More on An Inconvenient Truth

I’ve been struggling with what to say about Al Gore’s book “An Inconvenient Truth.”  I read it a few weeks ago and had very mixed emotions about it.

Fred and JoAnne Wilson saw the movie last night.  Fred’s blog post perfectly captured how I felt about the book. I want the science and the facts, not the melodrama and the preaching.  At some point as I was reading the book, I told Amy that if I read the phrase “moral imperative” one more time, I’d puke. 

The summary – Gore’s substance has impact; Gore’s style is detracting.

  • Fred

    Your comment on Gore’s movie is about the form that distracts from the content. Apparantly AG became consciouss about something important and does it his way. If we subscribe to the importance of the content let’s ask what we can do, everyday and using the best of our talents. To continue to burn the Planet is not really an option, politics is running after the facts, so it is in our consciuousness and everyday behaviour that a change can start. Some people start with preaching, driven and ambitious, it is their way but maybe not the most effective.

  • drew

    I haven’t seen the movie, but had the impression that it was long on melodrama and short on scientific evidence. And he’ll be highly successful revving up the environmentalists and some number of folks who are sufficently swayed by drama and exxagerated references to the scientific communities support. But the question i’ve come to: Is there really any solid science to the prophecies of doom based on ‘global warming’ or are we simply assuming a lot of negative effects based on polar cap melts?

  • To me, all this global warming talk sounds like the “fantastic computer color enhanced” pictures that hit the press magically, any time NASA is in trouble or is asking for a budget increase! Fantastic black and white pictures of fancy galaxies taken magically by the Hubble telescope always turn out to be wispy colorful dreamy images in the press! I am always wondering how much of the coloring science is real and how much is based on fancy assumptions. Reading what NASA usually does with images makes me suspicious of their methods sometimes, especially when they waging a PR battle for budgets and money!

    Same thing with Global warming! The science always raises more questions than they answer! At a gut level I realize that all that trash we put out everyday must be affecting something somewhere. What I am not convinced about is the level to which it does. May it does to a large extent but may be a natural hurricane season to enough nature to clean up my messes! Who knows?

  • Taylor Walsh

    Hey Drew, regarding your comments:

    1. “…I haven’t seen the movie, but had the impression that it was long on melodrama and short on scientific evidence…”

    2. “..Is there really any solid science to the prophecies of doom…”

    See the movie. I also suggest to anyone put off by the presentation style: that if you are going to work with dry, lifeless information, you’d better portray it in an easily comprehended way. The science, which you will see is not disputed any more, is presented effectively, and in context, which is the key.

    It is hard to see this film and think it a knee-jerk assault on industry. Gore’s been educating himself on this exceedingly non-sexy subject for 25 years. Even if you consider the visuals of the retreating icebergs as hype, it is tough to ignore the data. Plus the fact that there are now zero scientists who don’t believe human activity has jacked up CO2 emissions and caused the warming shown by the data.

  • Drew

    Clarification: I do believe it’s in America’ s best interest to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels, for multiple reasons including economics and security; oil scarcity will continue to drive up costs of a limited commodity. Switching to renewable fuels insulates us from that. And there are renewable source fuels can be produced to meet the same needs and reduce any potential health and environmental impacts.

    I just don’t like to lied to. and Gore’s global warming discussions are fear-mongering, plain and simple.

  • sigma

    Hearing about Al Gore’s movie and intense concerns about
    global warming, I downloaded and scanned

    Committee on Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last
    2,000 Years, National Research Council, ‘Surface Temperature
    Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years’, ISBN 0-309-66264-8,
    196 pages, National Academies Press, 2006, available at

    as of Saturday, June 24th, 2006.

    My conclusion: So far, human burning of fossil fuels has had
    at most only a tiny and trivial effect of ‘global warming’.

    It does appear that Al Gore is highly concerned. I’m not.
    So, to heck with Al Gore. If I can get a DVD copy of his
    movie for, say, less than $1, then I’ll have a pizza, a couple
    of beers, and a big laugh. Otherwise, done.

  • Whether you like, dislike, loathe or love Al Gore at least he is addressing the issue and getting a message out that is counter to the “head in the sand” denial and outright lies of the current administration. Having read the book and seen the movie I don’t see where the “melodrama” is. This IS a serious issue that WILL effect all of us and our children. Al doesn’t make this up he just presents it. Further, I would suggest to anyone who thinks that the movie doesn’t present “hard science” might want to actually see the movie first before espousing an opinion. The science in the movie is hard and real and can be found on the EPA and USGS websites to name only 2.

