An Inconvenient Truth: A Fifth Anniversary Tribute
By: Mark Hyman
This month is the fifth anniversary of the release of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. The documentary film became a sensation among the political left, the easily impressionable segments of the public and a majority in Congress that was all too eager to enact legislation to solve the global crisis.
The film won an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature and the audio version received a Grammy. For his efforts to save the planet, Gore received the Nobel Peace Prize. This is a very good haul for a film that grossed a rather paltry $23 million in domestic box office receipts.
There is no denying that Gore and his film deserve the lion’s share of the credit (or blame) for launching the wild hysteria to combat “manmade global warming” that swept the nation in 2006.
The U.S. House of Representatives created an entirely new committee “The Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming” because “global warming is an urgent problem that requires action now” such as hastening the nation’s “transition away from a fossil fuel-based economy.”
Congress passed legislation banning incandescent light bulbs by 2014. Americans will soon exclusively use CFL (curly-fry light) bulbs that will keep a home as dimly light as a Third World hospital room.
On several occasions Congress was unsuccessful in enacting “cap and trade” legislation that would be a financial windfall for some groups but would also kill thousands of American jobs. Common sense prevailed as the legislation failed to move in Congress but, the Environmental Protection Agency has threatened to implement the legislation via regulatory edict.
After the film was released, a number of strange bedfellows jumped onto the manmade global warming bandwagon. In one public service announcement, Nancy Pelosi and Newt Gingrich, who sat together on a sofa like a pair of love-struck lab partners before they were to head off to the senior prom, demanded a solution to global warming.
A year later the always-evolving Gingrich would abandon his newfound fossil-fuels-are-evil buddies and publish a book titled Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less in which he advocates pumping as much oil from the ground as is humanly possible.
Going Green became the catch phrase. There was a rush to purchase hybrid vehicles such as the two-seat Honda Insight, the impractical compact that is not much larger than a circus clown car, and the overpriced Toyota Prius that has been plagued with numerous battery and service problems.
The Discovery cable network launched Planet Green channel whose star celebrity is Ed Begley, Jr. That’s right, who? That came on the heels of NBC Universal airing “green” theme programming on its stable of cable and broadcast channels during the month of April. Even Time magazine offered a “Going Green” column. Green expos, exhibits, conventions and bazaars popped up around the country. Green was in.
Not content with his role as Chicken Little, Gore went on to co-found a “carbon credit” company that has made him millions. He even used the carbon credit service for himself. He deems his extravagant, high-energy use home as being “carbon neutral” because he purchases “carbon offsets.” From himself.
This review comes five years after the film’s original release but, I confess the timing is only a mere coincidence. My primary goal in watching the film was to determine if I was correct in what I remembered of my 2006 viewing. I began to have doubts.
That is because practitioners of manmade global warming hysteria have attempted to correct me again and again in recent years by claiming Gore’s film was not about manmade global warming but, instead, was about “climate change.” I had been told this so many times that I had begun to doubt what I saw five years ago.
The catch-all phrase “climate change” happens to be politically convenient because it allows manmade global warming enthusiasts to deposit every single climate event (highs, lows, and the status quo) into their CSI evidence bag as proof that man — particular Western man and more specifically, American society — is evil and is the cause of most of the world’s ills.
Gore tells us so in the film. He said, “We are still, by far, the worst contributor to the problem.” Why can’t Americans be more like the Chinese he asks? For example, he claims they build more efficient automobiles and “Chinese scientists are right on the cutting edge” in environmental matters. Maybe Gore has confused East German and Chinese automobile ingenuity.
In his 1992 book Earth in the Balance, the basis of An Inconvenient Truth, Gore fell back on his Malthusian beliefs that there are far too many people for a healthy world to support. “[W]e have been producing increasing quantities of CO2 , and we are now dumping vast amounts of into the global atmosphere,” he wrote. Gore then reminded us that the “human lung inhales oxygen and exhales carbon dioxide, and the engines of civilization have, in effect, automated the process of breathing.” (No matter how many times I read that statement I have no idea what it means.)
