Saturday, September 8, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth - reviewed

An Inconvenient Truth is less the expression of Al Gore’s concern for the environment and more the manifestation of his grief in having lost the most excruciating presidential election in modern history. Many of the world’s great creative works, be they writings, paintings or musical compositions, were borne of great personal loss. I believe An Inconvenient Truth was meant to be one such work. It was meant to be a legitimization of Al Gore. But it is neither.

Despite having a strong bias against the premise and the politics going in, I had high expectations that it would be an entertaining and well-made film. But it is neither.

Gore opens his slide show with “Hello, I’m Al Gore, the next President of the United States” which only the few remaining Gore holdouts could possibly find relevant or even amusing at this point in time, two elections hence.

Put aside the science, this film is not emotionally engaging or well crafted. It drones on, making the same points over and over. There is nary a scene that doesn’t show Gore’s visage in a thoughtful, contemplative moment, poking at his laptop, or at least the breathy, insipid and over-dramatic narrative of Gore trying to sound impassioned.

Agree with him or not, Michael Moore knows how to make a good film. Al Gore, not so much.

We are treated to utterly contrived scenes of Gore at his laptop, ostensibly spread sheeting data over the Internet he invented or having deep thoughts, deep sighs, or his clearly staged cell phone conversation with a clandestine special operative to substantiate some conspiracy. There are more than a few personal vignettes featuring his family or his father or his son or an overwrought anecdote about his childhood, his dog, or his pony, that a more assertive director would have left on the floor as they have no logical relevance. Transitions leading back to the main premise make this awkward and obvious – Al wanted to tell these stories no matter what.

What of the science? For that you can just as easily click on the Global Warming Label on this blog and find more than thirty posts debunking (or at least deriding) the so-called science underlying the man-made global warming movement, but here are some of the highlights of the film’s scientific shortcomings:

No film about Global Warming could be complete without reference to the Katrina disaster and the swarm of category five storms that were predicted to follow closely thereafter. Only they didn’t. Forecasts were lowered. The linking of Katrina to Global Warming has been discredited over and over.

Al Gore’s case for Man-Made Global Warming is this: The earth is warming (agreed). We are causing it (prove it!). Only he doesn’t. He offers example after example of proof that the earth is warming and that CO2 levels are moving up and down in lock step with the fluctuations over time. He fails to prove that the CO2 levels are the cause rather than the effect. He also fails to mention that of all CO2 emissions worldwide, the oceans of the world are responsible for almost 60 percent, respiration another 30-plus percent, fossil fuel use about four percent. That means less than 5 per cent of all CO2 emitted has anything to do with industrialization. And yet Al Gore trips over himself in asserting “Almost 30% of the CO2 that goes into the air each year comes from forest burning.” Clearly not true.

He uses a thousand-year graph of temperature and CO2 readings which is an inadequate time slice especially if one is knowledgeable about the cycles our earth has gone through well before man existed let alone became industrialized.

He then moves to a 650,000 year graph of temperature vs. CO2 levels and shows the correlation which actually makes the point of a skeptic because it begs the question, what caused the increases in CO2 before man was industrialized, and again, even 650,000 years is a small slice compared to the earth’s life.

He chooses his words carefully when he claims “there is not a single fact or date or number that’s been used to make this up that’s in any controversy” which may have been true when the film was made but is now known to be untrue.

As evidence that the earth is warming, Al Gore bombards us with graphics and photos showing glaciers melting and crashing dramatically into the ocean, raising sea levels and flooding New York, Florida and the Netherlands. The Netherlands!

Problem is, this still doesn’t prove that the less than five percent of global CO2 emissions attributed to industrialization are the cause. He goes on about birds and trees and caterpillars and pine beetles and mosquitoes, layer upon layer of circumstantial evidence tied to a warming earth as if piling it higher and deeper somehow undoes the position of the skeptics. Which is, that a warming earth causes levels of CO2 to increase and not the other way around. He moves on to show the effects of global rising temperatures creating new vectors for communicable diseases, floods, droughts, and all kinds of economic mayhem, as if an extreme extrapolation of the effects of rising temperatures proves that we are the cause.

