T Nation

An Inconvenient Truth


Anyone checked out this film yet? I'm thinking of going this weekend:

Scientists OK Gore's movie for accuracy
By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer1 hour, 27 minutes ago

The nation's top climate scientists are giving "An Inconvenient Truth," Al Gore's documentary on global warming, five stars for accuracy.

The former vice president's movie ? replete with the prospect of a flooded New York City, an inundated Florida, more and nastier hurricanes, worsening droughts, retreating glaciers and disappearing ice sheets ? mostly got the science right, said all 19 climate scientists who had seen the movie or read the book and answered questions from The Associated Press.

The AP contacted more than 100 top climate researchers by e-mail and phone for their opinion. Among those contacted were vocal skeptics of climate change theory. Most scientists had not seen the movie, which is in limited release, or read the book.

But those who have seen it had the same general impression: Gore conveyed the science correctly; the world is getting hotter and it is a manmade catastrophe-in-the-making caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

"Excellent," said William Schlesinger, dean of the Nicholas School of Environment and Earth Sciences at Duke University. "He got all the important material and got it right."

Robert Corell, chairman of the worldwide Arctic Climate Impact Assessment group of scientists, read the book and saw Gore give the slideshow presentation that is woven throughout the documentary.

"I sat there and I'm amazed at how thorough and accurate," Corell said. "After the presentation I said, `Al, I'm absolutely blown away. There's a lot of details you could get wrong.' ... I could find no error."

Gore, in an interview with the AP, said he wasn't surprised "because I took a lot of care to try to make sure the science was right."

The tiny errors scientists found weren't a big deal, "far, far fewer and less significant than the shortcoming in speeches by the typical politician explaining an issue," said Michael MacCracken, who used to be in charge of the nation's global warming effects program and is now chief scientist at the Climate Institute in Washington.

One concern was about the connection between hurricanes and global warming. That is a subject of a heated debate in the science community. Gore cited five recent scientific studies to support his view.

"I thought the use of imagery from Hurricane Katrina was inappropriate and unnecessary in this regard, as there are plenty of disturbing impacts associated with global warming for which there is much greater scientific consensus," said Brian Soden, a University of Miami professor of meteorology and oceanography.

Some scientists said Gore confused his ice sheets when he said the effect of the Clean Air Act is noticeable in the Antarctic ice core; it is the Greenland ice core. Others thought Gore oversimplified the causal-link between the key greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and rising temperatures.

While some nonscientists could be depressed by the dire disaster-laden warmer world scenario that Gore laid out, one top researcher thought it was too optimistic. Tom Wigley, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, thought the former vice president sugarcoated the problem by saying that with already-available technologies and changes in habit ? such as changing light bulbs ? the world could help slow or stop global warming.

While more than 1 million people have seen the movie since it opened in May, that does not include Washington's top science decision makers. President Bush said he won't see it. The heads of the Environmental Protection Agency and NASA haven't seen it, and the president's science adviser said the movie is on his to-see list.

"They are quite literally afraid to know the truth," Gore said. "Because if you accept the truth of what the scientific community is saying, it gives you a moral imperative to start to rein in the 70 million tons of global warming pollution that human civilization is putting into the atmosphere every day."

As far as the movie's entertainment value, Scripps Institution geosciences professor Jeff Severinghaus summed it up: "My wife fell asleep. Of course, I was on the edge of my chair."



Dear Mr. Gore:

I have just seen your new movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," about the threat that global warming presents to humanity. I think you did a very good job of explaining global warming theory, and your presentation was effective. Please convey my compliments to your good friend, Laurie David, for a job well done.

As a climate scientist myself -- you might remember me...I'm the one you mistook for your "good friend," UK scientist Phil Jones during my congressional testimony some years back -- I have a few questions that occurred to me while watching the movie.

1) Why did you make it look like hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, floods, droughts, and ice calving off of glaciers and falling into the ocean, are only recent phenomena associated with global warming? You surely know that hurricane experts have been warning congress for many years that the natural cycle in hurricanes would return some day, and that our built-up coastlines were ripe for a disaster (like Katrina, which you highlighted in the movie).

And as long as snow continues to fall on glaciers, they will continue to flow downhill toward the sea. Yet you made it look like these things wouldn't happen if it weren't for global warming. Also, since there are virtually no measures of severe weather showing a recent increase, I assume those graphs you showed actually represented damage increases, which are well known to be simply due to greater population and wealth. Is that right?

