An Inconvenient Truth
“In 39 years I have never written these words in a movie review, but here they are: You owe it to yourself to see this film. If you do not, and you have grandchildren, you should explain to them why you decided not to.” -- Roger Ebert
I do not exaggerate when I say that Al Gore's global-warming documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, may just be the scariest movie you will see this year. While you may be tempted to think that I am making a joke at Al Gore's expense (and who could blame me?), think again.
As the film started, Gore gave a quick encapsulation of the phenomenon of global warming, which necessitated an ever-so-brief defense of its scientific validity. I found myself reminded of a recent "National Geographic" article on Darwinian evolution that began by saying:
“Evolution is a theory. In the same sense, relativity as described by Albert Einstein is 'just' a theory. The notion that Earth orbits around the sun rather than vice versa, offered by Copernicus in 1543, is a theory. Continental drift is a theory. The existence, structure, and dynamics of atoms? Atomic theory. Even electricity is a theoretical construct. Each of these theories is an explanation that has been confirmed to such a degree, by observation and experiment, that knowledgeable experts accept it as fact. That's what scientists mean when they talk about a theory: not a dreamy and unreliable speculation, but an explanatory statement that fits the evidence.”
Is An Inconvenient Truth controversial? Not in the least. Unless you are among the sliver of people who feel that global warming is one of the biggest hoaxes perpetrated on mankind. Never mind the fact that of more than 900 peer-reviewed studies on global warming in established, recognized journals, NOT ONE has challenged the idea of global warming. (On the flip-side, more than 53 percent of articles in the mainstream media have presented it as a theory or been sure to include refutations from a handful of talking heads, many of whom, like Bush-aide Philip Cooney who routinely red-penciled the conclusions of impartial government scientists and, when exposed, resigned and took a job with Exxon Mobil, are bought-and-paid-for by the oil industry.)
Following this film's debut, the Associated Press contacted more than 100 top climate researchers, including vocal skeptics of climate-change theory, for their opinion on Gore's facts. Those who had seen the film came away with an overwhelming impression: Gore got the science right.
This isn't new news. Much as some might like to lead you to believe that global warming is a new fad, it is not. It is old news with an ancient back story and far-flung ramifications. Whatever your party affiliation. I challenge you to sit though this film and not walk out of the theater profoundly affected. Don't make the mistake of thinking this is a partisan issue. It's not. It is, as Gore calls it, a moral issue.
The film is essentially a fascinating and relentless cinematic version of a scientific slide show lecture Gore has been presenting and refining for nearly 30 years, concisely laying out the case that our own carbon-dioxide emissions are becoming increasingly trapped in the Earth's atmosphere and are systematically destroying this planet. Casual in both dress and demeanor, this is the ex-vice-President as you've never seen him before and perhaps wish he could have been six years ago. There is a passion here few have ever seen.
The debate is over. The scientific community agrees the planet is heating up, that we are primarily responsible, that the effects are catastrophic, and that we have only a tiny fraction of time to reverse the coming cataclysm.
Gore has enough graphs, charts, time-lapsed photographs and scientific studies to convince even the most ardent skeptic. Calmly and with humor, Gore shows us evidence that the ice caps are melting, the ocean levels are rising, the weather has gone mad, temperatures are skyrocketing (since humans have kept records, the ten hottest years on record have occurred in the last fourteen years and of those, 2005 was the hottest ever recorded) and if we don't act soon—probably within the next decade—we face a apocalyptic future. Once the tipping point is passed, we will begin the slide towards the destruction of most life on this planet.
The most shocking thing of all is the photographic evidence. Gore doesn't need to hype the doom and gloom. The before and after pictures he shows are more than sufficiently horrifying. There's no spinning the pictures.
Where there were once monolithic, thriving glaciers, vast fields of rock remain. Where massive polar icecaps sat, indestructible and immovable, the arctic shorelines have begun to experience rapid erosion. Perhaps most alarming of all are the images dealing with the Antarctic ice shelf and the glaciers of Greenland. These titanic structures are melting, breaking up and tumbling into the sea. If only one of them, or large enough sections of both were to melt completely, sea water levels would rise to the point that every coastal city in the world, including New York, Shanghai, San Francisco, Calcutta, Miami and thousands of others would be underwater.
With these pictures and reams of irrefutable data, Gore shows that global warming is no longer a hypothetical theory. It is fact and the evidence is everywhere, not the least in the floods, hurricanes and droughts that we're seeing all over the world.
If things are even half as bad as Al Gore says they are in An Inconvenient Truth, we are very likely looking at the end of all humankind. It. Is. That. Serious.
Gore treats his audience like adults, laying out a detailed, lucid and cogent explanation of what is, perhaps, the most pressing issue of our collective history. Gore doesn't waste his time preaching to the choir. On the contrary, this film directly and respectfully addresses the queries and concerns of skeptics, methodically piling evidence on top of evidence, until the truth is obvious and unmistakable.
"It sometimes takes time to connect all the dots when accepted habits and behaviors are first found to be harmful. [But] a day of reckoning might come when you very much wish that you had connected the dots more quickly."
Gore compares our complacency to act with civilized Europe's reluctance to confront Nazism in the previous century. We are entering a “period of consequences,” he says, invoking Winston Churchill, in which we must decide and we must decide before it is too late.
“[Many] are quite literally afraid to know the truth," Gore says. "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."
If this sounds alarmist, it is. And yet, you won't see Al Gore running around like a man with his hair on fire. In fact, this is not a pessimistic film. The truth may be inconvenient, dire even, but it is not hopeless.
There are no action stars or superheros to save the day. In fact, in an odd twist, this is a film in which we all star as both villain and victim. And agent of change. We mustn't give into despair, Gore warns. This nation ended slavery, gave women the right to vote and put a man on the moon. It can accomplish nearly anything. It can certainly lead the rest of the world in stopping global warming. And it even tells us how. Unlike many of the energy assets mentioned in An Inconvenient Truth, “political will is a renewable resource.”
Virtually everyone who sees this movie will be galvanized to do something about global warming. And everyone should see this movie.