July 11, 2006

"An Inconvenient Truth" should be required viewing

I recently caught Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" at the theatre in Moline, and it was the first time I'd ever gone to a theatre and paid $8.50 for a seminar.

Not that it was boring or uninteresting, quite the contrary.

The film intersperses a powerpoint presentation and lecture Al Gore has been giving for many years in efforts to get through to people about the threat global warming poses to the planet with a personal narrative.

The movie switches back and forth between the presentation itself and Gore doing a voice over during shots of his travels giving the lecture, and film clips and images traceing his childhood spent between a hotel in D.C. and their Tennessee farm where they raised Black Angus cattle and tobacco, the death of his sister, a smoker, from lung cancer and how his father then quit growing tobacco, the near death of his young son after being struck by a car, to his first becoming aware of and educated about the problem of global warming by a professor in college and his efforts through his political career to try to gain attention and action on the problem. It even recounts in a montage the reprehensible actions which lead to Bush's annointment by the Surpreme Court in 2000 and it's effects on Gore at the time.

One phrase from the movie jumped out at me.

After recounting the devastation of the loss in 2000, the scene shows Gore in some hotel room hunched over his laptop in a pensive mood. The hushed and dramatic voice-over is Gore speaking of how he had to deal with the loss and figure out what to do next.

After a dramatic pause, he says he decided to, "go back to doing the slide show".

Something about that just struck me.

I think whenever people find themselves in untenable, unworkable, or a just plain bad situation, pretty much flat on their asses, they should simply say, "Well, I think it's time to start giving the slide show again.", or simply, "Time for the slide show." I hope it catches on.

At any rate, the movie was very good, well constructed and did not drag or bog down but moved along at a nice pace. And above all, it really presents a comprehensive, scientifically sound, yet easy to understand, overview of historical climate data, most importantly on the historic levels of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere gathered through analysis of arctic ice core samples which allow the analysis of air pockets in ice which represent the atmosphere going back hundreds of thosands of years, and the direct correlation between the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and historic temperature levels gleaned from the same sources.

These graphs are alarming to say the least, with both showing dramatic spikes in recent decades which eclipse any in the recorded data, which goes back through several ice ages.

The domino effects of global warming, which triggers melting of the ice caps, which changes ocean temperatures, which alter ocean currents which are the primary determinants of regional weather, which causes the increase in severe storms and hurricanes which we're already experienceing, which causes devastating shifts in weather patterns, increasing rain and flooding in some parts of the world, while causing massive droughts and the drying out of the soil and "dessertification" in other areas.

And of course, if even a part of the arctic or Greenland ice shelfs melt, the resulting rise in sea levels would produce tens of millions of refugees and untold devastation.

The evidence is stark and hard to dismiss and has withstood the obsessive efforts of those on the right to find any substantial error or contradictory data.

While Gore has a natural drone, his narration and presentation isn't dry and boring, and importantly, he doesn't come across as overly preachy or strident.

He even avoids opportunities to really lambast Bush for his administration's shameful neglect and the right's attempts to deny that the problem is established scientific fact, though he does allude to it briefly on a few occasions, and holds up those who attempt to dismiss the overwhelming scientific evidence to well deserved, but gentle, ridicule.

One interesting section had Gore showing results of a survey of hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific studies to do with global warming and whether human activity was to blame. While I don't recall the precise numbers, it's safe to say that there were over 300 studies surveyed. Out of that number, exactly zero disagreed that global warming was a real phenomena and that man's activities were directly linked to it.

Against that fact, he showed a chart showing the number of times pieces had been produced in the media on the subject. Again, the numbers were in the hundreds.

Of all of these, over 50% contained the suggestion (promoted by polluters and others who want to muddy the issue) that there was no real concensus on the issue or the cause. In other words, over half of the stories in the press concerning global warming included the propaganda that opinion is evenly divided on the issue, even though that notion is utterly false. A stark reminder of how powerful corporate influence is over whether the public hears the truth or not.

Evidence was presented showing how the U.S. is embarassingly behind other industrialized nations on many fronts, including of course, the Kyoto treaty. In fuel economy standards alone, we're at the bottom of the heap, even far below China.

A bill was recently proposed which would have called for American fuel economy standards to gradually increase to the level that China's are today. (which are not even near the highest).

