteria and speculation is in this whole global warming scare. 30 years agi scientists thought we were going in to an ice age and now the scientist who came up with global warming said on his death bed that he was wrong and we are not causing it.
    Individually, keep on doing your best if you like, but when people AlGore it and try to force it on others in spite of proof against some of his assumptions and speculations, that is when enviromentalists fo too far again.
    (From Alex: Uh, what proof?)

  2. As a Canadian, movies like this really make me sweat, but from what I understand, the feds still haven’t recognized Canada’s conflict-of-interest. Global warming, eh? That sounds grrreat! Ever since we heard the news, and started to think about the amazing possiblities, a few fellow Canucks and I have spent the last few winters taring up syrofoam cups as rapidly as possible! We’re all up here crossing our frost-bitten fingers hoping that with a few more winters of hard work…
    On a more serious note, how about bringing a cloth bag with you, instead of the plastic/paper? Are you a vegetarian yet? I haven’t seen the movie but am curious if Gore mentioned bovine flatulence as one of the major greenhouse gas contributors, or just the pure waste of energy that occurs by turning hundreds of pounds of produce into cattle feed to yield a few pounds of beef?

  3. well, you could put a basket on your bike for those paper bags …. :p.
    as a euro i have to say, americans go and watch this movie. europe is probably about 20 years ahead on the climate issues, too bad it’s a global thing, we’re in it together.

  4. I guess I look at it this way – if humans are responsible for the last 200 years of warming/cooling trends, who was responsible for the last 300,000 years of warming/cooling trends?
    That said, my car gets 35MPG (I have to drive, I live in the western US) and I eat as little meat as I can for a variety of reasons ($, other pollution problems)…but I don’t think for a minute that global warming is a human phenomenon. The “scientific community” is going to lose credibility on this one.

  5. I think lots of people think that global warming (it’s only a few degrees, right?) just means the end of bitter winters. If only it were so simple.
    You really need to see the movie. It’s OK to deny the evidence, but only if you know what it is you’re denying.
    (From Alex: Hear, hear.)

  6. My son and I saw the movie yesterday and found it to be informational, alarming, and inspirational. I encourage anyone to see it. The logic was easy to follow and I do not question the facts. Global warming is happening, the question is what are we going to do about it, and is it to late.
    And let’s be clear on what we are trying to salvage here.. the world will survive, the environment will adapt, … we are talking about the survival of the eco-balance that supports human life and the food chain as we know it.
    I do, however, wish Gore had gotton someone else to narrate it… his being front and center is going to turn some people off because it rings of a political move. The message is important and needs to be seen and heard by everyone… Ithink it would be more effectively communicated through a politically neutral messanger.

  7. As a PhD candidate meteorologist, I have looked extensively into the theory of “global warming”. I will grant you that temperatures have risen by 0.2 C over the last 100 years or so, but we were on a warming trend before the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the early 20th century! There is also absolutely no evidence that this ever so slight increase in temperature is causing severe weather or stronger hurricanes. Remember, we are making assumputions that the atmosphere behaved prior to our record taking the exact same as it did once we started taking records. We only have about 90-100 years of records for hurricanes, don’t you think its possible we had a Katrina in the 19th century? Or the 18th? Would those have been due to global warming too? I personally think the entire thing is bogus, and there are too many holes in the theory to make it believable.

  8. As a PhD cadidate computer scientist (it’s true, but it doesn’t mean a thing… say ‘hello’ to the ad hominem fallacy), I think it is asinine to believe that we are not doing damage to the environment by spewing out massive amounts of CO2 and burning fossil fuels. Very few commodities on this planet are not “scarce” (both by economic and ‘common sense’ defentions). That means that with a finite amount of resources we should be responsible… even if we aren’t sure there is a problem.
    That said, whether or not you agree with this film, it is shortsighted and selfish to conclude that: 1) global temps have been up and down for ages, so it doesn’t matter (they thought light travlled in ether, too); 2) a lack of corroborative evidence does not invalidate what seems anectdotal. Take species for example. how many have gone extinct due to overhunting? If you explained that to some of the poachers and offered them an alternative source of income/meat that might not have been true. In other cases, it was just mass ignorance that caused the loss of a given species. Should we take that same ignorance into account when we talk about the environment?
    We generate gobs and gobs of excess heat. More than any natural events, believe it. Sit down and do a little calculation: how much energy is in a gallon of gasoline? How much of that energy escapes as heat from your car? How many calories are lost to the atmosphere when you run A/C (it’s just a heat pump)?
    Sadly, this is a horribly presumptuous thing to say, but it comes down to conscience. There are some who just don’t care enough about the world. How do you give someone an empathy transplant?

