Monday, June 1, 2015

An Inconvenient Truth Revisited----Fact Checking Al Gore's Climate Predictions 10 Years Later

                                        "I'm so hot!!!  I'm on fire!!!"
I found a copy of the 2006 movie "An Inconvenient Truth" at a rummage sale for $0.25. I'd seen the film when it first came out and I remember mainly being irritated by it. It seemed to me that the film spent a bit too much time on Al Gore's personal life, including his bitterness about losing the 2000 Presidential election, at the expense of time that could have been better spent discussing global warming. Also, as a scientist working on global climate change, I thought Al Gore came precariously close to presenting the work of scientists as his own without giving credit to the people who were actually doing the work.

I was curious how the movie would stand up after 10 years, so I gave the lady at the rummage sale a quarter and took the DVD home and spun it up.

With 10 years of hindsight, Al Gore comes off a little bit differently then he did in 2006. While the film portrays Al Gore as a kind of  solitary ecological saint who travels alone from city to city to give his powerpoint show warning about climate change, one can't help remembering Al Gore's arrest for sexually assaulting a masseuse in a hotel in Portland in 2010.  The masseuse claimed Al Gore attacked her "like a crazed sex poodle."  Two other masseuses later said Al Gore had sexually assaulted them as well. And then there's Al Gore's more recent arrest for indecent exposure in Miami after he took off all his clothes" when the Will Smith song "Getting Jiggy With It" was played at a nightclub called "Heat Wave."

Witnesses said that when the song came on, Mr. Gore just went wild and kept yelling, ‘I’m so hot! I’m on fire!’, at which point security guards at the popular downtown nightclub, called Heat Wave, escorted Mr. Gore to the parking lot, and made him put his pants back on.

The scientific parts of the movie hasvestood the test of time better then the reputation of Al Gore himself. The story of Prof. Roger Revelle and the famous Keeling curve of atmospheric CO2 is done well, and the prediction of global warming in the movie remain valid. Probably the most controversial part of the film when it came out was the idea that sea level might go up as much as 20 feet, submerging parts of the coast in Florida, Bangladesh, India, China, etc.  But here we are in 2015, and Greenland is melting, Antarctica is starting to melt, and the rate of sea level rise has grown to over 3 mm per year and is still increasing, so the prospect of even an eventual 20 foot rise in sea level can't be ruled be out.

So its still a good movie, but it the goal was to inspire a mass political movement that would demand new laws and treaties to reduce global CO2 emissions then it didn't succeed.  So why didn't Al Gore convince the general public to take action to stop global warming? Again, with 10 years of hindsight, I suspect the problem was that the powerpoint lecture that Al Gore was giving in the movie was boring, and people lost interest.  I remember at the showing I went to in 2008 (a free event at the University of Alaska) that people were walking out early.  

Its just too bad they didn't use the song "Getting Jiggy With It" as the soundtrick for "An Inconvenient Truth" because then the film would have ended with the credits running and the song playing and Al Gore taking off all his clothes and going wild and screaming "I'm so hot! I'm on Fire" and even though the film would've had an "X" rating at least people would've stuck around to see the the film all the way through to see how it all came out.

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