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An Inconvenient Truth (6/10)

by Tony Medley

Al Gore is trying to prove that we are in a period of global warming, which is like trying to prove that grass is green with an abundance of evidence, or trying to kill a mosquito with an atomic bomb. Unfortunately, in addition, he is trying to get us to believe that man is responsible, and that we in the United States have the ability to stop it if only we had the will. This film, which is junk science gone mad, is the baby of leftie producer Laurie David, wife of Seinfeld co-creator, Larry.

If the Al Gore that you see in this movie had been the Al Gore who ran for the presidency in 2000, he would have had a much better chance of being elected than he did then, when he appeared about as loose as a wooden soldier. This Al Gore is relaxed, informative, eloquent, and speaks with a respect for his audience. The 2000 Al Gore was stiff, inarticulate, condescending and cliché-ridden, mouthing insipid platitudes given him by political hacks. He’s still probably wrong about the cause of global warming, but he’s probably wrong with style.

Because this is basically Gore’s stump speech that he estimates he has given over 1,000 times to alert the world to what he considers irrefutable evidence of global-warming, its devastating effects, and that both are caused by human activity, this was a relatively easy movie to produce. Among a mountain of evidence he presents to prove the obvious and universally admitted, he shows time-lapse pictures of the diminishing ice in the Arctic, Antarctic, and Greenland, with before- and now aerial photos. The best graphics he showed were what would happen to various cities throughout the world if both the Antarctic and Greenland ice caps melted completely, which Gore says would raise the level of the ocean 40 feet. The graphics showed how the water would inundate cities like New York City, Beijing, and the entire country of The Netherlands. Pretty scary.

That something is happening is irrefutable. That it is something that can be attributed to human behavior, which is the point of the film, is much more debatable.

This is a technically well-made movie that ultimately fails because of Gore’s faulty logic. For instance, this entire movie shows evidence of global warming. There are lots of shots of glaciers breaking up and falling into the sea. Gore gives us a flood of statistics about what will happen if we do have global warming. He spends a lot of time trying to convince us that global warming is occurring. After doing all that, he comes to the conclusion that the reason why global warming is occurring is because of what man is doing, and specifically because of what America is doing or not doing, like not signing the Kyoto Protocol.

But Al isn’t a scientist (even though he once claimed he invented the internet among lots of other things we take for granted today). What he presents as “science” epitomizes junk science. Just for starters, Al’s arguments are based on flawed logic, which might go over well in the United States Senate given the intellectual level of people like Patrick Leahy, Orrin Hatch, and Teddy Kennedy, but which don’t withstand analysis, which is what we’re going to do right now. Let’s analyze his arguments logically.

First, he’s got a problem with “Confirmation Bias”, the tendency to seek out evidence that is consistent with an hypothesis, instead of seeking out evidence that could disprove it. Al’s hypothesis is that global warming is occurring and man is the cause. All Al does is to present evidence that it’s occurring. He doesn’t show what is causing it, but he comes to the conclusion that the cause wears pants. He doesn’t even try to find evidence that refutes this conclusion.

His logic is further skewed because of the basic error called “correlation to cause,” which occurs when a correlation is observed, and a causal relationship assumed. Al says global warming is occurring and man is doing lots of things at the same time, so man’s actions must be causing the global warming. But he gives us no PROOF that man’s actions are the cause of his alleged global warming.

But even worse is his “Causal Oversimplification,” which occurs when there are many causes to a phenomenon, but the argument implies or assumes that only one is important. It is naïve to assume that if global warming is occurring, there is only one cause. The earth has been cooling and heating throughout its 4 billion year existence. Even assuming that Al’s first premise is correct, that global warming is occurring, he has completely struck out in trying to prove that the sole, primary cause is human activity.

Global warming is one of the left’s pet projects. Consistent therewith the film complains that the United States is one of two advanced countries who have not signed on to the Kyoto Protocol, another of the left’s more boring refrains.

As technically proficient as the film is, it often looks like a campaign poster for Gore 2008. Instead of concentrating on its subject, the film veers into Gore’s personal life, even covering the deaths of his sister and child. While that is emotional and creates empathy for him, it has nothing to do with the topic of the film. Did the producers of “The March of the Penguins” detour into the personal life of the Director Luc Jacquet? Gore’s personal life has nothing to do with Global Warming (some more callous than I might comment that his personal life has as much to do with Global Warming as does human activity, but I would never stoop to such a cheap shot). So why is such information inserted in the film if not to promote Al for some political office?

Unfortunately, the film virtually ignores the real environmental calamity, which almost without doubt is a large contributor to any global warming, and that’s the vicious, continual destruction of the rain forest. The tropical rain forest has circled the globe for 60 million years. Twenty five percent of our prescription medicine comes from 10% of the known rainforest plants.  But, fasten your seat belt, only an estimated 5-25% of all plant species have been found.  1,300 of the known 2,000 cancer-fighting plants come from the rainforests.  But only 1% of the total number of plants has been studied for medicinal properties! Yet it is being burned to the ground. This is undisputed human activity that nobody is doing anything about. For more on this, see an article I wrote about it in 1996 at the following link: http://www.tonymedley.com/Articles/The_Rainforest.htm.

I wish Gore and the left would devote their efforts to what man is doing to the rainforest. But that would be difficult and the United States has nothing to do with what’s happening there. The left would prefer to tilt at windmills, especially windmills they claim are controlled by America.

Even though, at 100 minutes, it’s about 40 minutes too long, this is an interesting film that can help to increase everybody’s knowledge of what’s going on in the world. However, to counterbalance Gore’s skimpy conclusions, there is another viewpoint, eloquently expressed by author Michael Crichton, a man who really is a trained scientist, and who was on the “man is causing global warming” team until he started researching his novel “State of Fear” (2004). He changed his mind. In a postscript to his book, he states 28 conclusions, six of which are reproduced here:

  1. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is increasing, and human activity is the probable cause.
  2. We are also in the midst of a natural warming trend that began about 1850, as we emerged from a four-hundred-year cold spell known as the “Little Ice Age.”
  3. Nobody knows how much of the present warming trend might be a natural phenomenon…or man-made (which is what Gore claims).
  4. I think that for anyone to believe in impending resource scarcity, after two hundred years of such false alarms, is kind of weird.
  5. The current near-hysterical preoccupation with safety is at best a waste of resources and a crimp on the human spirit, and at worst an invitation to totalitarianism.
  6. I believe people are well intentioned. But I have great respect for the corrosive influence of bias, systematic distortions of thought, the power of rationalization, the guises of self-interest, and the inevitability of unintended consequences.

The film is beautifully produced and shot. The quality of the filming is so clear and beauteous that it is a joy to watch. Throughout I was impressed by the visual clarity of what I was watching. Even though it probably didn’t cost much money to produce, the money spent on the color and quality of the film and the cinematography was well-spent.

 I urge anyone who might be swayed by Gore’s film to read Crichton’s postscript if only to get some balance from someone who has done at least as much research as has Al. And don’t forget that Crichton is a scientist with a medical degree from Harvard. As I recall, Al studied journalism in college. But I did come out of the film with a different opinion of “stiff Al” than I did going in.

That’s not to say that this film is categorically wrong. Who knows?

May 12, 2006