2) Why did you make it sound like all scientists agree that climate change is manmade and not natural? You mentioned a recent literature review study that supposedly found no peer-reviewed articles that attributed climate change to natural causes (a non-repeatable study which has since been refuted....I have a number of such articles in my office!)

You also mentioned how important it is to listen to scientists when they warn us, yet surely you know that almost all past scientific predictions of gloom and doom have been wrong. How can we trust scientists' predictions now?

3) I know you still must feel bad about the last presidential election being stolen from you, but why did you have to make fun of Republican presidents (Reagan; both Bushes) for their views on global warming? The points you made in the movie might have had wider appeal if you did not alienate so many moviegoers in this manner.

4) Your presentation showing the past 650,000 years of atmospheric temperature and carbon dioxide reconstructions from ice cores was very effective. But I assume you know that some scientists view the CO2 increases as the result of, rather than the cause of, past temperature increases. It seems unlikely that CO2 variations have been the dominant cause of climate change for hundreds of thousands of years. And now that there is a new source of carbon dioxide emissions (people), those old relationships are probably not valid anymore. Why did you give no hint of these alternative views?

5) When you recounted your 6-year-old son's tragic accident that nearly killed him, I thought that you were going to make the point that, if you had lived in a poor country like China or India, your son would have probably died. But then you later held up these countries as model examples for their low greenhouse gas emissions, without mentioning that the only reason their emissions were so low was because people in those countries are so poor. I'm confused...do you really want us to live like the poor people in India and China?

6) There seems to be a lot of recent concern that more polar bears are drowning these days because of disappearing sea ice. I assume you know that polar bears have always migrated to land in late summer when sea ice naturally melts back, and then return to the ice when it re-freezes. Also, if this was really happening, why did the movie have to use a computer generated animation of the poor polar bear swimming around looking for ice? Haven't there been any actual observations of this happening? Also, temperature measurements in the arctic suggest that it was just as warm there in the 1930's...before most greenhouse gas emissions. Don't you ever wonder whether sea ice concentrations back then were low, too?

7) Why did you make it sound like simply signing on to the Kyoto Protocol to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions would be such a big step forward, when we already know it will have no measurable effect on global temperatures anyway? And even though it represents such a small emission reduction, the economic pain Kyoto causes means that almost no developed country will be meeting its emission reductions commitments under that treaty, as we are now witnessing in Europe.

8) At the end of the movie, you made it sound like we can mostly fix the global warming problem by conserving energy... you even claimed we can reduce our carbon emissions to zero. But I'm sure you know that this will only be possible with major technological advancements, including a probable return to nuclear power as an energy source. Why did you not mention this need for technological advancement and nuclear power? It is because that would support the current (Republican) Administration's view?

Mr. Gore, I think we can both agree that if it was relatively easy for mankind to stop emitting so much carbon dioxide, that we should do so. You are a very smart person, so I can't understand why you left so many important points unmentioned, and you made it sound so easy.

I wish you well in these efforts, and I hope that humanity will make the right choices based upon all of the information we have on the subject of global warming. I agree with you that global warming is indeed a "moral issue," and if we are to avoid doing more harm than good with misguided governmental policies, we will need more politicians to be educated on the issue.

Your "Good Friend,"

Dr. Roy W. Spencer
(aka 'Phil Jones')



This is a stupid story.

Interesting headline, but is it representative? Let's go down a bit past the headlines that reflect the sincere wishes of the reporting class.

(bolding and underlining added)

Now that's interesting. Hmmm, I wonder how representative that sample is.

And the claims on hurricanes - sure looks like they're being endorsed. I wonder if someone attempting to present unbiased news might have reorganized this slightly. Let's ponder for a moment as we scroll down further.

(bolding added)

Well wasn't that a neat little trick of phraseology. Gosh, we contacted some VOCAL skeptics (but please ignore the next sentence saying that most people we contacted did not see the movie). Continue to scroll.

(bolding added)

Hmmm. Not too surprising. We wouldn't trust those who haven't seen it, after all.

But let's ponder for just a moment. They called 100 scientists, INCLUDING VOCAL SKEPTICS OF GLOBAL WARMING -- and then the 19 (i.e. less than 20% of the sample, which wasn't random anyway) who had seen it say it's top notch.

I wonder if the 19 who had seen the movie, with its limited distribution and marketing as political propaganda, were more likely to include or not include those vocal critics of global warming? Hmmmm...

I wonder what the likeliehood is of the predisposition of beliefs of those 19 scientists toward human-caused global warming generally, as a baseline? Might one presume that the 19 scientists who actually saw or read this limited-distribution political diatribe might just be predisposed to agree with it, even if the AP originally called 100 scientists INCLUDING VOCAL SKEPTICS(!!)(Note how much important it becomes with CAPS! - just a general observation on posting styles...).

