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an inconvenient truth and a convenient lie October 29, 2007

Posted by xenothrone in Human activity, Politics.

I finally got to watch Nobel Peace laureate Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth last night and I must say that, despite some soft-headed thinking on display at times, it makes a compelling case for global warming. Do I believe it? Yes I believe that the planet is warming up. Do I think that humans are playing a major part? Yes, very much so. But as to the other half of the movie’s equation, that we can do something about it, I must demur and that, my friend, is The Convenient Lie.

First let’s look at some of the above mentioned “soft-headed” thinking. Mr. Gore wows the audience by giving them the results of ice core samples that go back 650,000 years, samples that indicate a long overall warming trend punctuated by dramatic spikes in recent years. This obviously impresses the carefully picked, sympathetic audience but it would hardly impress say a geologist who routinely looks at climate change in the millions of years. This is just one example of anthropocentrism, a theme one finds consistent throughout the movie.

A second example is the touting of the surveys of scientists which purports to show that no scientist in the last 10 years has disagreed with premise of human-drive global warming. And I quote:

There was a massive study of every scientific article in a peer reviewed journal written on global warming for the last 10 years, and they took a big sample of 10%, 928 articles and you know the number of those that disagreed with the scientific consensus that we’re causing global warming and that it’s a serious problem? Out of 928… 0!

This sentence flies by so quickly that I had to back up the DVD and listen to it again, the fact is that these statistics represent only a 10% random sampling of the data. Hardly convincing and indeed one can now see scientists who disagree on 60 minutes.

But the main problem I have with the movie is the final conclusion that he draws seemingly out of a hat. That we can do something about it. As proof he brings up the elimination of slavery, the granting of women’s suffrage, and human beings walking on the moon (all American accomplishments btw.) Nowhere does he address the central problem which is how are we to engage the world’s entire population in the effort? Because that’s what it’s going to take. Given the 80/20 rule (which with my gloss states that 20% of the maladjusted, misanthropic, pathologically motivated population always and everywhere ruins things for the average majority of 80%) this would seem if not outright impossible then at least extremely improbable.

Another interesting point made was the devastating effect of modern technologies which put ever more destructive and powerful tools into human hands (they compare the shovel with a backhoe.) Missing their attention is probably the deadliest tool ever invented as far as global warming goes: the gas powered chainsaw. Whereas while it used to take two men several hours to fell a tree, it now takes one man a matter of minutes. In some South American countries they are so consumed by the greed for lumber they even cut it from the bottom of lakes and rivers with underwater chain saws.

What can we really expect to be done about global warming? Sadly very little and much more likely nothing at all. Even setting aside for a moment all the politically powerful commercial forces that have vested interests in the international industries that contribute a very large share, and even granting for another minute all the nations of the world banding together and agreeing that yes it is a problem of our own making and yes something must be done, the poor and needy of the world, those vast third world masses who slash and burn to eke out a meager existence, those who see the forests as a God given resource, they could never be stopped.

The forest fires of the world burn night and day all over the undeveloped zones of the globe, sending unmeasured mega-volumes of carbon into the upper reaches of the atmosphere. The earth is ultimately merely a resource that is steadily and continuously being consumed by humans who will not stop until they are forced to by natural causes. When mother natures takes a hand and strikes back with devastating drought and super-storms, conflagration and flood, when the tipping point is finally reached in the ongoing Holocene extinction event, then maybe the human race will stop. Or else maybe make way for another smarter, gentler species.



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