"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.)