He reinforces this point in the film by emphasizing that population growth places profound pressures on the planet. Surprisingly, he did not plug the Chinese’s one-child per family rule as another brilliant advancement by the Asian nation.
I heard the phrase “global warmingt; (or “manmade global warming”) in An Inconvenient Truth on 24 occasions. “Climate change”? Not so much. In fact, I only heard the phrase twice. Even if I missed a “global warming” here or a “climate change” there the fact-of-the-natter is the film is all about global warming. Score one for my memory and zero for the revisionists.
While watching the film, one has to practice (in the words of Hillary Clinton) the “willing suspension of disbelief” in order to accept many of Gore’s claims and the nexus he insists is between world events and manmade global warming. For instance, he says, “Global warming not only paradoxically causes more flooding but also more drought.” He argues global warming will cause drought in one region and flooding in a neighboring region. Huh?
He asserts polar bears are an endangered species. They aren’t. And he states, “Within the decade there will be no more snows of [Mount] Kilimanjaro.” The blame rests with manmade global warming he claims. But this isn’t true either. Kilimanjaro’s mountaintop temperatures never rise above freezing. The ice pack is not melting away due to increased temperatures but is disappearing due to sublimation in which frozen ice converts directly into water vapor. This is caused by solar radiation. And it has been occurring for more than a century or about 125 years before I bought my SUV.
Gore claims an increase in mosquitoes is due to manmade global warming but he conveniently ignores that worldwide bans, led by American environmentalists, against the very effective mosquito-killing insecticide DDT most likely played the largest role in increased mosquito populations.
He recounts a trip to the Antarctic where a researcher shows him an ice core sample from a glacier and then points to the exact spot in the sample that coincided with date of when the U.S. Congress passed the 1963 Clean Air Act. As he explained in Earth, “[E]ven a small reduction in one country’s emissions had changed the amount of pollution found in the remotest and least accessible place on earth.” Really?
There are dozens of other errors, misstatements of fact, and bizarre claims in An Inconvenient Truth, which makes the film title even funnier when one thinks about it.
In the film, Gore appears to be just as focused on resurrecting his moribund political career as he is on spreading his alarmism regarding manmade global warming. His opening on-camera statement is, “I am Al Gore. I used to be the next President of the United States.” One doesn’t get the sense this was delivered Rodney Dangerfield-like in that “I don’t get no respect” vein that is intended to elicit belly laughs.
The film includes clips of network news announcements that Gore won the 2000 Florida vote followed by Florida election officials examining dimpled and hanging chads from punch card ballots. Liberals still whine that the U.S. Supreme Court stole election victory away from Gore and gave it to George W. Bush even though a gaggle of liberal newspapers reluctantly reported that ballot recounts firmly gave Bush more votes than Gore.
The film does carry Gore’s statesman-like comment that he eventually accepted the high court’s ruling in Bush v. Gore. “While I strongly disagree with the court’s decision, I accept it. I accept the finality of this outcome,” he said.
Still, Gore delivers slights and tosses insults at Bush and other prominent Republicans including Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK). (Inhofe is a leading Congressional skeptic of manmade global warming claims.) Gore portrays a grade school science teacher as bordering on incompetent and then adds, “The teacher went on to become the science adviser in the current [Bush] administration.”
He alleges Bush broke a campaign promise to combat a cause of global warming. “In 2000, my opponent pledged to regulate CO2 and that was not a pledge that was kept.”
Gore disciples might experience a case of dÃ©jÃ vu over that statement. In Earth, Gore made an identical claim but that time it was directed against the first President Bush. “George Bush declared in one speech that he would, if elected, exercise leadership on global warming and ‘confront the greenhouse effect with the White House effect.’ It was, as we now know, an empty promise.”
Gore comes across as someone delivering little digs to his audience throughout the film as if to say, “Don’t you feel guilty for not electing me President?” Unfortunately for the former Vice President, while Americans like a good sport they have little patience for sore losers and pouting martyrs.
