An Inconvenient Truth
Published: Jan 01, 2006
Category: Non Fiction
An Inconvenient Truth
A few years ago, Naomi Oreskes got tired of the Bush administration’s insistence that "most" scientists disagree with the notion of global warming. Dr. Oreskes is a real scientist and historian — she’s an associate professor of history and director of the Program in Science Studies at the University of California; her books include "Plate Tectonics: An Insider’s History of the Modern Theory of the Earth," cited by Library Journal as one of the best science and technology books of 2002 — so she did what a real scientist does. That is, she read every single piece of science written on global warming to see what "most" scientists said about it.
Not one of them called it a "theory."
In her report, Beyond the Ivory Tower: The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change, she noted:
"The question of what to do about climate change is also still open. But there is a scientific consensus on the reality of anthropogenic climate change. Climate scientists have repeatedly tried to make this clear. It is time for the rest of us to listen."
Later, in a Washington Post essay called Undeniable Global Warming, she wrote with less scientific formality:
"To be sure, no scientific conclusion can ever be proven, absolutely, but it is no more a ‘belief’ to say that Earth is heating up than it is to say that continents move, that germs cause disease, that DNA carries hereditary information or that quarks are the basic building blocks of subatomic matter. You can always find someone, somewhere, to disagree, but these conclusions represent our best available science, and therefore our best basis for reasoned action."
What about you? What do you think?
You may well think — for reasons of religion, or politics, or personal conviction — that global warming is not man-made, or, if it is, that it doesn’t threaten the future of the planet.
You would be in strange company.
Start with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which tells us that the burning of coal and gas has no connection with our steadily rising temperature. "The campaign to limit carbon dioxide emissions is the single most important regulatory issue today," says Marlo Lewis, a CEI senior fellow in environmental policy. "It is nothing short of an attempt to suppress energy use, which in turn would be economically devastating — all to avert an alleged catastrophe whose scientific basis is dubious."
You may be interested to know that CEI gets funding from the American Petroleum Institute. And that Exxon has given $1.6 million to CEI since 1988.
In essence, CEI is paid to lie.
Who else scorns global warming?
Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox News [O'Reilly, Hannity, etc.] and a giant media empire. Or one of his minions, in any event — Kyle Smith, reviewing Al Gore’s movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," in the New York Post:
"He [Gore] implies that no reputable scientists dispute anything he says — basically, that the ice caps are melting and people on the 50th floor of the Empire State Building had better learn to swim. But there is wide disagreement about whether humans are causing global warming (climate change preceded the invention of the Escalade) and about whether we should be worried about the trends. Look carefully at Gore’s charts and you’ll see that the worst horrors take place in the future of his imagination."
Not to put too fine a point on it, but Mr. Smith is also paid to lie.
Because the truth is out there. And it is that inconvenient, annoying, elephant-in-the-room truth which makes this the most important movie you may ever see. Also the most terrifying. Also the most inspiring.
I have gone on about The Issue in general in part because I want you to see what Al Gore is up against here. And, also, because I’m stalling — it’s a bit of a heartbreak to have to address what this movie is really about, which is nothing less than the transformation of life as we know it to a planet of extremes: a hot, wet hell and a frozen wasteland.
"An Inconvenient Truth" is a version of the slide show that Gore has been giving for decades. We see him shlepping his rolling suitcase through airports, a one-man band on his way to a lecture hall in yet another city. Alone on planes and in hotel rooms, he broods. But he comes alive on stage, where he’s the ninth grade science teacher you wish you’d had — he takes complex science and, without mauling it, renders it simple.
Does every picture tell a story? Sadly, yes, and a dramatic one: Here’s a glacier twenty years ago, five years ago, now…. Charts show us what a watery New York would look like, how much of San Francisco would be flooded, how many millions of refugees we might see streaming out of Asia… Here’s an ice shelf fragmenting into ice cubes…
But catastrophe holds the seeds of redemption. And Al Gore isn’t the only one to grasp that history is never a straight-line projection. Right now, the Green movement is on the march; you can see people getting on the bandwagon every day. And companies too, because there’s gold in green — and in a country that no longer manufactures anything and is falling behind in technology and research, there isn’t much gold in anything else.
The venture capitalists and garage-lab entrepreneurs are doing their part. The rest of the job, as Gore says, is pretty much up to us. Because the government is happily in bed with the oil-and-gas lobby. (And no, this might not change if we elect the other guys.) The mainstream press can’t seem to get excited about this issue very often. Which leaves the Internet, the Classics divisions of movie studios and citizen activism.
In my view, that’s plenty — I see no reason why that slumbering beast called The People can’t shape a future without help from the government, the energy industry or the press. Andrew Jackson said, “One man with courage makes a majority.” Right now, that man is Gore. But if you stand up, and you, and you….
It gets pretty corny from here to the end, because that’s the way the world is — it’s about me and my people, and you and yours. I write as the father of a 4-year-old daughter. My wife and I were on the distant fringe of ancient when we met, and it was quite the project to produce this kid. It goes without saying: Our affection for her is on the distant fringe of crazy. But had she not come along, I would have probably gone on as the guy I was for decades: your basic New York media mouth — lots of talk, not much activism. You know: let the rest of the country go to hell, because I’ve got enough museums and galleries, movie theaters and restaurants, smart friends and good books for several lifetimes.
But now she’s here — our very own inconvenient truth. And my wife and I, we owe her. Not just love and beastly expensive schools and a week at the beach, but decent water and clean air and the rest of it. And then, too, because we are crushed by the daily awareness of our great good fortune, we owe something to other kids, whose names we’ll never know. I often wish it were otherwise, but we’re on the hook. And if you’ve got kids or have a soft spot for the defenseless, so are you.
That’s why, a few weeks ago, I urged you to read Boiling Point. (And thanks to all who did.) It’s why I now urge you to see Gore’s movie and/or read his book. And, after, it’s why I hope you will find something — any little thing — you can do to make the environment your mission too.
But why take my word for any of this? Listen to the guy Al Gore defeated in 2000. He has, he says, no plans to see "An Inconvenient Truth." Considering how right he’s been about everything else, I can think of no greater endorsement for this film.
To go to the web site for ‘An Inconvenient Truth,’ click here.