But of course, the writer wishes to imply that the 19 who saw it are a representative subgroup of the non-random sampling, including those vocal skeptics, even though they've been sorted based on a decidedly slanting factor.

Hmmm. He's not identified as either a vocal skeptic or a vocal previous embracer of the theory. Note, btw, that the writer did not note that the sample included any scientists who had previously been very supportive of the theory of human-caused global warming. I wonder about Schlesinger... He wouldn't have any pro-agenda ahead of time, would he. ( http://www.niemanwatchdog.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=about.viewcontributors&bioid=29 ) Hard to say, but I'd love to see the transcript of that senate testimony.

What about Robert Corell. I'd say it's a bit clearer he's not among those vocal skeptics that were noted in the second paragraph, in the journalistic equivalent of all caps. ( http://commerce.senate.gov/hearings/testimony.cfm?id=1340&wit_id=3052 ; http://www.groundtruthinvestigations.com/documents/climatechange.html )

So what do you think Al? "I'm right." Thanks. And thanks for the internet...

(bolding and underlining added)

What about MacCracken? Surely they would attempt to quote at least one of those vocal critics they pointed out so prominently before? Nah. ( http://www.geo.msu.edu/glra/PDF_files/workshop%20report/05.%20Appendices/Appendix%201-%20Invited%20talks/03.%20Maccracken.pdf )

But of course, if I had only read the lead I would have assumed the hurricane claims were entirely unproblematic. Which, if you ask a journalist, is what they assume about half the readers do -- read the headline, read the firt couple paragraphs, and that's it.

Even this guy, who obviously is on the pro-side in terms of the divide over human-caused global warming, is pointing out the problems with the hurricane claims. About the story's organization again...

(bolding added)

But wait, isn't that essentially the key claim of the whole thing? Rising C)2 emmissions leads directly in inexorably to the warming and its attendant horrific consequences (including all those hurricanes of course). What about the fact that we were assured a few paragraphs up that all the problems were "tiny"? What about the headline? Oh yeah -- fewer people read down here where there might be a little clarification.

OK, here's a new guy -- they haven't quoted any vocal skeptics yet. Maybe he was, but was miraculously persuaded by this hole-ridden political tract... What do you think? I mean, he wouldn't be someone who's been arguing with those vocal skeptics for at least 10 years, which one could find with a quick google search ( http://www.sepp.org/ipcccont/wigley.htm )...

How dare they not see something that 19 scientists say may have some small problems that may be significant if you look at them closely and that has been packaged as a political diatribe - and even that Mr. Gore has said deliberately exaggerates to scare people into reacting in his preferred manner? The nerve of some people. Obviously scared of the truth.

Thanks again for the internet Al.

Ha, they made a joke about Gore being boring. See how balanced a presentation we've received? That proves it, because they made fun of Gore for being boring. Or were they making fun of us for not being smart enough to care about what's so important? Hard to say - I should listen more carefully to what journalists and Al Gore tell me.

And this was a "news" story by a "science" writer. Thank the lord that I don't have to worry about biased presentation of the cold, hard facts...


So.... is it worth seeing?


Read the book. It's probably cheaper once you include parking, popcorn and a bored date. And then you'll have the claims written out, so you can check them if you are so inclined.


Nice job BB.

Poorly done article with misleading headline.

I don't know if it is an agenda or fearmongering to sell papers from the mainstream media but the more innacurate crap they pump out the more pissed off I get about this stuff.


Bored date? You mean watching Al Gore talk about the alleged destruction of mankind in ten years won't make a chick wanna go down on me afterwards?


It might work if she is a hippie and you make her walk to your place.


There is no way to prove that mankind is causing global warming and I do not believe we can slow it down at this point even if we wanted to.

The earth will correct this through an ice age long after I am gone.

Worrying about this stuff is a waste of time.


For once, I agree with you entirely.


Well having been the only person who has seen it, I would recommend it, but just dont sit too close or your gonna be trapped staring at a 50 foot tall Al Gore face talking awkwardly at you.

And asking BB or Zap for advice on Global Warming/Politics/Anything is like asking SteveO for information on world religion.


Also critically acclaimed (for what it's worth.)

My biggest gripe is that Al Gore does come off kind of like a blubbering vagina, selling himself every couple of scenes.


I suppose you would have a different view on global warming, given the fever swamps of connivance you seem to favor... Nothing like a lot of conspiracy theorizing to make one steam over.