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The Gore Documentary: A Few Words

I don't have time to do it justice, but I just found my notes from "An Inconvenient Truth", scribbled in the darkness of the Grandin matinee on Thursday afternoon. I can read some of it, but not all; if I'd been the compulsive type, I could have held my keychain flashlight in my teeth as I wrote, I guess. So before I toss the page in the trash and move on to other things, let me make some comments about Al Gore's documentary.

There is perhaps too much of the narrator in it for some, but for me, Gore's inclusion of some of the formative events that shaped his life and philosophy helped me understand the source and sustenance of his passion for the planet, which I am convinced is as genuine as my own. Significantly to me, he sat under Charles Keeling (who first saw the pattern of CO2 increase over historical times). Gore had an understanding in the late sixties that "we could lose it all" if we tip the balance of health of the atmosphere--that incredibly thin skin of finely-balanced gases to which our burgeoning population has added so many millions of tons of carbon over and above the norms for the millennia preceding the industrial revolution.

He had that moment of deep comprehension in the mid-sixties that we must put the health of the planet in a higher priority than the health of the consumer economies we fret over with the stock market reports every day at five. Not many people, much less politicians, get it. It is indeed an inconvenient truth that we cannot pursue a future that is like our past. And Gore has followed that conviction for thirty years, in spite of the political points it has lost him. He's been called an owl-loving tree hugging whacko, and so have I. I understand what draws him to care for life beyond man's. We're both southern and the same age, so I suppose there are other affinities that make me appreciate what the man has done with his mind and his voice during my times.

But my conclusions about the issue of climate change and man's role in it were not changed by seeing the movie. Along with Gore, I've been watching this scenario develop since the sixties. I left the movie with a deep sadness in the reality that, while some individuals will see the light, in the end, our political system, and those of China and the developing world will not likely jump from the pot until the water has already boiled. We will continue to treat the earth as if it were nothing more than a passive, lifeless concrete block that we do our living on. We will just keep doing what we've always done, and we'll get what we've always got, deferred til the next administration, diluted in air or water downstream or invisible in the atmosphere or dumped someplace out of sight or in other ways deferring the true costs of the effluents of our affluence. We can only hide, ignore and defer for so long before we have to pay.

I look for ways to reduce my environmental footprint; I want my children to do the same. I'll continue to try to face these hard truths and talk about them with folks who mostly already feel the way I do. Beyond that, until some horrible, sustained and undeniable series of environmental catastrophes happens not to "them" but to us, most who see the movie and even more of those who make a point NOT to see the movie with their minds already made up, will not acknowledge the extreme ill health of the planet's economy. And it will just get sicker.

As a world society in these times, we just don't seem capable of suffering privation, reduced profits or change in the short run to insure sustainability in the long run. However, if the conclusions of very many climate scientists are accurate, even the most skeptical among us may live long enough to be convinced that we have a tough set of global problems. Our children most certainly will inherit the consequences of our indifference and inaction. By then, our window of opportunity will likely have passed.

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Fred I haven't made it to the movie yet, but I will. Like you my ecological leanings were set in the '60s and firmed in the '70s. I was an early convert to the concept behind "The Mother Earth News", after growing up in the house of Rodale.
Unfortunately, somewhere along the way life intruded and a lot of the hopes and dreams I had went into the "maybe later" file.

After reading your comments I had one of those serendipitous moments that seem to hit when you least expect them. While in the "reading room" after just having read your post, I picked up the latest issue of "Blue Ridge Country", and turned to the last page to read "The Mountains My Hopes" about Taylor Barnhill. He tells a story about a student who tried to send a contribution of some change to New Orleans after Katrina by placing it in a bottle and dropping it in a stream that would eventually reach the Mississippi River.

The statement he made though that really answered some of your thoughts was:
"The protection of this precious mountain home of ours comes in small glimmers of imagination and daring, and a willingness to dream that our individual actions will make a difference."

I plan to see the movie. Unfortunately, most people, even if they see the problem, figure they will be dead when the really bad effects of it some to pass, so they do nothing to set us on another path.


We've been looking forward to Gore's film coming out --- folks I've talked to have gained a lot of respect for him after watching it; it seems lately he's been shown to be more "soul" than "stiff", something I wish had been the case a few years ago. Then, the cynic in me thinks, if people'd really known how "genuine" his environmental concern was, would he have made it so far in the election?

