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'An Inconvenient Truth': climate change is indeed a moral issue

By Bob Carter - posted Wednesday, 20 September 2006


Al Gore’s movie on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth, has surely been the subject of more reviews and media comment than any other film in recent history. Not least because of the unflagging razzmatazz with which Mr Gore has undertaken a world “author’s tour” to invoke publicity.

The Australian media - with Four Corners, the Andrew Denton Show and Phillip Adams in the vanguard - have fallen compliantly into Mr Gore’s sticky fly-trap, producing breathless hagiographies of a man and film whose message is rooted in junk science.

Film reviews typically contain four types of information. What a film is about: in this case, human-caused global warming. How well a film is made: this one being a beautifully crafted, photographed and edited production. How well the actors play their roles: the only actor here, Al Gore, scrubs up moderately well, exhibiting no obvious hanging chads though delivering an over-rehearsed, and somewhat self-indulgent, performance. And finally, whether a film is fact or fiction: in this case … well hang on a moment.

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Those raw scientific facts that Mr Gore chooses for use in An Inconvenient Truth are mostly correct. Indeed, much of the material could have been drawn from elementary university courses in meteorology, geography or geology, though one would hope that university treatments would be presented in a more balanced and critical way.

Overall, the film is a compelling account of various natural earth phenomena that have the potential to impact humanity disastrously, and therefore a graphic illustration of the fact that we live on a dynamic planet. Were the film to be stripped of its sententious script, we might be watching an episode in David Attenborough’s recent TV series, Planet Earth.

Hence, presumably, the appeal to audiences: who often break into spontaneous applause at the end of a showing, and thereby reveal both their gullibility to emotional messages and their lack of scientific understanding.

For the problem with An Inconvenient Truth is that it is well-made propaganda for the global warming cause rather than well-made climate science. Nowhere does Mr Gore tell his audience that all of the phenomena that he describes fall within the natural range of environmental change on our planet. Nor does he present any evidence that climate during the 20th century departed discernibly from its historical pattern of constant change. This is not surprising, for no such evidence yet exists.

During his movie, Mr Gore asserts that climate change is now a moral rather than a scientific issue. He is right, though not in quite the way that he might have imagined.

The moral issue concerns the way in which much of today's environmental “science” - including that regarding climate change, as typified by this film - is presented to governments and the public. Mr Gore clearly believes that his presumed morally superior ends justify any means, including distortion of evidence, and in consequence he nails his colours firmly to the climate alarmist mast.

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In an interview with Grist Magazine, when asked about his film: do you scare people or give them hope?

Mr Gore replied:

I think the answer to that depends on where your audience’s head is. In the United States of America, unfortunately we still live in a bubble of unreality. And the Category 5 denial is an enormous obstacle to any discussion of solutions. Nobody is interested in solutions if they don’t think there’s a problem. Given that starting point, I believe it is appropriate to have an over-representation of factual solutions on how dangerous it (global warming) is, as a predicate for opening up the audience to listen to what the solutions are, and how hopeful it is that we are going to solve this crisis.

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A detailed analysis of the inadequacy of the science behind Mr Gore's film can be found here.



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About the Author

Professor Bob Carter is a researcher at the Marine Geophysical Laboratory at James Cook University. Copies of scientific papers and other media articles by Bob Carter can be accessed through his website.

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