  • Drew

    This original discussion was based on the lack of scientific basis for Al Gore’s discussion of global warming. The earth’s average surface temperature has raised 1 degree over the last century. That’s is a fact. But that no more constitutes a problem than the fact that it’s cloudy today. And that is where the facts end and the propoganda begins. There is little evidence that this temperature was caused by manmade activities. Half the change occured prior to 1930 (not a lot of cars back then). There is no corelation proven between this slight temperature change and the levels of C02 raising from 280 ppm to 360 ppm over the same time. Furthermore, there is no scientific tie between this change and the doom and gloom that Gore prophecies – hurrucanes, floods, swarms of locusts or whatever.

    As i noted above, I’m not against moving away from fossil fuel for a variety of reasons including economics, security and potential health impacts. But I’m annoyed by the dishonest representation in Gore’s film and the hystrics. And anyone who wants to enact legal,policy, or any other changes based on this level of “proof” isn’t “sticking their head” in the sand but chasing their tail.


  • A foolish consistency is the hibgobblin of a little mind.

    I find it interesting that the people who attempt to rebuke Global Warming quote the same pseudoscience the current administration uses to tell us that Global Warming is the biggest hoax of all time. The facts are the earth IS hotter now than it has been in 400 years, the ice caps ARE melting and Gore isn’t using hysterics. Anyone who is willing to set aside their obvious prejudices and listen to actual scientists and read the reports WILL come to the same conclusions.

    Anyone NOT willing to do this is just plain full of ignorant or full of crap or both.

  • dominikg

    Why are u wasting time reading fools attempts to stagnate a flowing river?

    One cannot accomplish anything in bitterness and pety pursuits, simply forget what they said, to read such foolishness is fine, do not retain it, let it flow out like a siev.

    listen, original poster, you said almost nothing, the is the most prominent type of word you used, did you or did you not get it? do you understand what we are facing here? this is not a review on the style of act 2, if you want to be caught up in being ineffectual and senseless for a lifetime then continue to make devils advocacy remarks and detract from the way but your wasting your own time if you put merit in such retort


  • Bruce

    In reply to Sigma:

    I am not an Al Gore fan either.However, I

    think you are mistaken about your conclusion.

    Read the Board’s conclusions on page 17 of the


    “It can be said with a high level of con-
    fidence that global mean surface tempera-
    ture was higher during the last few de-
    cades of the 20th century than during
    any comparable period during the preced-
    ing four centuries.”

    The Board’s conclusions indicate that these

    changes are more than trivial. I used to think

    “global warming” theory was hokum too. But, I

    no longer think that is the case.

  • Bailey

    I saw the movie tonight to a sold out theatre. I don’t understand what is wrong with the people that think this is just a show and nothing of a truth. Would more people like the movie if it didnt have a political head on the front stage. Yes it gives a great power point presentation but why does that have to be bad? Is it had that the facts are in a easy to understand format for people to soak up the ideas. Do you think that Al Gore to ran out and got a bunch of dumb ass wanna be nerds to get together to come up with the bar graphs and statistics? Is it only the good news that people want, because you are not going to get it from this film. Do you all want the pretty truth that doesnt mean you are part of the problem with your cars and big energy bills, because you won’t get it. People need to wait up and realize they are part of the problem. It doesn’t make you are bad person that you believe what the capitalist government wants you to know. You are not a bad person for wanting the big cars because you were told it is ok to drive them…. but you will be a bad person if you dont do something about it now. This is a global warning… just listen

  • sigma


    You got and read the book! Congratulations!

    Tough to improve on the really careful wording in the book!
    Actually, tough to improve on the book in any sense! The NAS
    seems to have given us good value for our tax dollars!

    My remark here was:

    “My conclusion: So far, human burning of fossil fuels has had
    at most only a tiny and trivial effect of ‘global warming’.”

    That’s not quite the same as saying that there has been no
    global warming.

    But, for a little more depth, look in the book at the main
    graphs of the now famous ‘hockey stick’. I look at this thing
    and see that 400 years ago was the bottom of The Little Ice
    Age. So, we have had some warming since then. Not surprising
    since we were pulling out of an ‘ice age’.

    So, 400 years ago is not so good as a ‘baseline’.

    So, what would be a good ‘baseline’? Tough to say, but, if
    look at the graphs in the book, then it seems that maybe they
    are saying that 1000 years ago was an okay baseline. Good
    data for temperature 1000 years ago is tough to get, but if
    take what they seem to have and compare with the ‘hockey
    stick’ and rising from The Little Ice Age, then about 1950 we
    finally got back up to the ‘baseline’. So, for temperature
    above this baseline, we’re looking at only the increase since
    about 1950. For that, we’re looking at something less than 1
    F. If some of that fraction of 1 F since 1950 was caused by
    human burning of fossil fuels, then so far I just mark it down
    as “tiny and trivial”.