Fred, I just don't see the problem that you see. " Our children most certainly will inherit the consequences of our indifference and inaction", you say? Is it indifference, ignorance or junk science that forces you to blame profiteers for the current state of the "planet economy"?

A quick fact-check of Gore's "points", demonstrates that this is a political, not a scientific, movie.

For instance, "greenhouse" gases and temperature cannot be correlated UNLESS you are adding a grain of faith. In other words, scientifically there is no relationship between "greenhouse" gases and temperature.

Recorded global temperatures show the earth has warmed up between 1910-1940, cooled back to pre-1910 temperatures from 1940-1971, then returned to 1940's level by 2002. (--Up, down, up--)

Clearly relative CO2 levels increased steadily until 1992, then began a period of decline. Likewise with many "greenhouse" gases. (--up,up,down--)

Even by adjusting for a delayed reaction, there is no correlation or possible parallel line curvature (even with a time offset) that can possibly be twisted to explain the LACK of CORRELATION between greenhouse gas levels and temperature.

Another example from the movie that just tickled me, was his assertion that hurricanes can be blamed on global warming. United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says "Changes globally in tropical and extra-tropical storm intensity and frequency are dominated by inter-decadal and multi-decadal variations, with no significant trends evident over the 20th century."

What Gore failed to mention was the fact that trade winds entered a pattern of decrease in 1970. Weaker trade winds result in less oceanic evaporation which lead to higher sea-surface temperatures.

The real question is: What caused a sudden decline in trade wind strength in 1970 that set off this period of warming? And can the it be reversed?

(Mr. Gore probably does not like the answer to that question, because it does not fit in with his anti-free enterprise agenda.)

Here's a glimpse at 1970:

January 23 - U.S. launches 2nd generation weather satellite, ITOS 1
January 23 - U.S. performs nuclear test at Nevada Test Site
January 29 - U.S.S.R. performs nuclear test at Eastern Kazakh/Semipalitinsk U.S.S.R.
February 4 -U.S. performs nuclear test at Nevada Test Site
February 5 - U.S. performs nuclear test at Nevada Test Site
February 10 - 26.4 cm precipitation falls on Mount Washington NH (state record)
February 10 - Dry powder avalanche moving at 120 mph smashes into youth hostel killing 40 Belgian, French, and German youths (Val d'Isere, France)
February 11 - 26.37 cm (10.38") of rainfall, Mt Washington, NH (state 24-hr rec)
March 23 - U.S. performs nuclear test at Nevada Test Site
March 27 - U.S.S.R. performs nuclear test at Eastern Kazakh/Semipalitinsk U.S.S.R.
March 28 - 1,086 die when 7.4 quake destroys 254 villages (Gediz Turkey)
May 21 - U.S.S.R. performs nuclear test at Novaya Zemlya U.S.S.R.
May 22 - France performs nuclear test at Muruora Island
May 23 - U.S.S.R. performs nuclear test (underground)
May 27 - U.S.S.R. performs nuclear test at Eastern Kazakh/Semipalitinsk U.S.S.R.
May 29 - U.S.S.R. performs nuclear test (underground)
July 24 - U.S.S.R. performs nuclear Test at Eastern Kazakh/Semipalitinsk U.S.S.R.
August 2 - France performs nuclear test at Fangataufa Island
August 3 - Hurricane "Celia" becomes most expensive Gulf storm in history
August 6- France performs nuclear test at Muruora Island
August to Dec - The testing goes on and on.

Is global-warming a reality? Yes

Can it be stopped? Perhaps, if the true cause is recognized and the nuclear-test-happy government pumps a few dollars into finding a way to reverse the effect.

Is man causing global-warming? Indirectly, but not significantly, at this point in time.

Is the sun causing global-warming? Mars and Jupiter are also experiencing global warming over the same time period, so perhaps.

Is the earth reflecting less sunlight to outer space than it used to?
Probably, and if people keep using solar collectors, black parking lots and other radiation absorbers, the trend will clearly continue to worsen.

