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An Inconvenient Truth

Documentary and Educational movie directed by Davis Guggenheim

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Too much Al and not enough science

  • Feb 18, 2007
  • by
Rarely do movies come out that can change people's minds and propel a subject into the political mainstream. This is one of those movies, and for it to be narrated by Al Gore makes it even more amazing. The subject of this movie is global warming, and how human behaviors and actions contribute to it. The movie is based on a slide-show Mr. Gore presents to audiences as he travels around the world, and the video alternates between him presenting his slide-show, and footage of previous events.

Mr. Gore presents several points in this movie. First, he argues that carbon dioxide levels affect the temperature of the Earth's biosphere, that part of our planet that humans live on, plus the oceans and the atmosphere. To this affect, he shows time charts spanning tens of thousands of years that correlate the level of CO2 in the atmosphere to the average world wide temperature. He also presents two videos that explain how greenhouse gases such as CO2 act to heat up the Earth. One video is serious and the other is funny, but both get the point across in a simple but superficial manner. As a corollary, he states that the Earth's temperature has been steadily rising in the past century, which matches a rise in the CO2 levels in our atmosphere.

Second, he shows how scientists measure both the temperature, and the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere for a given time period. This includes footage of scientists drawing and measuring ice core samples. Between this point and the first one, the data shown is impressive, the charts are believable, and the analytical methods used by climatologists are well explained. But, he does not explain how the data obtained by scientists are used to generate the graphs he presents. For example, he shows a plot of the Earth's temperature over 65,000 years. But he does not specify what temperature. Is it the temperature at the North Pole? Is it the average oceanic temperature? How fine is the data; i.e. does he have one data point for each year over the past 65,000 years, or is it one data point per decade. And what is the scatter in the data? For example, if his chart shows the temperature in the year 2100 BC is 59 degrees F, is this value an average of 100 values, a mean of 39 values, etc, etc? I am not saying that Mr. Gore is presenting false data, but I do believe that he should have spent an extra 5 - 10 minutes illustrating the data behind the charts in order to make it more believable for the scientifically literate viewer, and more understandable to the layman.

Third, Mr. Gore shows what will happen if atmospheric and oceanic temperatures rise in the amounts predicted by many global warming models. Specifically, sea levels will rise, ocean currents will change magnitudes and even directions, the location and magnitude of storms such as hurricanes will change, and rainfall patterns will alter around the world. The effects on human societies will be just as profound. Many coastal areas will flood, while China and India might get droughts as the Himalayan snows that feed their rivers dry up. On the other hand, many parts of the world that are now dry will become wetter, thereby increasing the range of mosquitoes and other vectors of tropical and/or waterborne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. And many fertile areas will cease to be arable.

Fourth and most importantly, Mr. Gore compares the problem of global warming with two other problems of recent human memory; the Nazis, and the causation of cancer by smoking. The latter is personal to Mr. Gore as his family grew up and made a living on a tobacco farm; until his older sister died from lung cancer. It was this death that convinced the senior Gore to end tobacco farming and Vice President Gore to come out against tobacco cigarettes. Using both examples, Mr. Gore clearly gets the point across that it is human nature to ignore a problem until it is too late; but this cannot occur with respect to global warming.

Fifth, Mr. Gore takes on the critics of global warming by showing two things. First, he shows how there are thousands of publications on global warming published so far in peer-reviewed journals, which gets the point across that this is a big and well-researched subject. Second, within a given sample of these publications, not a single one refutes human causation of global warming. It is this point that is probably most open to contention, and where Mr. Gore could have improved his in-person presentation the most. Here's how: lets say Mr. Gore is scheduled to speak before an audience of 250 students at university X. He should come with a stack of 250 different publications from peer-reviewed journals, all of which demonstrate some part of the human causation of global warming. Preferable, Mr. Gore should get review-style articles from several dozen journals. During the part of his presentation where he states that there is no publication that refutes global warming, he should have his staffers hand out these publications to the audience, one per audience member. This should take ~5 minutes, meanwhile, he explains that these are some of the publications that support the reality of global warming. For these 5 minutes, the movie should scroll the names of the same publications across the screen and list each article in the format of article title, authors, journal title and year of publication. In this way, viewers at home can get some extra reading material, while those watching in person have proof in hand, and can talk to classmates or friends and exchange articles.

So all told, the movie is quite good, though there is not enough science. Also, there is too much Gore. This DVD comes with multiple extra features. My favorite one is an update he provides on recent scientific evidence that has come out to support the existence of global warming.