Our auto corporations and others argued the laughable notion that this requirement would put such a huge burden on them that they simply could not compete. And it only called for them to raise standards to what China is doing today, and gave them 11 years in which to achieve it.

Gore then showed a chart showing that Toyota, Honda, and others who have already risen to the challenge of increased efficiency have all prospered in recent years, while American automakers Ford and GM have suffered huge losses. He also made a strong case that meeting this challenge will produce economic growth and create new industries and jobs to replace any made obsolete by this necessary change.

Nearly all of the facts, figures, and data presented in the film is sourced, though as always, the sources should be scrutinized. Some charts were presented in such a way as to exagerate differences, such as having the baseline be something other than zero. But I feel this was justified in this case by the fact that even small changes in the data result in enormous climactic change. If they had been shown with a baseline of zero, they would have appeared less significant, but the seriousness of the increases may have been lost.

Though there's been predictable grousing on the right, it's been largely limited to ad hominem attacks on Gore, without any serious challenge to the scientific information presented in the film. And it's safe to assume that it was gone over frame by frame in an attempt to find ANYTHING which could be assailed or disproven.

I truly think that everyone, not just liberals or Democrats, but those who consider themselves conservative or Republican, owes it to themselves and their children and grandchildren to at least go see the movie.

As Gore points out more than once, this isn't a right/left, conservative/liberal issue, it's a MORAL issue, and it's imperitive that the county's will be brought to bear on the politicians who continue to dither and avoid serious action due to corporate influence and lack of popular pressure.

This problem is real, has already gone far beyond the point where we as a country should have taken the lead in addressing it, and action needs to be taken to avoid truly devastating consequences on a global scale.

Go see it if you haven't, and if you have, tell us what did you thought of it?

"An Inconvenient Truth" is currently showing at the Great Escape theatre in Moline. Click for schedule.

Visit the movie's website here.

An (over dramatized) trailer can be viewed here.

(For the irony files: The theatre's page contained a web ad for Metrobank with the slogan, "Standing the test of time..." Metrobank was bought out and became THE National Bank at the close of business last Friday.)


At 7/11/2006 6:08 AM, Blogger Dave Barrett said...

Good job summarizing and commenting on "An Inconvient Truth". I was equally impressed with it but it is so content rich that I have not digested and internalized it all enough yet to discuss it other than to tell people they have to see it. I think once enough people have seen it the damage the media did to Al Gore's reputation and image in 2000 will be largely undone.

At 7/12/2006 4:12 PM, Blogger DookOfURL said...

My guess is that the reason Gore didn't take cheap shots at Bush, which he has done in the past, is because that would open him up to well-deserved charges of hypocrisy (so what I say, not what I do), since Gore did very little to get Kyoto or much other environmental issues passed during the 8 years he actually had the power to do something about the environment.

Making documentaries, like Fahrenheit 911 and Inconvenient Truth, and publishing op-eds in the NYTimes are the last resort of the powerless liberal elites.

At 7/12/2006 5:23 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Pretty amusing comments there Dook, considering that it can be shown that Bush didn't legitimately gain office to begin with.

And what would you prefer those who are out of power do? Stage a coup? Would you respect them then?

The fact remains that over a half milliion more people prefered Gore to Bush, yet only one supreme court judge ended up installing Bush.

You can remain ignorant by dismissing the important things highlighted by both Fahrenheit 911 and An Incovenient Truth out of ideological blindness, but I suggest that it's just such willful ignorance which is dangerous to the country, and the world.

At 7/12/2006 6:38 PM, Blogger DookOfURL said...

Oh please. The self-proclaimed environmentalist Vice President Al Gore had 8 years to push Kyoto and other environmental policies. Instead, Gore punted.

Gore found out that when you're the "decider" it ain't so easy to be a crusader. I'm sure he enjoys his role as kvetcher over his role of doer. It's just so much easier---and Clinton/Gore were all about "easy".

At 7/13/2006 7:14 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Ignoring the facts of the issue to bash the messenger is really pretty much the only trick in the right wing bag. But it's sad.

And if Clinton/Gore was all about "easy", if peace and unprecidented prosperity was "easy", then I think about 90% of the country is longing to go back to it.

And really, how hard is it to make a perfect mess of the country and the world? It didn't seem too tough for Bush to screw things up in a collossal way, though you're right.