Can we do anything to help? Perhaps we can encourage the building of nuclear power plants (100% clean energy) and discourage the planting of CO2 plants like corn and oak trees; encourage the use of wood burning for heat (CO2 nuetral) .

I will be happy to go on if you are interested in the science.

Remember: When you find yourself "believing" something, it's probably a fact that you have not done enough research.

Footnotes:
http://www.brainyhistory.com/years/1970.html
http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/006.htm
http://www.nationalpress.org/usr_doc/gerry_bell_hurricanes_National_Press_Forum_oct2005.ppt (NOAA presentation)

Lynn, thanks for your examples which you interpret as showing no "direct correlation" between CO2 and mean global temperature. I agree Gore is connecting the dots; more and more of them are appearing and as happened in that schooldays exercise, a face, a something is starting to appear. How many dots are enough? Correlation will never be 100%, but there is an impressive number of climate scientists who "have done enough research" who feel the evidence linking greenhouse gases, past and present, with climate change is firm enough to attribute cause. Always in plotting correlation there are points that lie off line, some farther than others (like your example, perhaps, of 1970). While there are exceptions, outliers, that can be called up to support the contrary opinion in any argument from data, we'd best be taking a hard look at where the trends carry us, especially if the data continue to support the hypothesis.

Thank you for including the link from IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. On that link, the section titled Emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols due to human activities continue to alter the atmosphere in ways that are expected to affect the climate provides evidence in support of anthropogenic contributions to greenhouse gases. http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/006.htm

Connect the dots. Greenhouse gases are increasing and man has contributed, and there is an impact on global temperatures, according to this resource.

And from there, elsewhere among IPCC's conclusions, on a page title Detection of Climate Change and Attibution of Causes this panel gives examples of research that rules out naturally occurring cycles to explain the correlation between CO2 levels and recent climate change. http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/467.htm

Perhaps we're drawing different conclusions from the same evidence.

For my money, I'd like to see us leave less impact on the planet regardless of how the data finally line up on this issue. It's a given that we live on a finite planet with finite limits we are approaching (or have already exceeded) and that six billion of us on the spaceship are headed toward a time of serious consequences unless we abandon our illusions of limitless growth and unbridled conversion of earth products into waste heat and gas, ash and landfills.

Im' thinking I don't see any climate scientists getting rich off their "spin" on the data.

That was an awfully polite response to Lynn, considering there are virtually NO respected scientists, other than those linked to the fossil fuel industry, who would support her view.

Sadly, she's not the only one resistant to the clear science. Thanks for trying to do your part to highlight the issue.

I saw An Inconvenient Truth a few weeks ago. Like you, I was initially uncomfortable with the parts focusing on Gore: at times it felt like a candidate's biography, an attempt to get us to *like* or even *vote* for the man. As the film continued, though, I realized the personal bits offered a mental break from the scientific data: in lieu of offering comic relief, the filmmakers offered a *personality* whose life story served as a kind of parable of environmental engagement. Had there not been these more personal interludes, the science would have probably been overwhelming.

I think in the end Gore made it pretty clear that what we need is a monumental shift in social consciousness & political policy. In the 19th century, some Americans argued that it wasn't possible to abolish slavery; in the 20th, some argued that apartheid, Communism, or British colonialism would never fall. The environment needs its own Gandhi: someone willing to lead a cultural/spiritual revolution that will turn the status quo upside down.

I don't think Al Gore is that man, but perhaps his passion will help inspire someone (or perhaps a *movement* of people) to get the revolution moving.

Trey, Why should he be anything other than polite? Should we be rude to people who do not agree with us?

If you'd like to define "respected", I'd be happy to provide papers that cover this very topic.

This issue, like other political ones, will remain moot. This is the only earth we have, so there is no experimental control. Because of this, we cannot definitively test the hypothesis that CO2 output and global warming are significantly correlated. Still, it would not be surprising to find that people have degraded their planet. Hopefully, a solution lies in technology and not just regulation, as I and others hate constraints.

Also, this is a global issue and cannot be solved by regional politics. What we do as individuals only works in terms of the aggregate. For example, if you live a "reduced energy" life, then you may only subsidize "heavy users" elsewhere. Herein lies the problem: the environment is a public good that does not incent people to protect it as if it were their own.