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More An Inconvenient Truth reviews
review by . July 07, 2007
How one feels about this film is likely going to depend on your views on Global Warming Theory. It's a film that's designed to preach to the choir on the dangers of Global Warming, but it doesn't do so in the best way.    The movie is entertaining. Al Gore, who I would've voted for in 2000 had I been allowed to do so, is a very engaging speaker, and I loved the clip from "Futurama" that was used in the movie.    But there were some problems I had. The most …
review by . April 13, 2007
It is obvious that Al Gore is driven by passion in his desire to help save the Earth from his book and movie, An Inconvenient Truth. Mr. Gore personally touched me by his passion when I mailed a review copy of my book, "Harmonious Environment" to him and he responded within weeks that he would read and comment on it. He is an extremely busy man--but he selflessly found the time to personally type me a letter because my book deals with saving the planet and that is his mission.    Although …
review by . February 01, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Vice President Al Gore and director Davis Guggenheim have teamed up together to provide a compelling presentation. Using charts and statistics with the simple, effective skills President Reagan used, Al Gore goes through diagnosing, sampling, then convincing us of the existence of global warming. Having been no stranger to the topic for decades, he demonstrates stunning global pictures that document its effects upon the entire global landscape. Beautiful cinematography and quiet evocative music …
review by . January 21, 2007
Our environment is definitely changing. Whereas I appreciate warm weather to cold, the commentary in An Inconvenient Truth addresses how too much warmth from too much Carbon Dioide getting through to earth is not good at all. The pictures of how the deteoriating glaciers from around the world will lead to a massive water shortage. With world population increasing rapidly especially in areas such as India and China, the not so distant future does look a bit bleak. What happens if the sea level shrinks? …
review by . January 20, 2007
This movie made a big impact on me as it made me aware that our earth will no longer remain the way it was for us by the time our children grow up. It was a scary feeling...especially because we're seeing it happen before our eyes - the warmer weather around the world, the natural disasters and yet we do nothing about it. On the DVD, Al Gore gave an update after the movie, which should cause even more concern on our part. I went to the suggested website right after the movie and realized that my …
review by . November 27, 2006
Two big surprises here, the first is that a documentary on global warming can be entertaining. This is very entertaining, without trivializing an important issue. The second surprise is that Al Gore can project a personality. That may not surprise everyone, and indeed given his dry delivery and even drier wit, some might still take issue with the contention that he can be more than a stuffed shirt. But this is effort that can hold the attention of even casual viewers, and that alone makes it an …
review by . November 26, 2006
Al Gore created the film AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH as an important step to alert the global audience to the threat of global warming that is all too terrifying. Some may dismiss this well-made documentary as Gore's reaction to the election debacle that placed our current 'President' in an undeserved office, but that is just another true piece of this alerting film. Gore is the preacher/prophet here and he comes off as an admirable, warm, human, wise teacher whose mission is to bring us all into action.    …
About the reviewer
Newton Ooi ()
Hi everyone, so here is the rundown of me. I like reading and writing, nonfiction for both. I love movies, especially original ones. I like nonfiction music, eating out, and basketball. I love to travel, … more
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About this movie


With the fate of our planet arguably hanging in the balance,An Inconvenient Truthmay prove to be one of the most important and prescient documentaries of all time. As he jokingly refers to himself, "former President-elect" Al Gore felt an urgent personal calling to draw attention--as he had been doing throughout his political career--to the increasingly desperate crisis of global warming, and this riveting documentary is basically a filmed version (by respected TV director Davis Guggenheim) of the PowerPoint lecture that Gore has presented (by his own estimate, well over 1,000 times) to attentive audiences all over the world. Considering Gore's amiable, low-key approach to charts, graphs, statistics, and photographs that leave no room for doubt regarding thereality(not "theory") of global warming as Earth's ultimate environmental crisis, many viewers will be surprised by just how fascinating and convincing this no-frills film really is.

As we learn about the milestone events that shaped his character (including his sister's death and young son's near-fatal injuries after being struck by a car), Gore sheds the stiff demeanor of his 2000 presidential campaign and impresses us as a man with a mission, transcending partisan politics with an impassioned plea for common sense, ethical forthrightness, and passionate purpose in reversing the harmful effects of global warming through personal and political responsibility. Some may accuse Gore of exploiting global warming as a ...

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Director: Davis Guggenheim
Genre: Educational, Documentary
DVD Release Date: November 21, 2006
Runtime: 100 minutes
Studio: Paramount
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