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An Inconvenient Truth

The papers have been talking a lot about the Al Gore documentary on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth. This morning’s Ottawa Citizen had a three page(!) article, and multiple sidebar articles.  This write up from the Sydney Film Festival in Australia is particularly good.  

Anyway, the movie is playing here in Ottawa, at the Bytown Cinema, until the 18th of June. We saw it, and have been discussing it all afternoon and over dinner. Some characterize this as a shockumentary, but to me it was relentlessly factual.  And so I say, wherever you are, go see this film.  This could be the turning point in the climate debate.  It’s that important, and it’s that good. And Gore, well, he’s wonderful – human, funny, persuasive.  America – would you had elected this man instead of Bush!

Here’s a Google link to more blog commentary.  A lot of it is like this:

From Australia: This is one of those films that ALL people should see, no matter which country they’re from.

From Greater Democracy: Who lost the Environment? Who lost 8 precious years that could have made a real difference?

From LadyJayne’s Blog: “An Inconvenient Truth” shows that it’s not too late to make progressive, effective, and constructive change in this country in terms of our political, moral, and natural environment, a change that will be positive for us, and the planet, too.


{ 9 comments… add one }

  • Donald Smith June 12, 2006, 4:29 am

    Ahhh, good old America. Land of perfect 20/20 hindsight. Shoulda, shoulda, shouda. In a parallel universe someone made a movie about what a stupid, stupid idea it was to elect Gore, and everyone thought it was cool.

    – Don

  • Alec June 12, 2006, 4:49 am

    In this particular case, I don't think it's 20/20 hindsight. The man has been preaching this cause for 20 years, and shows credible and scary forecasts for what is coming. Like I said – go see it, and then make up your own mind.

    Cheers, A

  • Jim July 2, 2006, 3:46 pm

    Hi Alec,

    As a skeptic, I'd like to point out that real and practical liberty is achieved at an individual level by the ability to stick a plug in a wall socket and pay a few cents per kWh for large amounts of energy. Imagine having to run your own power production at home: you come home after a long, hard day's work, and then your power system isn't working. You can't cook dinner or shower or have a bath. You either have to fix it yourself and possibly electrocute yourself, poison yourself or fall off of your roof or windmill tower and break your neck. Alternatively, you have to call a repairman, and wait until he shows up. You can't sleep all night — because you are too cold or too warm–, or wash, or eat much. You're a wreck at work the next day — if you were able to make it in at all.

    It should be obvious that large-scale energy conversion is the key item that makes the difference between first-world and third-world status. Just compare the health statistics between the two areas. Ideas such as property rights may have been the root cause of the ability to build energy facilities, but the facilities themselves are the actual practical items that make a first-world country one. If you want to send us back to medieval times, just cut off that one strategic choke point. Ignore rhetoric, and look at the policies that are proposed and what you think would happen. David Susuki and the Union of Confused Scientists want to shut down all coal and nuclear power in Canada. Having stalled nuclear power in the USA, the "eco-types" are predictably going after coal there. It should be obvious that shutting down about three-quarters of our energy would kill and otherwise shorten the lives of millions of people in Ontario: think of hospitals being without power, no sanitation, inability to move food to the cities, no refrigeration or personal water supplies, and no heating in the winter or cooling in the summer. The hardship of being thrown back to medieval conditions would kill the infirm, young and old. It would be like New Orleans. Only the strong would survive, and their lives would be shortened by physical toil.

    It should be obvious that global warming is not the concern of the "eco-types", but rather preventing us from having large-scale energy conversion is. They oppose nuclear power. In the 1960s and 1970s, global temperatures were decreasing, and my Grade 7 geography textbook said that that was due to burning hydrocarbons and causing soot, blocking out the sun's rays and that mankind should therefore ration hydrocarbons. Prior to that, there was the oil embargo of the early seventies and we were told that mankind should therefore ration hydrocarbons. Prior to that, we were repeatedly told that we would run out of fossil fuels and that mankind should therefore ration hydrocarbons. Since some warming occurred in recent decades (very little compared to the great increase in global temperatures during the 1940s, when man's output of Carbon Dioxide was much less), we are now being told that mankind should ration hydrocarbons. Do you see a pattern?