Portions of the film have a campaign feel. The film is peppered with little vignettes about Gore’s personal life that appear to be attempts to engender sympathy for the man. He discusses the day his son was struck by an automobile and the boy’s hospital stay, which was the epiphany that it was Gore’s duty to combat global warming. “It brought into clear focus the mission that I had been pursuing for all these years.”
In Earth, Gore described his global warming alarmist mission in historical terms. “It is already clear that our information about the global environmental crisis does fall into a discernable pattern. For many, this pattern has become painfully obvious. But for others, it is still invisible.â€¦ Galileo was charged with a form of subversion for describing a pattern he saw in the heavens.” Gore is Galileo, eh?
In the film, Gore also mentions the 1984 death of his sister Nancy after she lost her battle to lung cancer after a lifetime of smoking cigarettes. He offers that tragedy as the seminal event that caused him and his family to end tobacco farming. His sister’s death also figured prominently in his 1996 Democratic Convention speech in which he claimed that after her death he committed his “heart and soul into the cause of protecting our children from the dangers of smoking.”
However, a decade earlier during his 1988 run for the presidency Gore apparently had not yet received word that Nancy had died of lung cancer four years earlier. He told a group of tobacco farmers that he was a proud tobacco farmer.
“Throughout most of my life, I raised tobacco. I want you to know that with my own hands, all of my life, I put it in the plant beds and transferred it. I’ve hoed it. I’ve dug in it. I’ve sprayed it, I’ve chopped it, I’ve shredded it, spiked it, put it in the barn and stripped it and sold it.”
The appearance of the film two years before the 2008 presidential election is eerily reminiscent of the release of Gore’s Earth in the Balance just as he and Bill Clinton had paired up for the presidency. It has become routine for presidential candidates to release a book prior to the election.
While Gore implores Americans to make sacrifices in order to tame global warming, he would make no such sacrifices himself. He routinely crisscrosses the country in executive jets although the film contains images of him dragging a wheeled carry-on in an airport terminal as he is presumably headed to the middle seat of row 27 on some Priceline.com flight to save the world.
Meanwhile, Tipper keeps the fires burning in chez Gore where monthly utility bills are twenty times the national average.
As we learn through his actions, sacrifices are not meant to be made by Gore. Or any of his fellow liberals, for that matter. For example, Gore made an appearance in Berkeley, California in October 2006 to rally support for Proposition 87. Prop 87 was a measure aimed at reducing domestic oil consumption.
He arrived at his Berkeley speaking engagement in a Toyota hybrid, accompanied by a motorcade of three motorcycles, two limousines and Dodge Ram pick-up truck. Seven vehicles were used to transport this one very important guy. Fuel conservation isn’t for them — just everyone else.
About the same time, his fellow travelers behaved similarly. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) denounced low mileage vehicles at a press conference outside a Capitol Hill gas station before hopping into her staff-driven, 18-mpg Chrysler LHS luxury car for the two-block ride back to her office.
Former Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. (D-TN) appeared on MSNBC to criticize gas guzzling trucks and SUVs in spite of the fact he was driving a 15-mpg Chevy Tahoe.
Senator John Kerry (D-MA) co-signed a letter to the Bush White House demanding a reduction of oil use in the U.S. even though he jets around in a $48-million Gulfstream G-V jet that burns 750 gallons of fuel an hour.
I honestly had a difficult time completely watching An Inconvenient Truth a second time. First of all, I already know how the story ends. Second, I had to restart the film from the beginning four times. I kept getting interrupted each time I tried to watch. Once was because I was asked to take out the trash and recyclables. The other three times were because my nine-year old son wanted to demonstrate some magic tricks.
In retrospect, the interruptions seem so appropriate.
Mark Hyman hosts “Behind the Headlines,” a commentary program for Sinclair Broadcast Group.
Mark Hyman hosts "Behind the Headlines," a commentary program for Sinclair Broadcast Group.