After reading Kyle Smith's scathing review of Al Gore's global warming flick in the New York Post
, I decided to see An Inconvenient Truth
a second time to see if I just got taken in by the straightforward moviemaking and my like of Al Gore. However, what I saw convinced me that Smith is either the most inept reviewer ever to write for a major daily, or he is willfully misrepresenting the facts. Either way, it does not speak well of him.
Here is his review in full, with my comments and corrections interspersed.
AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH
May 24, 2006 --
Rating: 1 star
AL GORE'S global-warming documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," is sure to get an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary, but Gore should campaign for Best Actor, too.
Avoiding the usual vein-popping diatribes, he comes across as learned, calm and folksy. But much of what Gore says in this slide show he gives to people whose minds are not yet fully formed (undergraduates, actors) is absurd, and his assertions often contradict each other.
He implies that no reputable scientists dispute anything he says - basically, that the ice caps are melting and people on the 50th floor of the Empire State Building had better learn to swim.
Gore did not imply that no reputable scientist would dispute anything he said--he said it flat out. Specifically, what he said was that out of a sample of nearly 1,000 peer-reviewed articles, not one disputed the fact that global warming was happening and that humans are to blame. Secondly, he does not say that water will rise to the 50th floor of the Empire State Building, and I do not know why Smith feels he needs to joke about this. What Gore does clearly show is that if sea levels rise 20 feet--something not out of the question--water will flood lower Manhattan. This is a deadly serious truth, and there is no dispute about this fact.
But there is wide disagreement about whether humans are causing global warming (climate change preceded the invention of the Escalade) and about whether we should be worried about the trends.
As Gore makes abundantly clear, there is no disagreement whatsoever. Yes, the climate has changed before, but never, in the past 650,000 years, as drastically as it is changing now. No one can watch this movie and think otherwise.
Also, I know Smith is trying to be witty, but no one claimed that global warming started with the Escalade -- it started, in fact, at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, as in the chart below, which you can find on the Wikipedia under its Global Warming entry.
Look carefully at Gore's charts and you'll see that the worst horrors take place in the future of his imagination.
His implication that he is our only hope - every ticket bought for this movie amounts to a soft-money contribution to his 2008 campaign - is ridiculous. He and his friends were in charge for eight years.
This is not factually correct. Congress was controlled by Republicans since 1994; they make the laws for auto emissions, for examples, or regulating clean air. Even with that, Clinton/Gore did have some successes in promoting change, and Gore points these out in the movie. More importantly, this issue has clearly become more of a passion for him since the election. And, as recent evidence has made clear, time is running short to fix the problem--that is, it is even clearer now in 2006 than it was in 2000 that this is the most important issue of our generation.
His charts say global warming got worse in that time. The environment doesn't seem to care whether the president is a Texas oilman or the Man from Hope.
Smith's only reason for writing this seems to be to imply that nothing can be done and we should not try to fix the problem.
Global warming hasn't noticed that we got the lead out of our gasoline or that Stage One smog days in Los Angeles fell from 121 in 1977 to zero in 2004. All regulations and taxes to date have done nothing. Does this hint that pollution isn't the cause?
No, it does not hint at that at all. The movie makes clear that global warming occurs because of increases in total carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It does not get better just in the city of Los Angeles if they have less smog. (However, other benefits may accrue, such as fewer incidents of asthma, less cancer, or whatever.) But it's global temperature change we're talking about here, not small local changes in one city that has solved the worst of its smog crisis.
Gore claims, with pie-chart-in-the-sky dreaminess, that unspecified measures can reduce emissions to 1970 levels.
Actually, he specifies what those measures are--some just as summaries, that's true, but they are not unspecified. What's more, they all relate back to the idea of "wedges," which is well-documented in climate change literature. Either Smith was not paying attention or found Gore's succinct explanations too difficult to understand.
He assesses the tradeoff between the economy and the environment with the kind of buffoonery you'd expect in a Marxist comic book, displaying a cartoon of a scale with Earth on one side and bars of gold on the other. "OK, on one side we have gold bars," he says. "Mmm, mmm, don't they look good!"
