18 December 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

I watched Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth movie last night. I thought it was really good, despite the unnecessary (& incongruous) vignette about Gore losing the 2000 election.

The film certainly simplified some of the science and some of the data, and not entirely in a good way. This oversimplification was probably necessary, of course, given the limitations of the medium and the need to present a story in only 2 hours, but climate dynamics are actually more dynamic and mysterious than the film would indicate (although Mr. Gore did use the word mysterious once, describing climate behavior, which I thought was very good).

But, despite the oversimplification, it's still a good & important movie. The data he presents was compelling. He does have a tendency to make subjective judgments ("this is high" - but compared to what?) and weak comparisons ("Earth's atmosphere is thin" - again, compared to what?), but setting aside these and some other rhetorical flourishes, it's pretty clear we are putting too much pollution into the air. We could & should pollute a lot less. Our pollution is affecting the environment in many bad ways. Those points are hard to argue with.

I would have liked to hear more about the earth's tendency to regulate & stabilize itself. For example, increased CO2 levels & increased temperatures will lead to increased plant growth. And what do plants do? They absorb CO2 from the atmosphere - so more plants equals less CO2, which should have a cooling (& stabilizing) effect. Check out Daisy World for an interesting model that describes the impact of biodiversity on environmental stabilization.

One other point: correlation does not prove causality. That is, just because two things happen at the same time, doesn't mean one caused the other. For example, monkeys eat bananas. Monkeys have tails. Therefore, eating bananas makes you grow a tail. Silly logic, right? I'm not saying Mr. Gore fell into that trap, but in the movie, he didn't fully demonstrate that he'd avoided it. He probably did avoid it - I just would have liked to hear him mention it.

There's a lot more that could be said about the movie, positively and negatively. The bottom line is that it's a good film. You should watch it.


Mark said...

"...it's a good film."

Compared to what?


Kim said...

Where can I get ahold of this movie to watch it? I thought that it was a book. Is it both?

Dan said...

It's a book and a movie. We found it at our local rental place - it was in theaters a while back.

I think you'll really enjoy it (if you can avoid Mark's witty comments). :)

Mark said...


Kim said...

Cool, I'll have to check it out when I get home.

(Mark, this is me ignoring you!)