  9. Pop quiz:
    1. What’s the primary greenhouse gas in the atmosphere?
    Answer: Water vapor (at roughly 98.6% of all greenhouse gases – CO2 makes up about 1.1%)
    2. Which computer model predicting the future effects of increased CO2 is accurate?
    Answer: None. No current computer models can be validated for accuracy. The way this is done is to imput data from past decades to see if the model can accurately predict recorded conditions in the past. To date (to my knowledge) no current computer models can pass this basic test.
    What’s the point of this?
    Wator vapor is the dominant greenhouse gas responsible for the vast majority of the greenhouse effect, but nothing can be done about it. At just 1.1% of the total greenhouse gases (and a mere .035% of the atmosphere as a whole, clearly CO2 is a minor player in any increase in average temperature. A more likely candidate is variable solar radiation, which would increase evaporation, putting more water vapor into the atmosphere and thereby increasing temperatures.
    Computer model predictions aren’t worth anything until they can be validated. Any use prior to that amounts to speculation at best and fear-mongering at worst.

  10. You know, all this debate about who’s right and wrong. It’s funny. I bet people did the same thing when we started radiating food in the 50’s because “radiation is great”!
    There’s nothing wrong with less pollution. There’s also nothing wrong with assuming that the facts presented in the movie are correct.
    (From Alex: I wholeheartedly agree.
    Oh, incidentally, http://www.cnn.com/2006/TECH/science/06/22/global.warming.ap/index.html )

  11. In response to weave’s comments, I feel that as a fellow scientist it is our responsibility to critically appraise all aspects of a major life-altering claim such as global warming before automatically assuming it is true. Species extinction is not a good example, as it is obvious that we were causing some extinctions, but no clear evidence exists for global warming. At the same time, natural events cause species extinction (dinosaurs…), but these are events that we cannot control (like the climate). Are we generating gobs of heat? Maybe. But generating gobs of heat is not what global warming is about. Global warming is specifically the theory that by adding CO2 into the atmosphere we are increasing the surface temperature, and generating gobs of heat and adding CO2 are independent things. Mount St. Helens generated more CO2 into the atmosphere in one eruption than our entire country does in an entire year. A natural event had more of an impact than anything we can do.
    Global temperatures are rising, and CO2 levels are rising, and this increase in CO2 is anthropological in nature. But again, there is no evidence that the two are related other than speculation and climate models which are very inaccurate (none have accurately predicted our current climate, let alone previous climates or future climates). Should we take major precautions for something a computer is saying (i.e. Y2K), when it has not been correct to this point? Current weather forecast models can’t even forecast out 48 hours with good accuracy, so how can we forecast out 100 years?
    I would also argue another point about this, that the increase of global temperatures is not due to greenhouse gas emissions but instead to the continuous urbanization of our land masses. Think about it, 100 years ago New York City was not even half the size it is today. Its temperature was also much cooler then since the added concrete and buildings create an effect known as the “urban heat island” effect. So measured temperatures in these urban areas (which is where most temperature readings are taken globally) are warmer due to an urban heat island effect, completely independent of CO2 emissions and instead a result of an increase in population. Should we destroy our cities? Or kill babies to control the population? These are of course preposterous ideas, but if this urban heat island effect and its “artifical temperature increase” suggested by surface data is the cause of the 0.2C increase in temperature (a very small increase by the way), how do we propose to fix it?

  12. To “whatever” – Beautifully said. Why would anyone even debate that gasses in the air are “OK”? I don’t understand why someone would go to such effort to play devil’s advocate.
    When I see black smoke emitting from a transit bus idling at its station, and smell the air around it, I certainly don’t think, “huh, that seems pretty good.” EVERYONE needs to take steps to help eliminate pollution – for the sake of warding off global warming, asthma, and carcinogens.
    I think the point of all this is do what you can as an individual to cut down on waste, energy use, and destructive habits.

  13. “To “whatever” – Beautifully said. Why would anyone even debate that gasses in the air are “OK”? I don’t understand why someone would go to such effort to play devil’s advocate.”
    The air is a gas 😎
    (From Alex: Actually, it’s a mixture of gases, the balance of which is changing.)

  14. Fighting pollution is fine, but I can’t recommend promoting the cause with FUD/propaganda about global warming. On global warming, there are dissenters aplenty — they just can’t get any airtime.
    This is a press release from the US Senate criticizing the AP wire service for apparent bias when reporting scientific opinion regarding Gore’s film.
    http://www.epw.senate.gov/pressitem.cfm?party=rep&id=257909
    (From Alex: I’ve had a longstanding policy of approving comments that were on-topic.)