    I would make three more remarks:

    (1) Temperature. It’s not so easy even to give a solid
    definition of ‘the surface temperature’ of the Earth. So, we
    are going to integrate over both time (due to the seasons) and
    space (due, say, to latitude, the oceans, etc.). Yup, we in
    this case believe Fubini’s theorem. We’re going to get an
    average. In all of this, and even in the NAS book, I have yet
    to see even a careful definition of ‘the surface temperature’
    of the Earth. Okay, maybe we set this point aside as just a
    fine point and just assume that we would all recognize the
    unique good definition if it were given and then move on to
    estimating this number. Gulp! Now that we have all swallowed
    that one.

    Then, a good estimate is tough to get. E.g., we average over
    what time interval? The key to understanding accuracy in
    scientific measurements is statistics based on samples that
    are ‘independent and identically distributed’ (sometimes we
    settle for orthogonal, and sometimes we try to assume a
    particular distribution). But, in the weather, independence
    is tough to argue, even from one year to the next. E.g.,
    think of el Nino. Also, tough to get independence between two
    points on the surface since something like el Nino in the
    Pacific mostly below the equator can change jet stream
    behavior over the US. So, net, tough to use statistics to say
    how accurate any average is. Some of the best statistics
    people in the world contributed to the book — still it’s

    (2) Complexity. The complexity of the weather is astounding!
    We’re trying to say important things about global weather over
    decades when we have a tough time predicting rain or sunshine
    in Indiana seven days from now.

    (3) Anomalies. In particular I would poke hard at the
    emphasis by Gore and also the Brokaw thing on Discovery on
    ‘anomalies’. Really, in any complex system, if look at enough
    variables, then right along should be able to find events that
    have never happened before. Or, there is a lot of ‘state
    space’ out there, and can’t expect that will just keep
    circulating among old states and never see new ones.

    Making anomalies meaningful is not so easy. Before taking an
    anomaly seriously, we should get some solid information on
    rates of false positives and false negatives. Uh, didn’t see
    those mentioned in the Al Gore trailer!

    There are some things that have been done: E.g., take a state
    space, a random variable in that state space, the measure
    induced on that space by the random variable, a finite group
    (as in abstract algebra) of transformations on that state
    space that are measure preserving (right, the hypothesis that
    ergodic theory discards!), and a real valued function whose
    domain is the state space. Then compose the function with the
    transformations in the group and with the random variable and
    argue that the values, over all the elements in the group,
    have to be uniformly distributed in rank. Can use this to do,
    say, the world’s best real-time ‘behavioral monitoring’ of
    server farms and digital communications networks with known,
    adjustable rates of false positives (and some good asymptotic
    things about false negatives), all both multi-dimensional and

    Suppose we use such things on, say, the amount of snow on
    Mount Kilimanjaro. Okay. If our state space has enough
    variables to track those snows along with a lot of everything
    else, then what we will likely find is that the snows alone
    will not raise an alarm unless we have the false alarm rate
    set absurdly high.

    Sure, we can go around and find 10,000 parts of the Earth’s
    climate, pick out snows on Kilimanjaro, glaciers in Patagonia,
    etc., and scream “Disaster!”. But, that’s not fair; it’s like
    going to Vegas and rolling the dice before putting down the

    Instead, got to put the bet down first, THEN get the data.
    Also, really, should have a scientific theory and scientific
    hypothesis that are testing, but that’s for the 102 semester!

    For putting the bet down first, the leading candidate would be
    just average surface temperature, not snows on Kilimanjaro.
    So, we’re back to surface temperature, and there we’ve got
    part of 1 F.

    Even if we agree that we have a good definition and estimate
    of average surface temperature and that the temperature is
    rising, tough to say that the cause is human burning of fossil
    fuels or to say what consequences will be or what we should do
    about it.

    Here’s one: Supposedly with the fraction of 1 F rise in the
    average temperature, we are seeing lots of melting at the
    poles. But, those poles freeze in the winter where the
    temperatures are commonly -50 F. So, the fraction of 1 F rise
    gives us -49 F and everything melts? Hmm …. Gee, once I
    was in Indiana and walked a few hundred yards in 35 MPH wind
    at -40 F and didn’t notice much melting!

  • Dallice and I saw An Inconvenient Truth tonight here in Boulder. The theater was pretty full, which suprised us given the many weeks the film has been out.

    From a presentation standpoint, the snippets of Gore in front of an audience should satisfy the harshest critics of powerpoint. No reading bullets, no talking to slides, and frankly.. little hype. Sure, he was charismatic (somewhat contradictory to his known trait for being stoic) but that didn’t detract from the soundness of his information.

    To those who roasted the film without seeing it, I think you’ve confused this movie with The Day After Tomorrow. I’m not a particular fan of the politician, but with a background in environmental science and a number of years of climate related research under my belt, I was very impressed with the movie. Gore did a great job of communicating a subject that most people, even here in Boulder, don’t seem very unaware of.

    It’s worth a watch. And might even be worth a read…

  • sam

    i think that by al gore doing this movie, he just wanted to promote what he was running for and because of that i dont like the movie at all.

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