Wednesday, June 21, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth?

Or just a political film?

I saw Al Gore's "documentary" of the above title. Gore gives a lecture using the latest in Apple technology (his laptop may get an Academy nomination for best supporting actor) about the realities of global warming...the realities being global warming is here, it is having major effects on the environment and, if not addressed immediately, the effects will be catastrophic environmentally and economically. The film is not great; interspersed throughout the "lecture" are personal anecdotes, tidbits of traumas and challenges in Gore's life which are attempts to show why Gore is so invested in these environmental concerns. Probably they are meant to give the audience a break, to keep the "class" awake. I found these parts mostly hokey and off-focus; I found the "lecture" much more interesting.

Gore's claims (from the movie and from the film's web-site:

The 14 hottest days in recorded history happened within the last 20 years. The hottest was 2005. The cause, Gore says, is global warming--which is caused by human beings.
The number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes has almost doubled in the last 30 years.
If the warming continues, we can expect catastrophic consequences:
Deaths from global warming will double in just 25 years -- to 300,000 people a year.
Global sea levels could rise by more than 20 feet with the loss of shelf ice in Greenland and Antarctica, devastating coastal areas worldwide.
The Arctic Ocean could be ice free in summer by 2050.
More than a million species worldwide could be driven to extinction by 2050.

The bit about sea levels rising is pretty crazy; he shows how that could happen by explaining that if Greeland's ice OR a piece of Antarctica slides into the sea it would be like dumping a piece of ice into a glass of water--which would rise. His nifty Powerbook shows us what that would look like: Florida almost disappears; my house would probably be under water in the San Francisco Bay Area, India, Japan, Africa...and many more regions would sea their coast-lines completely transformed.

Even crazier is when he demonstrates what would happen if melting glacier water from Greenland fell into the Atlantic; basically, it would disrupt and then completely stop the oceanic current which cycles warm and cold water through the ocean. The ocean would cool, the surrounding land would cool and Europe would be throw into an Ice Age.

Is this sciene or science fiction? I don't have all the facts so I can't comment. If it is all true then I would agree with Gore that we have a moral responsibility to act because many people would suffer, become homeless and die in the next 50 years or so.

Now I don't hear Gore saying we have to "save the earth" which is nice because then I would have to bring up George Carlin's bit about how the earth doesn't need to be saved, that maybe the earth just needed plastic bags and created humans to make plastic bags and now that there are enough plastic bags the earth can get rid of humans. It's funny cuz that, too, is an inconvenient truth: we are expendable (and probably recyclable).


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