    Global temperatures increased more greatly in the 1940s than in the 80s and 90s, but man's output of carbon dioxide has increased exponentially greatly since then. During that time of exponential increase of CO2, temperatures decreased in the 60s and 70s. Clearly the hypothesis that output of CO2 would cause catastrophic global warming has failed its experimental test. See lecture
    at http://www.accesstoenergy.com. At the very least, this history makes AGW (anthropogenic global warming) an extraordinary claim, and "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof".

    About the year 1000, we had a climactic optimum, and the Norse were farming Greenland. Newfoundland was known as "Vinland", and we have no reports of catastrophic flooding from those times. In the year 1500 we had "The little ice age" and early French explorers to Canada had it hard. We have been warming up since then and may be at the peak of the cycle. If and when cooling occurs, I anticipate writing messages pointing out that burning hydrocarbons is probably not causing global cooling and the previous belief that it caused global warming… and the previous-to-that belief that it caused global cooling…

    The theory of catastrophic global warming is based on the fairly unbelievable premise that release of CO2 (a minor greenhouse gas) will kick-start the evaporation of water vapour (a major greenhouse gas), leading to an unending positive feedback cycle, ignoring negative feedback such as increased reflection of sunlight from increased cloud cover. (I might also point out that "the greenhouse effect" is a misnomer — greenhouses are kept warm by blocking convection, not radiation. An experiment was done in which different types of glass was used; one type blocked IR and another did not. The greenhouses both stayed about equally warm).

    I have a couple of letters to the editor on this subject available at http://www.geocities.com/forpropertyrights/Editor… — 17,000 scientists and engineers have signed a petition opposing the Kyoto treaty in the USA.

    To keep up with the latest refutations of the AGW propaganda, you might subscribe to the weekly newsletter, "The Week That Was", available from http://www.sepp.org. (See http://www.geocities.com/forpropertyrights/LtnAnn

    The propaganda is scary: we have a demagogue inciting mob superstitions. Have you heard of "Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds"? It is a rule of thumb that "Whenever *everybody* says something is true, it probably isn't," especially when what we have is sheep following an authority figure. Your personal BS alarms should be going off.

    There are a lot of lies out there. The satellite and radiosonde balloon measurements were ignored in favour of ground-station measurements that showed drastically-increasing temperatures. These turned out to be due to increasing urban sprawl. At Access to Energy, you can download the paper and see how the Earth's temperature is correlated with the Sun's output, not with man's CO2 output. These lies may be due to the conflict of interest created by government funding of science: government-funded researchers have to follow what is currently politically correct in order to get funding. If they fall out of favor with the power group, they lose their funding. Independent science doesn't have this problem. Science doesn't advance by consensus, but in spite of it — by surprising theories that are first sneered at, then finally understood when the entrenched old guard finally dies off.

    The author of the Access to Energy website is vilified as being in the pay of oil companies, which is a lie. Not even Source Watch, which is highly critical of him, accuses him of that. It is in the interest of most of us to continue to have access to energy from large-scale energy conversion.

    Hydrocarbons are needed to lift from poverty the majority of countries around the world. First-world conditions are a historical and global aberration, opposed by "right-thinking" people everywhere. The normal condition of humanity is abject poverty. First-world countries are cleaner, have better public health, and their population naturally decreases as children become an expense rather than a supply of labour for the farm. Taking peoples' (energy) businesses from them by threat of government force is tyranny. Getting stuck in cultural (and primitive) culdesac is a threat. The Western world was stuck in one for about a thousand years, due to anti-scientific superstition and control of information by a superstitious organization, and the Eastern world was only brought out of it due to the West's recovery.

    Increased concentration of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere makes plants grow at a faster rate and in drier conditions. Mankind is moving carbon out of the ground and putting it into increased quantities of vegetation. This is a wonderful and unexpected benefit of the industrial revolution.

    Alternatives for the future: "a boot stamping on a human face, forever", or the glory of achievement and a healthy, happy human race exploring the wonders of the universe, no longer bound to one planet?


  • Jim July 2, 2006, 3:51 pm

    PS: Amusing video on Al Gore's Carbon footprint, available at CEI (http://www.cei.org) — click on "We Call It Life".

