Friday, January 12, 2007

Pondering "An Inconvenient Truth"...

This film is probably one of the most important films of the past few years. It is definitely a must see, and it will definitely freak you out, like the above movie poster would imply.

This here, is some chilling stuff (ooooh, reversed play of words on global warming ! HUH!). But seriously, it really does give you plenty of justified cause for alarm.

The film is mainly aimed at the large proportion of American people who either do not believe that global warming is a threat, or who actually believe that there is no such thing as human interaction with the environment. The basic premise of the movie is that yes, humans are having an impact on the environment, and that this impact is huge and dangerous if left unadulterated like it is.

My first bit of critique on the movie lies within the fact that, for everyone who already IS convinced by this fact, which is the huge majority of people, the main point is already accepted. I personally have absolutely no doubt in my mind that we are much to blame for global warming, that we have an impact on nature, and that this impact is largely negative. The extent of how screwed we are is the part that I am not entirely convinced of yet, based on some scientific and personal unwillingness to think that the world is about to end with fire and gnashing of teeth. I'm in luck, because the movie then serves as a device to show examples of just how much we are affecting the climate.

With my self firmly convinced of the basic premise, I can proceed with the movie within the mind frame that Al would want. As the movie progressed, I had a few things that bugged me, either about presentation of fact, cinematic objectivity, or science. I will mention these later. When the movie ended however, I definitely knew that this was a good one... The science, though complicated, is presented clearly, matter of factly, and very interestingly. The movie is gripping, and the tempo and realization of the film is superb. At the end, you know that you don't want to keep polluting, and the credits give you instructions on what to do next.

Basically, the movie is great, you have to see it, it will either change your mind, or remind you of the urgency at hand about global warming. While I do not buy (though i want to believe) many of the inferences made, the movie is tidy not to stray too far from the fact and dwell on supposition and worst case scenarios.

Now, as I said I had a few bones to pick with the movie, here they are, in no particular order:

_ His original premise well established in my mind, I couldn't help but notice the political slant that Al has in the movie. It is obvious that to some extent, he is in it for the political message. There is nothing wrong with that, but we fall into a state where you can't help but wonder if what you're hearing is spun. Sort of like Michael Moore, only far more credible.

_ The theatrics, which are meant to shock you, work, but sometimes giving you a wrong impression.

Though he never does say it, you could gather from the film that Hurricane Katrina was directly caused by global warming, inferring that the current government is at fault. He is cautious in not directly stating this, the message being that Katrina is of the magnitude of storms that we will come to expect as the ocean temperatures go up, which is true. However, you cannot directly correlate a massive disaster with global warming. Hurricane Andrew in 1992 caused far more damage than Katrina. Katrina is far more effective for the film though, because it was such a disaster on a human scale. However, this disaster had to do with the fact of Katrina being as strong as it was, coupled with he fact that it hit New Orleans dead on. It was cumulative circumstances that caused the disaster, not the storm in and of itself. Gore does not say this, but you could gather that from the movie... Fact is that you cannot say that a freak thing happening is directly correlated with global warming. Proof of that is that this year, we had no large scale disasters like Katrina, and the hurricanes were relatively mild...

The other bit of cinema that I thought could be misleading was when he shows what would happen to the world with 20 extra feet to the water level. He shows the rapid disintegration of all of our coast. Most notably, he shows Holland being completely swallowed up. Besides the fact that the animations are misleading, because they happen quickly, when the level of the oceans would take 1000 years or so to rise to that level, it's kind of ridiculous to show Holland being obliterated due to water. Last I checked, Holland would be swallowed up by water if their sea barriers failed, with or without global warming. The Dutchies wouldn't just sit around for 1000 years, no, they'd build higher levies...

The point is clear, but the freak factor turned me off a bit...

_ My main beef with the film lies with Gore and the Ice Age. In the film, he shows that when the North American continent melted, it added immense amounts of fresh water to the North Atlantic Ocean. This region is home to the feature I have affectionately named The Big Huge Ocean Pump of Doom. This pump takes the warm water that has been circulated across the globe, and then makes it colder. the Colder, denser water sinks to the bottom, along with a lot of salt. When the North American ice cap melted, it diluted this water, causing the pump to effectively stop, which in turn caused Europe to experience another ice age. This is the exact same concept as "The Day After Tomorrow". Gore even says that from the moment the pump stopped to the European ice age could have been a period of barely 10 years. I believe him, after seeing what a huge iceberg did to the pump in early November, when we all got a freak snowstorm... He ends this segment dramatically when he says "Well, is there another place covered in ice that could melt? *Looks up at Greenland* Oh, yeah... We'll get back to that one".

And get back to that one he does, only not in the way I had hoped. See, the only thing he then says is that Greenland is melting extremely quickly, and that if it does melt, the ocean levels will go up 20 feet. But, no mention of any potential ice age... This bothers me, because this was part of his argument previously, but now, this fact does not even come into consideration. If Greenland DOES melt, then it would send a crap load of fresh water RIGHT at that pump, and that would stop it as well I would presume. But no mention of any ice age...
I got stuck on this point, because it seems that an ice age is the logical conclusion to all of this, according to his own data. We are accelerating the rise in C02 in the atmosphere as the cycle is making it rise, and this in a very rapid time. I want to think that this is simply accelerating the point to where the balance turns.

It takes a lot longer for the CO0 to build up in the atmosphere. This means that there is more C02 longer, melting ice and causing climate change over a longer period of time. Then, at some point, this stops and we have an ice age. Well, if we're speeding this up, then we're bringing about the ice age quicker, and to do this, you need a LOT more C02. Basically, in an analogy, what the Earth does is slow cook, increasing the temperature over time, and we are using a microwave. In the end, the effect is the same, the hot pocket is cooked boiling lava hot to the point that you throw it in the freezer and hope it gets diarrhea and not yourself.

So I guess what I am saying is that we CANNOT know, given our lack of evidence and lack of perspective, what will happen. We suppose that it is bad, and I am sure as heck for preserving the Earth. The fact is that at this point, an ICE AGE looks about as probable as a massive increase and frying of the Earth, and this all base don the same data.

WE cannot make such drastic inferences, which is why I don't buy into the catastrophic theories.

The movie's point is great, but we're all sold on it, at least in Europe.

At this point however, I'm all for a new ice age. I wanna ski man!


Blogger Claire... said...

Personally I'd be more concerned about the PROVEN fact that discarded cigarette butts look ugly in ANY environment. Lots of people can't even pick up their own trash, forget reducing gaseous emissions. What everyone should be really freaked about is where they're going after they kick the bucket, and that's pretty much a lost cause in most of Western society.

9:30 AM  

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