  15. According to a US Geological Survey scientist quoted in a 2004 Seattle Times article on the (then) erupting Mount Saint Helens, it was producing between 500 and 1000 tons of CO2 daily, compared to 28,000 tons per day for a single coal burning power plant in Washington state. Worldwide human CO2 output is 26 billion tons annually, compared to 200 million tons produced by volcanoes.
    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2002105397_volcano01m.html

  16. The key issue and threat:
    I am an American business person living in Italy near Venice and would like to respond to the argument about recorded temperatures. Yes, they very well may have gone up and down over the hundreds of millions of years of our planet’s existence, and yes coastlines and sea levels have moved up and down before our available recorded data.
    But this is not the issue.
    In fact, where I live was par the Adriatic sea during Roman times (only 2000 years ago), so yes, clearly water levels were higher then….but nobody lived here 2000 years ago (because it was under water). Today we have 20,000 residents in my town. We only need a 4 foot (1mt) increase to be underwater. Where are we and the 1.3 million residents in the surrounding 100km area that will also be under water going to go? The issue is the rising water levels due to melting of polar ice caps now, and the key fact that today the number of human beings currently living near coastlines around the world is recorded and far greater than any time in history. Population growth is countable–and I don’t think anyone is going to argue that we have far more humans on the earth today than at any other time. All these people living and working near the water are going to have to move, and you can count them up yourself. Just do the math. Then use a little imagination….New York, LA, Shanghai, London, Amsterdam, Rome, Hong Kong, Tokyo, humans build cities on coastlines (including lakes and rivers…cities like Chicago are not immune) for very simple reasons. The migration and infrastructure collapse is going to be a massive catastrophe, and business and life is going to be severely disrupted if not shut down. Nothing is going to work as we are used to. Just ask anyone who has been in (and survived) a serious flood.
    It is simply too obvious not to see that it is now time start serious avoidance procedures. The argument about unrecorded past weather and climate change is irrevelant and dangerous. The issue is about today’s data, conditions,human populations and their current locations and infrastructure positioning in relation to the water which is recorded and without a doubt moving higher and higher.
    Let’s stop arguing and start doing, there isn’t much time. Yes, the earth has been around for hundreds of millions of years. But it’s not about the earth surviving. It’s about us surviving.

  17. Well, I have not seen the film, yet, but I will. What I have heard is that either Al Gore is uninformed or deliberately misleading. For instance: Kilimanjaro is actually colder than it was 30 years ago and is loosing it’s snowcap beacause of deforestation in the area. That is a proven fact.
    http://www.heartland.org/Article.cfm?artId=16905
    As far as global warming causing the great Russian inland sea to evaporate, that is pure poppycock because Russia had diverted 75% of the rivers that fed that sea, it did not receed from global warming.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aral_sea
    Also the oceans have been rising for the past 6000 years years due to “global warming”. We have been in a warming trend since the last ice age.
    http://www.envirotruth.org/myth6.cfm
    I could go on and on and perhaps I will after I see the movie.
    Keep in mind that Al Gore and the producers of that movie have publically said it is okay to exagerate to get your point across.

  18. thank u geoffrey, your comments are right on cue.
    im not a scientist, but my humble opinion is that all the scientists in the world can say whatever they like, but for me, any movie that gets people into reducing the amout of toxic crap pumped into our air is a winner.
    clearly, the facts suggest that things are going to change majorly in our lifetimes, regardless of whose fault it is, due to temperature and sea level increases, and any awareness of that fact is going to help people to prepare earlier for what situations will affect us personally and as a population.
    but i think a FAR more pressing issue is simply the cleanliness of of the air we breath. The World Health Organisation puts the global death rates from air pollution every year in the millions, and both pollution, and the number of related deaths, are INCREASING every year…..and when pollution increases without being stopped (because doing so might ‘affect the economy’), places become uninhabitable, and people die! Having a good economy is no use when people cant breathe in it!
    FACTS suggest our air is full of harmfull toxins, alot of which are being emitted alongside CO2 in all those fumes released from gas-guzzling cars and SUVs, and old filthy power stations and factories that churn out tonnes of crap in the air revery day……
    I want cleaner air to breath, and I want less emissions of harmfull gases and pollutants in it, full stop. If Al Gore helps us all to obtain those things, hes doing more than alot of you people who are too busy trying to assign blame for things.

