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In any case few climate scientists now contest the idea that humanity is contributing to the current warming trend. All of the various data sets, surface thermometers, satellites and weather balloons, now show global average warming of about +0.16 degrees Celsius per decade since 1979. Whether or not this rate of warming would lead to catastrophe or not is still very much an open question. So what, if anything, should we do about any future warming?
Unfortunately, those who have been skeptical that global warming was happening at all will now have a credibility problem with the public when it comes to policy recommendations on how best to handle any future warming. The much of the public will likely conclude that if the skeptics were wrong on the science, then they will be wrong on policy. Of course that's not necessarily the case—being right on science doesn't mean that one is automatically also an expert on the proper policy response.
What does Gore recommend? He focuses on policies the cut emissions, but largely ignores those that would enhance our ability to adapt to future temperature changes. So An Inconvenient Truth ends with suggestions for how viewers can personally cut back on their carbon emissions—install compact fluorescent light bulbs; take mass transit; adjust thermostats two degrees up in summer and two down in winter; use less hot water; and plant carbon-absorbing trees. He also urges viewers to push their Congressional representatives to vote for the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act which would set limits on U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases. Gore advises consumers to switch to renewable fuels, but is strangely silent on climate friendly nuclear power. If we did everything Gore recommends, he claims that our emissions would drop to what they were in 1970—a cut of over 25 percent. However, some researchers argue that in order to stop the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that emissions must be reduced by 70 percent worldwide. A 70 percent cut would mean lowering U.S. emissions to 1928 levels.
Gore has won the global warming debate—the world is warming as a consequence of human activity, chiefly the loading up of the atmosphere with carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels. Yet he feels that he must exaggerate the dangers by propounding implausible scenarios in which sea levels rise 20 feet by 2100. He pretends that the science is settled with regard to the effect of global warming on hurricanes. And he pushes a scientifically tenuous connection between the spread of diseases and global warming. These are little inconvenient truths that cut against his belief that global warming constitutes a climate emergency. On balance Gore gets it more right than wrong on the science (we'll leave the policy stuff to another time), but he undercuts his message by becoming the opposite of a global warming denier. He's a global warming exaggerator.
I give An Inconvenient Truth a tepid 2 stars.
Disclosure: I own a small amount of ExxonMobil stock and I am looking forward to investing in biotech cellulosic ethanol production someday.