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An Inconvenient Truth

Released: 2006

Genre: Documentary

Runtime: 1 hr 40 min

MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Davis Guggenheim

Starring: Al Gore

A documentary film, directed by Davis Guggenheim, about former United States Vice President Al Gore's campaign to educate citizens about global warming and inspire them to take action.

The film would have more aptly been titled A VERY CONVENIENT THEORY.

Review by: SteveRhodes

Added: 8 years ago

The problems with AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, the documentary about Al Gore's long winded lectures on global warming, start with the title. The film would have more aptly been titled A VERY CONVENIENT THEORY. Parroting the conventional wisdom is anything but inconvenient, and, no matter how religiously you present your vision, a theory is not the same thing as a fundamental truth.

As Gore drones on and on, promising gloom and doom if we don't believe him and do what he says, it is easy be seduced by his pictures of disasters and his ominous graphs. Since he has no doubt about his scary theories of climate change, we aren't encouraged to think either. We are lulled into a sense of impending and certain cataclysmic change, with the oceans about to drown us all.

This propaganda piece is slick -- it is directed by Davis Guggenheim, who directed the "Uncertainty" episode of NUMB3RS, a television drama that tries to convince viewers that math can predict absolutely anything. AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH's purpose appears to be as much about bolstering Al Gore's presidential prospects as it is about seriously examining climate change. From watching hanging chads to visits to Gore's boyhood home to sad stories about his family's tragedies, the movie has everything that any campaign video would want.

But, let's be honest, the "sky is falling" always sells, both books and politicians. Looking at only the past century, we have had warnings every decade that oil was about to run out in the following decade, but the proven reserves stubbornly just keep going up rather than being exhausted as predicted. In the middle of the last century, it was the so-called "population bomb," which was predicted to soon cause widespread famine. And, most germane of all, the media in the early 1970s was full of dire predictions by "all of the experts" that we were entering the next ice age and that mankind was responsible. Contrast this with today, when the media is just as full of predictions that the opposite is about to occur. The only constant is that "we" are still to blame, so we are told that we have to fix it.

Gore claims that the scientists' elaborate computer models predict that absolute disaster is coming and is already underway. What he doesn't remind you is that your local meteorologist can't even predict whether it will rain tomorrow with much accuracy. Yet, we are supposed to believe that these models, which once predicted global cooling and are now predicting global warming, are to be taken as gospel. Remember Long Term Capital Management? They hired some of the smartest Ph.D.s in the entire world in order to build a super-sophisticated stock market model. In the end, it proved to be an abysmal failure, with its collapse rippling through the world's financial markets. Models that attempt to predict the world's long-term climate are a pipe dream, with accuracy parameters so low as to be nearly useless.

The shapes and directions of many of the graphs that Gore produces as facts are in dispute, and on some of them, the root cause of the graph's direction is anything but conclusively known. Sometimes, he widely labels things as being a consensus, which they aren't, and, at other times, he misstates the consensus. He says, for example, that the experts predict that global temperatures will rise a minimum -- a "minimum," he repeats -- of five degrees, whereas most reports have scientists predicting an average of a modest one degree rise over the next hundred years -- an amount very close to the error variations in the data.

As another example, Gore produces a graph showing that Japanese car companies are much more profitable than American ones. He attributes this solely to American auto companies refusing to make the fuel efficient cars we really want. With many "American" cars containing more foreign parts than "foreign" cars, which are increasingly made right here in America, the most obvious difference is that Japanese car companies are in right-to-work states which don't require union membership as a precondition for employment. What the graph really shows then is mainly the cost of union labor, not some sinister plot by American car companies to force their customers to buy gas guzzlers.

Professor Richard Lindzen, the head of atmospheric studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is one of many scientists who don't believe in the religion of global warming, as preached by Gore and others. Professor Lindzen acknowledges that there has been some warming in the past few decades, just as the period of 1940-1970 featured cooling temperatures worldwide. What isn't clear, as Professor Lindzen has pointed out, is to what extent man has been the cause, and whether we can do much to change the temperature in the future.

Moreover, it isn't clear that slightly warmer temperatures are bad. Some studies have suggested that it would produce a longer growing season, thus being a net plus for the planet. Of course, none of these opposing theories are presented in Al Gore's documentary, other than the times he ridicules those who disagree with him with a mocking tone, suggesting that they must be idiots.

Others have argued that, even if we aren't sure whether man is the cause or not, we should immediately take action. Gore keeps pressing the point that fighting global warming isn't a political issue but a "moral imperative."

Taking the wrong action, even for the best of intentions, can be worse than inaction. We banned DDT in order to attempt to save some animals and have killed millions of humans in Africa due to malaria, an inconvenient truth that African leaders keep trying to impress upon western do-gooders.

"What gets us in trouble is not what we don't know. It's what we know for sure that just ain't so," Mark Twain told us. Gore uses this quote early on in the film. Although Gore thinks it applies to those who disagree with his theories. The most obvious application of Twain's quote is to the global warming zealots who believe in their theory with unquestioning and religious intensity.

AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH runs a long 1:40. It is rated PG for "mild thematic elements" and would be acceptable for all ages.