  19. These perspectives are certainly different than those arguing that about the science. However, they are only considering one side of the argument. For starters, these deaths from air pollution, according to the world health organization website, are due to indoor pollution, which can be caused by any number of things, including smoke inhalation from fireplaces, gas leaks, etc. Only about 20% of those deaths from air pollution are from outdoor pollution, (roughly 400,000). That is obviously still a lot of people (0.007% of the world population). Sea level rise and temperature rise, both things that can be debated as there is no good measure of sea level available due to its variable surface height and temperature data still is based off of mean data over less than 200 years (less than 0.000004% of the entire planet

  20. If anyone is still reading this, I realize that nobody has brought up the idea that despite whether we are sure or unsure of the effects of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, the potential consequences of failing to act in a situation like this could very well be disastrous. I believe that a responsible person should know that in fifteen years, if evidence does indeed support a global warming trend, it’s just way too large of a risk to take now by ignoring the problem.
    It may also very well be true that carbon dioxide levels will not have catastrophic consequences, and down the line if this is the case, it will be a far more encouraging thought to know that steps were taken to prevent a potentially disastrous situation than to gamble with life as we know it simply because some people refuse to change certain wasteful habits.
    There are plenty of situations where preventative measures are being taken to avoid horrible consequences. Population control, national security, and preventative medicine are three that come to mind before I leave work to enjoy my evening. Hope you all enjoyed my thoughts.

  21. Well I guess either way it is a self limiting problem. We will run out of oil and later coal or it will be so expensive as to be uneconomic in about 50 years, that the problem will just fix itself.
    Humanity will not bind together to do anything until crisis time, so just keep polluting, buy shares in Toyota and uranium miners, have holidays in unpolluted places and take lots of photo’s for your kids. And for a little perspective on air pollution, fly to Jakarta or Shanghai and spend a day there gulping in air. Then fly down to Tasmania, New Zealand, or somewhere in the central Pacific and see if you can tell the difference. It probably about a pack a day.

  22. Shell & Whatever,
    Thank you for pointing out the obvious. Regardless of the nuances of the science or the film – are we so wedded to lifestyles that pump more crap than necessary into the air?
    My wife & I are planning to leave Hong Kong after a wonderful 12 years because the air quality is so bad. Anecdotal, to be sure, but, we’re going to leave a cricle of friends and a lifestyle we love because the air is toxic. We walked 60km last month on Dartmoor – we can barely run 1km here without gasping. When I arrived I could see the Kowloon peaks 27 days a month. I’m now lucky to see the 3 days per month.
    And yes all you bright sparks, it has a lot to do with the industrialization of the Pearl River Delta.
    But that doesn’t invalidate any argument that asks if we could do it better and cleaner. And, it is surely incumbent upon us, the beneficiaries of a rich western upbringing, to provide some form of leadership in figuring out a sustainable model for moving forward.

  23. I have been following this issue for 5 or6 years now and have been a “sceptic” the entire time. I now know volumes more than I knew then and it has only confirmed my original ideas. There is no point in revisiting the many arguments against the hysteria generated by alarmist junk science and individuals with questionable motives, but I would like to comment on some of the points made above by understandably concerned contributers.
    Firstly, CO2 is not an atmospheric pollutant but, as noted scientist and environmentallist, Dr. Bellamy has said, it is a fertiliser and responsible for all life on the planet.
    Secondly, pollution IS a major issue concerning increasing areas of the world today and is still at this time intrinsically linked to the majority of man made CO2 production globally.
    But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. Governments need to spend the billions of dollars of global warming research( including useless climate models) on alternative energy production and making households less dependent on huge, dirty power stations.
    I’m completely off the grid, at the moment running totally on solar power and it’s the best thing I ever did(well, mabey thats exagerating a bit).
    We need clever solutions to an ever increasing global demand for cheap, reliable,CLEAN energy but we also need clear thinking based on sound science and open Honest debate as well as an end to this hysterical nonsense.

  24. This movie had me convinced and we should now start thinking about making our carbon footprint smaller. Al Gore was very convincing that global warming will affect all of our drastically over a 10-year time period.

  25. After reading all the arguements for and against this movie, I pondered the weight of each of the positions. One thought occurred to me. Over the Earth’s vast history, we must remember that human beings have occupied a small amount of time on this planet. Changes to our environment are a natural and constant process. To suggest human beings are the biggest threat to the environment seems to be a premature agruement. Our planet has been in a constant state of change since its creation. This is a process that will continue to occur with or without human involvement. An Inconvenient Truth seems to ignore the transformational process that is part of the planet Earth. It took a power greater than man to create this world, and it will take a power greater than man to destroy it. Yes, it is important to conserve our natural resources and monitor our pollution levels, but the scare tactics used in this film are truly inconvenient.

  26. what about new climate data that shows the nineteen thirties to be the hottest decade ever not the nineties, great gore, when were there more cars? the thirties or nineties?
    (From Alex: Nice try, but the data you’re referring to only affected the USA, it was a difference of 0.01 C – that’s margin-of-error, folks – and the world climate is still in much more dire straits:
    http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/realdeal.16aug20074.pdf
    )

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