East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Monday, June 05, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

The hateful New York Post review (which says, contra Gore, that "there is widespread disagreement about whether humans are causing global warming" and of course can't back this statement up in any way) you should've expected. More surprising is this merely obtuse Film Threat review, which first assails Gore for bringing up his personal life (c.f. every politician ever) and then spends the rest of the review personally attacking him. Like most cries of hypocrisy, this serves as a means of avoiding the presented argument. Further, anyone who expresses shock that American politics is ridiculously compromised would probably still vote for Nader.

Right, first the presentation, then the argument. It's not boring. The flashes of well-rehearsed wit and the cute, drowning CGI polar bear make it more entertaining than almost all the lectures I've ever endured. Gore's desire to present his case in the best possible light sometimes lapses into overstatement (c.f. every politician ever). Statistics pedants will note he chooses convenient, unnatural axes for his graphs. On the whole, the presentation is fair enough -- certainly fairer than Times-style but-a-spokesman-for-ExxonMobil-disagreed reportage. ("Reality has a well-known liberal bias" -- S. Colbert.)

The argument, then. Global warming exists: that's 100% proved. Global warming is caused by man-made greenhouse gas emissions: that's 98% proved in real life, less so by the movie (some more science would've been nice). If global warming continues, it'll fuck us up: duh. So therefore we should do something about greenhouse gas emissions: amen. So what's missing?

During the entire documentary, Gore doesn't mention tax once. But the success of the Kyoto Protocol and its successors depends on worldwide implementation of clean technologies. It's possible that such tech could be legislated in the U.S. without an economic tradeoff. But there's no way that could happen in developing countries. Such upgrading would require tens of billions of dollars a year, and the U.S. would have to stump up a big chunk of that, and no matter how many of us point out that the military budget dwarfs this amount, that's never going to happen unless funds are raised specifically for this purpose. Which leaves us to choose between a currency exchange tax (which many economists think is a brilliant idea but is politically unworkable), an air travel tax (which might not be able to raise the amount needed) and a carbon tax (which is the most politically viable solution, yet even New Zealand, a far greener country, couldn't get the law passed). Democrats like Gore haven't shown any inclination to bring to bring these sorts of proposals into public discussion. This may be politically defensible in a country that's yet to ratify Kyoto. But it's a white flag, pathetic enough to make you vote for Nader.

I plan to be alive in fifty years. The work of people who think like Al Gore may reduce the devastation climate change will have caused by that time. But it won't eliminate it.


  • At 1:35 AM, Blogger The Fed Ex of Funk said…

    Uh, you didn't post a grade for this one. How am I supposed to know what to think if you won't tell me?

  • At 8:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "Gore's desire to present his case in the best possible light sometimes lapses into overstatement "

    Such as what?
    Example, please?

    BTW Gore is no longer a politician.

    And if you want to find people who overstate things and lie you don't have to look further than at the average US voter, who cares little about the truth but at the same time demands it from politicians.

  • At 2:13 PM, Blogger Charlie Chan said…

    1. Well B+ then.

    2a. e.g. you could certainly find scientists to back the claim of a 20-foot sea rise, but it's also certainly not consensus, and given that the total rise in the 20th century was of the order of one foot, the estimate seems rather garish.

    2b. I wish the average US voter demanded truth from politicians.


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