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Slick but Alarmist
on 10 January 2008
A very slick production - but then Al Gores claims that he has done more than 1,000 of these "slide shows" so it should be. He starts with those beautiful pictures of the Earth taken by the Apollo missions, including the famous "Earthrise" (over the Moon) taken 40 years ago today. This is part of a series of images designed to suggest that the world is beautiful but fragile, an impression intended to dispose viewers to sympathising with his case. Gore is an effective and engaging presenter, although some may find his personal reminiscences both a little cloying and a little disingenuous in the way that they are used to support his argument. He does provide many examples of warming - principally glacial retreat and the melting of permafrost - but makes no effort to present real evidence to prove that this is caused by CO2. He does use an enormous graph in the course of one presentation showing temperature and CO2 levels from ice-core data, but correlation is not causation, and the use of the data set has been criticised on the ground that it in fact shows CO2 rises lagging, not leading, temperature changes. Hurricane Katrina was a godsend to him, providing much useful imagery, even though the reason it was a calamity was primarily poor maintenance of the dykes and secondarily inadequate federal response - such a hurricane could have hit New Orleans in any year, irrespective of any argument that warming causes more violent hurricanes. There have been many criticisms of distortion and exaggerations, e.g. in the speed with which se-level rises may occur, which Gore suggests will happen very much more quickly than the IPCC "co-authors" of this film do in their Assessment Reports.
If there is one possible "untruth" that I would recommend that viewers might like to check out it is the views attributed to Gore's old Harvard mentor, Professor Revelle. He was Gore's inspiration and one of the first researchers into global climate change, but there is evidence that at the time of his death he was rather more cautious about arguing a link between CO2 and global temperatures than his protégé - see Booker and North 2007.
The recommendations that Gore makes at the end of the film are relatively modest, and many - including energy conservations and getting his fellow Americans to drive more energy efficient vehicles - we should be doing anyway. This film should be required reading for anyone interested in global warming, but unless you view it as necessary propaganda in the cause it should not be viewed without a degree of scepticism. I would very much recommend watching "The Great Global Warming Swindle" at the same time to see the opposing view.