Yet another detour in the form of a story from his childhood tobacco farm featured the tragic death of Al Gore’s sister from lung cancer. He then likens heavy human use of tobacco, despite the surgeon general’s warning of its cancer risks, to our denial of global warming. Just one thing. One has been proven. The other has not.

Much of the “hottest years in history” claims used in the film have been recently discredited. Compounding this fact is that temperature recording stations providing this data around the world have been shown to have recorded data that can no longer be held to be accurate due to the stations being moved, having population and industry built up around them, or even in at least one case having been installed on rooftops where air conditioning equipment had been subsequently installed nearby.

And now, back to the 2004 elections! A drawn out passage of media coverage and snippets of polling results and analysis depict the excruciating time when the presidential election was undecided in Florida. I literally said “What the hell is this?” It was so abrupt I almost thought my DVD player had skipped back to the beginning of the film.

Another awkward segway featuring a breathy, deflated Al Gore.

“Well that was a hard blow, but what do you do? You make the best of it. It brought into clear focus the mission that I had been pursuing for all these years and I started giving the slide show again.”

I really wanted to eject at this point but I persisted to no avail.

Gore derides a professor of his that doubted South America and Africa were once contiguous, which is now known to be true. Gore’s graphic fit the two together like puzzle pieces highlighting an enormous natural global upheaval that undoubtedly effected global climate and has been going on for millions of years and is not caused by man. Ironically, Gore derides skeptics that believe the earth’s minute temperature fluctuations and the resultant changes in climate are part of the earth’s cycles, which have been going on for millions of years, and are not caused by man.

Another and more likely cause of climate change is fluctuating solar energy levels, which also move in step with temperature changes, ice core data, tree rings, sea sediment samples and CO2 levels over time. But that correlated data didn’t make Gore’s super-sized graphs.

A “canary in the coalmine”, the supposed shrinking arctic icecaps has very recently been discredited, ironically by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and their recent report which I posted today.

Never mind the fact that scientists and the media including our own Pioneer Press have been reporting since May of 2005 that the Antarctic ice mass has been growing not shrinking.

Gore offers this: “A friend of mine once said in 1978 ‘if you see the break up of ice shelves along the Antarctic peninsula watch out because that should be seen as an alarm bell for global warming.’” Oh, the drama! We never learn who this friend is and he moves on any way.

Another dramatizing animation attempts to substantiate that there is a consensus among scientists regarding mankind’s role in global warming. This supposedly removes all doubt but has since been found to be completely without merit. Gore reads damaging memos issued between tobacco company executives leaked after the surgeon general’s cancer link discovery. He then recites a similar “memo” without attribution from someone somewhere regarding global warming as if the two were correlated.

He sites this quote to great audience laughter and applause “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it” – Upton Sinclair. Which belies the fact that the same holds true for thousands of scientists whose grants and salaries depend on the ongoing man made global warming movement.

Gore goes on to offer solutions. The Kyoto Accord for example, and lists the countries, like the US, that have failed to comply despite the fact that if every country implemented every element of the Kyoto Accord, there would be virtually no effect on worldwide CO2 levels as mankind is responsible for a small percentage in the first place.

Further, he asserts that “We can’t sell our cars in China today because we don’t meet the Chinese environmental standards.” A total lie. Ford, GM and Chrysler have been selling cars in China for years. In fact just last month, General Motors announced sales have topped one million vehicles sold in China.

Knowing An Inconvenient Truth had won an Oscar for Best Documentary I was hoping for an artful and engaging film despite being predisposed on the theories behind the movement. I tried to watch the film with an open mind. I was surprised by how the film established early on that it was as much about Gore’s political laments and memoirs as it was about saving our planet.

Having studied global warming arguments prior to watching this, the movement’s most prominent documentary, I found the film increasingly frustrating to watch as numerous assertions were presented as fact without substantiation while others were just plain lies.

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