For the last six years, former Vice President Al Gore has dedicated his life to educating the public about global warming. He has perfected a lucid multimedia presentation and delivered it over a thousand times all over the world. The new documentary An Inconvenient Truth provides background on why Gore chose this life course. But mostly, it functions as a record of that performance. The result is a film that is funny, warm, and entertaining at the same time it is absolutely chilling.
False assumption number one: global warming is a theory. In fact, in the scientific community, there is no debate . In 928 peer-reviewed scientific papers on the subject, there is not one dissenting opinion. Sources that attempt to position global warming as anything other than fact are deliberately spreading disinformation because they have a vested interest in the status quo.
False assumption number two: the Earth is so big, humanity can’t be the cause of global warming. It took 10,000 generations for the world population to reach 2.5 billion. In a single human lifetime, that population has climbed to 6 billion. There is an almost perfect correspondence between the record levels of CO2 in our atmosphere and our current record temperatures. Ten of the hottest years ever measured occurred in the last 14 years. In 2003, 200 cities reached all-time highs. A European heat wave killed 35,000 people. India reached 122 degrees, killing 144,000.
A one degree temperature increase at the equator translates into twelve degrees at the poles. The polar ice caps are history. Because that ice no longer reflects sunlight, and water absorbs it, ocean temperatures have skyrocketed, affecting the gulf stream and the jet stream – which regulate the world’s weather patterns. We have seen an all-time high for typhoons in Japan, and a worldwide proliferation of tornadoes and hurricanes of unprecedented number and force. Last year alone we got hurricanes Jeanne, Frances, Ivan, and of course, Katrina, which began as a category one storm, but crossed abnormally warm ocean waters, picked up energy, and the rest is history.
Shifting and severe weather patterns have caused insect infestations and exotic diseases – 30 in the last decade — including SARS, West Nile Virus, Ebola, and the Avian Flu. The coral reefs are dead. Species loss is 1,000 times greater than background levels.
False assumption number three: these changes are cyclical. 1,000 years ago there was a medieval warming. But it was a blip compared to today. Global temperatures and CO2 levels are at their highest in 650,000 years. The snows of Kilimanjaro are gone. Glaciers in Alaska, Switzerland, Argentina, and Nepal – gone. Lake Chad, one of the largest lakes in the world, has simply evaporated. In Antarctica, an entire ice shelf – 700 feet tall and 25 miles wide — vanished not in 100 years, but in 35 days. Greenland is eroding from the bottom up. If it melts, Florida, San Francisco, the Netherlands, Beijing, Shanghai, Calcutta, and Manhattan will be submerged. Imagine 100 million people displaced. Is it possible we should address problems other than just terrorism?
The U.S. is the world’s number one contributor to global warming — 30.3% — and Congress is in total denial. Yet public opinion is changing. A disaster of unprecedented proportions can be stopped, we do not have to tank the economy to do it, and small changes in individual behavior can have huge positive effects. To find out how, start by going to the movie.
An Inconvenient Truth opens in Bloomington on Friday, June 23rd. This and other theater and music reviews are available online at wfiu.indiana.edu. Reviewing movies for WFIU, this is Peter Noble-Kuchera.