Inconvenient, sure, but also convincing

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Inconvenient, sure, but also convincing


It’s always been hard for me to understand why the American right-wing flies into such a frothing rage over environmental protectionism. The implication is that only socialists out to destroy capitalism as we know it would care about the planet, and by extension the human race.
Unfortunately, one of the most successful of the anti-environmental corporate smear campaigns has been against climate science. But at last a knight is riding in with a new movie to fight misperceptions and misinformation. A knight named Al Gore.
Since the 2000 election Gore’s image has been one of, as John Stewart has put it, “a hologram.” He’s supposed to be a boring nerd. But get this nerd going on his issue (and pair him up with a good editor) and he’ll surprise you. Gore has been working on climate change for over three decades, and the presentation of his conclusions that is “An Inconvenient Truth” is infinitely more interesting that any lockbox.
Most of the film is a recording of Gore’s long-running traveling slide show about climate change, which he has been performing since before becoming vice president.
Gore starts with an assessment of the damage the corporate world has done to public perception. Over 50 percent of the articles in the press about global warming call into question the phenomenon’s very existence. But in a survey of a random selection of hundreds of scientific papers on the subject, that percentage was zero. Gore makes it crystal clear that the debate on whether global warming is happening is well and truly finished.
The most shocking illustration is a graph of changes in carbon dioxide and temperature. Gore shows the cyclical, natural changes in these measurements. Then he shows how far above the upper point on the graph humans have driven them ― with a cherry picker lifting him a dozen feet off the ground.
Gore also compares the attempt by big business to bamboozle the public on this issue to tobacco companies’ absurd but effective lies about the effects of cigarette smoke, an astute comparison.
What the effects of global warming will be, however, is less clear. Gore ties the devastation of Katrina and the recent extreme increase in the number of annual hurricanes to the temperature change in the world’s oceans. This is plausible, but not definite. More clear is that the melting of glaciers is causing the complete disappearance of islands in the Pacific and is contributing to today’s unprecedented global mass extinction event.
There are a few sections, mainly about Gore’s childhood and family life, the film could have done without ― these stink of politics and weaken the film’s message.
But a few wasted words don’t keep this from being the first frank confrontation of the world’s most dangerous and widely ignored problem. “An Inconvenient Truth” is the most important documentary in years ― truly a cinematic “Silent Spring.” If you have questions or doubts about global warming, your first step should be to see this film. Your second should be to make it matter ― turn off the lights during the day, drive less, use less hot water, contact your representatives. This movie tells the truth, but a principled stand is going to be very inconvenient.

by Ben Applegate
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