To make such a perfect mess out of nearly everything would seem to take a lot of effort.

At 7/13/2006 11:47 AM, Blogger DookOfURL said...

Can I at least get you to admit that Gore didn't do all he could have done to improve the environment during the 8 years he was VP, or is that just asking too much?

At 7/13/2006 1:18 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Dook, that one is simple. No, I can't admit that Gore didn't do all he could to prevent global warming while he was in office for one reason.

I don't know if he did or not, and more importantly perhaps, neither do you!

Just because you're vice president does not give you the power to enact things by executive fiat, though with this administration I can see how you might get confused.

There's no way that one could say that Gore didn't try to improve things and make as many changes as he possibly could.

I think they introduced carbon credits or something like that, and most likely many other proposals. If they were shot down, that can't be laid at Gore's feet.

I'd say it's more than a safe bet that he made plenty of effort to take actions which would help stem global warming.

And I'd say it's a sure bet that he did more than the oil cronies that compose the Bush administration. That's for damn sure.

At 7/13/2006 9:03 PM, Blogger diehard said...

Hey Dope If Al Gore runs for President and gets elected.
Would he be re-elected since he won the first time?
Great movie, anyone that is stupid enough to vote Republican should be forced to see it!
Chimpy hasn't lifted a finger[other than to pick his nose] to help the envoirment.
All the 'liberal media' focuses on is the 'WAR on TERR'!

At 7/15/2006 5:59 AM, Blogger Reel Fanatic said...

Great stuff .. Mr. Gore's movie has somehow finally managed to make it to my little corner of the world this week .. I'm going to see it today, and really looking forward to it

At 7/15/2006 2:54 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Reel fan,
You won't regret it.
Anyone who sees this film will have their awareness of the issue raised, at the very least.

This isn't propaganda, after all.

I am constantly baffled as to how some people choose to bash this movie for no other reason other than their dislike of Gore.

To do so is frankly, stupid.

These same people don't bat an eyelash when this administration makes a huge effort to drill in wildlife refuges, where it's clear their motivation is profit for their oil buddies and themselves.

Yet when Gore comes out with a movie about an issue that isn't just threatening the US, but the entire planet, and for which there's no other motivation other than to sound the alarm bells and call for action on a problem which threatens our way of life and very existence, they instantly pooh-pooh everything about it.

That should tell people a lot about the right. They're perfectly willing to sacrifice the future of the planet out of nearly psychotic devotion to their political heroes.

It's like a cult.

They act as if believing in taking real steps to reduce global warming and control it's worsening is somehow dangerous.

As if sticking our heads in the sand and racing towards inevitable disaster is the way to go, as long as they're dead by the time it gets bad.

Glad to hear you're going to see it. As I say, it's a moral issue, not left, right, or center, and no one can know the facts and see the evidence and continue to deny the scope of the problem.

At 7/15/2006 3:26 PM, Blogger DookOfURL said...

I don't think we have to worry about a "third-term" President Gore, or whatever your point was. Big Al foreclosed his presidential aspirations when he accepted the MoveOn.org gig and was caught on tape ranting like a maniac. Most people in this country want their POTUS to have at least some control over their emotions. If Gore ever announced his intention to run for POTUS, you can bet your bippy that these tapes would run continually 24/7 and I'm sure Gore knows he burned his bridges when he did these gigs.

But why do you assume I hate Gore? I don't think I ever voted against him, except maybe in '92 when I think I voted for GHWBush. In '00 I was one of the famous "undervoters" and didn't vote for either Gore or Bush. My main problem with Gore then was that he did not seem capable of even running a national campaign, so I figured he was lacking in executive abilities----which are crucial for POTUS. I really didn't have much problem with his policies, I just didn't think he had the ability to execute them. I didn't know enough about Bush to vote FOR him, so I didn't vote for either. It can't be said enough-----our national press SUX!

Which reminds me that I heartily agree with Howlin' Bob Somerby and others that Gore really got screwed by the press in '00, but let's hope that the rise of new media will remedy the hold MSM has on our national conversation, and allow more information to flow to the public.

At 7/17/2006 9:49 PM, Blogger diehard said...

Dookful you must have missed that whole, vote suppression in minority communities, Supreme court picking dumbass to be president thing in Florida in 2000.


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