  • Jim July 2, 2006, 5:42 pm

    Also, that should be "climatic", not "climactic" in my 5th paragraph…

  • Alec July 3, 2006, 7:02 am

    Jim, I am sure Gore isn't advocating an energy free world. The argument that we should shut all the power plants down and return to medieval times is frankly, unreasonable. Nor would it be reasonable to assume that those advocating reduced fossil fuel use are necessarily against nuclear, or other energy sources. Further, as an engineer you can surely appreciate the benefits of more efficient fossil fuel use.

    There will always be extremists, arguing stridently for one view or another. Gore's data, for that is what it is, is alarming. The challenge is to understand what it means without becoming an extremist yourself.

    Around here, we've dramatically reduced our natural gas consumption by installing a gas fireplace and heating unevenly in winter. Rooms we use a lot are heated more than rooms we use a little. Similarly, I drive a small car which gets 25 to 30 mpg, rather than an SUV. Both choices are good for my pocketbook, and good for the environment. I use low energy lighting. Electricity is in short supply in Ontario, and expensive. I still heat my pool, but to a lower temperature than before.

  • Jim July 3, 2006, 11:52 pm


    Please refer to the following publication from David Suzuki and the Union of Confused Scientists, available at http://cybertron.vlsi.uwindsor.ca/85-421/ (or http://rcim.ca/85-421). Click on "Lecture Notes" at top, then on the PDF under "Posted on 05-30-2006": Confronting Climate Change in Great Lakes Region – Executive Summary (PDF) or just use the following: http://cybertron.vlsi.uwindsor.ca/85-421/lectures… — see the middle of page 2, "Electricity".


    "high environmental cost of nuclear power and coal-fired thermal plants."

    This is after making assertions about coal. Completely without supporting text, the statement is made: ""high environmental cost of nuclear power" — which is an extremist viewpoint, given that nuclear reactors are completely self-contained, have no emissions in the normal course of operations (an accident has to happen for that) and that the fuel comes to them out of the ground and can go back into the ground afterward.

    "Taking these steps will allow Ontario to completely phase out coal and nuclear power, thereby eliminating significant sources of environmental degradation."

    This is what these people are for, and I'm prepared to believe that this is what Gore is for, from my general impression of the types of publications that he has produced.

    This is what is being seriously taught to young people in university today. It's alarming.

    I agree with you that shutting these down would be unreasonable, but unfortunately this extremist "eco-type" opinion has wrongfully gained mainstream credence in Western countries, and it is alarming, which is why I am taking the time to speak out. It is the popular wisdom now that mankind is a disease on the face of the Earth, which explains the push to shut down our modern society (in spite of the superior environmental friendliness and self-reduction of population of first-world countries).

    As engineers and technical people, we should be providing the service to the people of a sense of *perspective*: the health benefits of a first-world society vastly outweigh the health problems caused by the required large-scale energy conversion.

    I think you should question what this guy is saying a little more skeptically, and look into the sources of information that I have pointed out. Global temperature change is totally uncorrelated with man's output of Carbon Dioxide and extremely well correlated with the Sun's energy output.

    I don't have a pool myself, and you should realize that these extremists obviously don't want you to have one, either, while they continue to criss-cross our respective countries at high rates in jet airplanes in order to lecture to the rest of us on the benefits of using less energy.


  • Jim July 4, 2006, 11:39 am

    I wanted to address the issue of the high price of energy in Ontario. What we need are a few more power plants and some more transmission capacity, not less. Due to the high prices, there is obviously money to be made in this sector and equally obviously there is a large quantity of bad laws and red tape preventing the free market from working. We don't need a repeat of Summer 2003 in which an accident involving bad power control caused a bad power outage in Ontario and some northern US states. Wouldn't it be great if we had a booming economy like that of Alberta that is based on real wealth and innovation and not an inflation bubble? What we need around here are a few *less* (bad) laws. Keep the few good ones.
    As a side note, more efficient use of energy would cause more people to use it, actually. I'm not opposed to that.
    Also, I don't have a gas fireplace either. I shut off my natural gas heating and use spot electric heating in the winter so that I can turn it off when I don't need it. A gas furnace has a roaring pilot light (at least mine does) which caused me ridiculous natural gas bills in the summer.


  • Jim July 5, 2006, 8:16 pm

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