Smith must not have realized what Gore explained in the movie--that this chart came from the first Bush Administration's presentation on how they were balancing economics with the environment. Gore was making fun of it because it was so ludicrous; Gore was not the one who came up with it.
Why doesn't he get specific and replace the "gold bar" side of the scale with, say, a $50,000 tax on SUVs?
Because this is not something that Gore was suggesting.
The ensuing destruction of the car business would hurt blue-collar workers, not the rich. What if global warming continued unabated?
Taxes are not what will solve global warming. This argument is ridiculous.
Gore's faith-based pessimism would lead him to call for even more taxes.
But he didn't call for this kind of tax. Smith said he should call for this kind of tax, and then he said Gore was crazy for calling for this kind of tax.
People are skeptical about global warming because it builds up to the same chorus as every other lefty hymn: more taxes, more hypocritical scolding (the film is the brainchild of Larry David's wife, Laurie, part of the community of people who drive a Prius to the private plane) and especially more America-bashing.
What is this with the taxes?
As for the skepticism, Gore makes clear it is because more than half the articles in the U. S. media state there is a scientific debate -- when in fact there is no such debate.
As for the America-bashing, Gore's larger point is in praise of America, that we have risen to difficult challenges before, that we Americans have a history of doing the right but difficult thing.
Gore says that America, alone, is the problem.
Well, not exactly. He points to the fact that America produces about 30% of the carbon dioxide. America, alone, is the problem in the sense that America has not signed on to the Kyoto agreement.
Taking us to China, he ignores the filth spewed into the air by its coal-fired cities.
Not at all. Gore makes it clear that China and the United States face the same hurdles to overcome regarding coal.
He does not meet with bronchitic citizens who wear surgical masks outdoors and pause to hawk up brown gunk every few minutes. Instead, he tells us America is lagging behind. "China," he says, "is on the cutting edge" of environmentalism. Nonsense.
Nonsense, indeed. Gore says nothing of the sort. He says that China's fuel economy standards are higher than in the United States, and that the United States cannot sell cars to China because U. S. cars do not meet Chinese standards. It's so ridiculous that this would be true, it actually comes across as kind of funny in the movie. But it is a also a serious point that highlights the fact that the U. S. automakers' claims that they cannot make cars with higher gas mileage is false--indeed, is laughable.
Gore is a dangerous evangelist for whom all roads lead to his sole, holy revelation. Remember how his son was injured in a car accident, the story he told at the 1992 convention? He's still telling it, and what was once touching has become exploitative. This time, the accident's meaning is that he wondered whether the Earth would still be there for his son. (Never mind that earlier in the film, he dates his eco-awakening to his Harvard years).
Gore makes crystal clear that he had always believed global warming was real since his days at Harvard, and that after his son nearly died, he decided to make this one of his primary missions in life. He wrote Earth In The Balance after this incident.
A sister who smoked and died of lung cancer? The lesson is that those who used to deny that smoking caused disease were wrong, so anyone who doubts catastrophic global warming must also be wrong.
Not at all. The lesson is that sometimes you have to change your ways, that sometimes you have to make moral choices even if they go against your current lifestyle. The Gore family had grown tobacco. They stopped after his sister's cancer. They realized they had to make a moral choice, even if that meant a change in lifestyle.
Still not convinced that Gore's mind has only one emission? "We have to think differently about war," he says, referring to environmental effects of weapons. "We can't just mindlessly continue the patterns of the past." It's a chilling statement: Even when bombs are flying, Gore promises to measure CO2 first.
What? Was Smith watching the same movie as me? Gore's point is that we have to think differently with new technology, just as we had to rethink war with new technology came along, such as atomic bombs.
The man's shamelessness is astounding when he compares himself to Churchill,
Gore did nothing of the sort. He quotes Churchill; he does not compare himself to Churchill. (He quoted Mark Twain, too, but that doesn't mean he is comparing himself to Mark Twain.)
but that's not the worst of it. The final shot of Gore shows him bravely silhouetted against the cosmos, a lone figure tenderly surveying the firmament. The job he really wants, no recount can give him.
Actually, the shot near the end that Smith is referring to is Gore silhouetted against one of the slides of Hurricane Katrina.
Smith should take a deep breath and calm down. Then he should go back and watch the movie, and see it again, for the first time.