I could come up with a list of ways to change energy usage: implement telecommute, reduced cost hybrid vehicles, alternative energy usage and research, efficient homes and appliances, taxes on energy usage, energy limits, etc. But, none of this will fly with the public unless it is implemented on a global level, and I haven't heard a realistic way to get that done (yes, this includes Kyoto).

Jim, while it is true that a global problem requires a global solution, it is also true that the US is disproportionately contributing to the problem. The United States has 4 per cent of the world population but is responsible for a quarter of all carbon dioxide emissions - an average of 40,000 pounds of carbon dioxide is released by each US citizen every year - the highest of any country in the world, and more than China, India and Japan combined. That means the US could make a significant contribution to a solution all by itself.

And Lynn, I agree that politeness should be the order of the day. It's just that your suggestion that carbon dioxide is not responsible for global warming, but solar collectors may be, caused me to spew my morning coffee.

Trey,

Reducing CO2 from 25% to 0% may have no impact on global warming. Given that, would you be willing to adjust your lifestyle to that of a developing world citizen?

Also, China's CO2 will grow along with its economy which is expected to be larger than the US and any other economy within the next 10 years. People's demand for energy will only grow, and only technology (or Fred's bird flu pandemic) will change CO2 output.

Trey, exactly where is and what is the "clear science" you speak of? I wasn't aware that the alleged human contribution side of the equation has been either proved or disproved beyond a doubt. If you could site some credible sources of proven, undeniable facts I'd appreciate it and would like to take a look at that information.

MAX: Scientific consensus summarized here: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/306/5702/1686
Among many other places.

JIM: What's your source for the statement that a reduction of 25% "may" have no impact?

Also, we're mixing arguments here related to whether global warming is caused by man/CO2 (Lynn's point) and the feasilbility of a possible solution to it. But yes, to answer the question, I would be willing to make a lifestyle change if it could save the planet. That seems like an easy one to me.

When you can predict reactions to scientific consensus by political leanings, which you can with issues like evolution and global warming, you can safely assume something other than science is driving those opposed to the consensus. I'm not addressing the commenters here because I don't know your political leanings, but I offer than as generally true. And issues of science can only be answered by science. The "now what" question is the political one.

Trey, so it went from "clear science" to "scientific consensus"? I like that.

Max, I don't understand how you see "clear science" different from "scientific consensus". If by clear science you mean 100% agreement, then I'm not aware of any such. at least in my 40 years association with the sciences.

There have been dissenting opinions on every "fact" of consensus science going back far beyond continental drift and protein synthesis. I don't see this as the bait and switch you apparently do.

But I also don't support falling in behind the dissenters because their minority opinions line up with biases that arise from relams other than science. And then, to let those outliers determine government policy is a more egregious level of erosion of the way science has been done over the past half century or more.

Yeah. What Fred said.

This is a great book on this subject:

http://www.waronscience.com/home.php

Fredlst, I wasn't the one who brought up either clear science or scientific consensus. I simply would like to know what the consensus is of what clear science is. I believe that there can be clear science on matters with opposing views. As for consensus is it not possible that on either side of this debate that one could say that it is the consensus of 38%, for example, of scientists that such and such is fact? That leaves 62% of scientists that either have the same opinion (but a different opinion from the 38%) or that their opinions are still different but all over the place among that 62%.

Trey,

My source is all global warming research stating that global temps cycle over time, and that the recent warming trend may be a natural trend rather than man-made. Any climate-predicting model cannot control for all forces that affect the climate, therefore, the predictions from these models may not be correct.

Even if the warming trend is owing to people's activity, then technology can help. Scientists are very poor predictors of the future as evidenced by many catastrophic projections that never came to pass because of techonological innovation.

Reducing CO2 in the US by regulation may cause polluters to move to the developing world where there are no regulations, and thereby pollute even more than if left alone in the US. I do agree that we should reduce CO2 emissions but only gradually and only at small costs.

Jim, go back and read the link I posted a few days ago. The IPCC quotes source after source who say the current variability cannot be accounted for by natural cycles (taking into account sun flares, volcanoes, and other possible sources.

http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/467.htm

What concerns me in this debate is typified by your refusal to invoke any personal change, much less conservation as a national policy, to take an active role in this matter. Yes, technology can help, but if we don't change our minds and our habits, changing our tools will not be the answer. Some of what must happen will be bad for business; some of it will curtail or even reverse growth trends in some industries. GNP's may initially fall. But it's a cinch that, if this problem is indeed of the magnitude that it appears to be, global economies will not be able to absorb the multiple catastrophes. Take a look at how the insurance company actuaries are playing this future eventuality. They don't seem to like the odds their seeing. You're a numbers man. How do you read that industry as it anticipates a hundred Katrinas in a single year?

Sorry, I'm out of pocket, and not able to send links or say this more clearly from my daughter's house in SD. Check my facts on the insurance company prognostications, let us know what you find and think, Jim.

The most interesting element of the anti-science folks in this discussion is how they mix the two issues. Those issues are: (1) Is it clear scientifically that global warming is caused by man-made greenhouse gases? and (2) Are we interested in making the sacrifices necessary to reduce those gases?

They seem to be starting with the second question, answering "no," and then backing up to construct an answer to the first. This strikes me as intellectually disengenuous.

I've been through similar debates on the evolution/intelligent design issue, and the parallels are striking. We seem to believe what we want to believe, science be damned.

I'm not much of a debator nor is the field of science my forte. But, I don't see Jim and Max as being anti-science, as Trey stated. As on a lot of Scientific issues, there are differing opinions and a lot of conclusions still take a leap of faith, as does religion. But- I do believe we are called to be good stewards of what we are given- that includes the earth that we live on. So whether you believe in the global warming theory or not, every person should be doing what they can to take care of the earth and make a smaller ecological footprint. That just seems like common sense to me.

My only point is that we should have plenty of time to gather more information on this issue (read: I'm stubborn and dense). A few more decades would give us more data, help us better understand the complex forces of the climate, and give us time to develop both technological solutions and proper pollution disincentive policies.

So, given our bad record of dire predictions, I don't see why we have to go to red alert yet and potentially make poor government policy.

As far as the hurricanes, I thought I read somewhere in here that President Bush was responsible for those :) Seriously, sometime in summer 2005 I read this:

http://www.magazine.noaa.gov/stories/mag184.htm

But what does it matter? One problem with this Internet thing is that suddenly everyone is an expert and they start slinging IP addresses like Clint Eastwood slings his pistols.

Amy F., you are quite the diplomat. Next assignment...Lebanon!

Trey,

Solar collectors do contribute to global warming.

Crude models can help us better understand the global warming dilemma.

**If the earth, including its atmosphere, is viewed as a black box, then we can easily understand the temperature within the "black box" will increase if the addition of heat from outside does not have a corresponding release of heat back to the outside. Heat in = heat out.

The only heat provided from OUTSIDE this black box comes from the sun.

If LESS heat is released into to space than was absorbed, then the earth will warm rapidly.

If MORE heat is released into to space than was absorbed, then the earth will cool rapidly.

Al Gore believes pollution in the atmosphere (greenhouse gases) prevents reflected rays from reaching space. [This is illogical however: "Greenhouse gases" are not one-way valves, allowing heat in but not letting it out. If these gases were reflective, they would prevent the sun's heat from ever reaching the earth in the first place.]

What then does prevent absorbed heat from being released into space? Inhibited reflection is one potential cause of radiation reduction, but ABSORPTION is another problem.

Most of the earth's surface ABSORBS light and heat energy from the sun. Some areas (deserts) on the earth's surface reflect heat energy from the sun.

[BTW, Forty percent or so of the sun's energy is reflected into space, by water vapor in the atmosphere, BEFORE those rays can ever reach the planet surface. About thirteen percent of the sun's energy is absorbed by the atmosphere, and the rest (47-51%)reaches the earth's surface.]

Absorption of energy from the sun continues for twenty-four hours a day at some point on the planet. Energy absorbed by the surface of the earth during the day is released (radiation) by the portion of the planet facing away from the sun (at night).

Let's go back to your belief that solar energy absorption is not contributing to global warming:
Solar panels and vegetation absorb energy from the sun. Deserts, snow and atmospheric water vapor/gases reflect light waves into space.

There is no leap that has to be taken to understand that solar collectors absorb energy that should have been reflected.

http://www.powerfromthesun.net/chapter1/Chapter1.htm

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