Sunday, January 07, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth

One of the things I enjoy most about blogging is this developing sense of community within the blogosphere. You “meet” so many people of different walks in life, share ideas, argue and just generally expand your knowledge of the world around us. This morning I was greeted with a nice email from RangerX thanking me for the reasoned response I had to his updated post on the Grand Canyon issue. I started perusing his blog and stopped on the entry discussing global warming and Al Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth. I haven’t seen Gore’s movie, but after reading RangerX’s blog, I’ll be adding it to my Amazon list:

But in the new documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” directed by Davis Guggenheim and featuring Al Gore, I learned that "out of 925 recent articles in peer-review scientific journals about global warming, there was no disagreement. Zero.” I also learned that while there is a 100% agreement by scientists, 57% of non-scientific newspaper and magazine articles question the fact of global warming and 43% support it. The energy industry, much like the tobacco industry, waged a disinformation campaign to “reposition global warming as a debate” when there is no serious debate.

The last line is particularly telling. Substitute “creationism” and “intelligent design” for tobacco/energy industries and “evolution” with global warming and the same thing can be said about the war over Darwinian theory today: anti-evolutionists have created a debate where there is none. I have not spent a significant amount of time on the global warming issue, but the actual “science” that I’ve read indicates no real controversy over the issue – global warming is real its primary cause is anthropogenic (humans). One need only read Chris Mooney’s Republican War On Science to begin to comprehend the incredible distortions of science the Republicans have promoted, solely to benefit their business or fundamentalist backers.

Interestingly, RangerX also draws what I believe to be an appropriate analogy between the demise of past civilizations and our current environmental problems:

I remember a guided hike I conducted in Zion National Park called “In the Footsteps of the Ancients?”. In this program, I compared our modern society with that of the extinct Anasazi, or Ancestral Puebloans if you will, and asked if we, too, might be literal following their same path of climate change and environmental disaster. On my hike, I referred to global warming and said that while we ultimately cannot know what the results will be, we do know that we are having an impact and that our every action has a result. I stepped in the sand for effect and said that we can’t walk without leaving a footprint.

Our archaeological research increasingly demonstrates that civilization collapse is significantly linked to environmental abuse coupled with environmental change. I once remember conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh referring to what he considered to be irrelevancy of environmentalism. He stated that humans cannot possibly destroy the earth. Absolutely true, but that’s never been the issue with environmentalism. What we can do, quite easily with today’s technology, is render the planet inhabitable for humans; minimally we can shift the environment to such a degree that hunting and gathering might become more productive than industrialization.

RangerX ends his post with this comment by Roger Ebert on his review of Gore’s movie:

As Roger Ebert wrote in his review, “In 39 years, I have never written these words in a movie review, but here they are: You owe it to yourself to see this film. If you do not, and you have grandchildren, you should explain to them why you decided not to.”

Sounds like good advice.


genexs said...

very good post, well stated.

CFeagans said...

After reading a criticism of Gore by a conservative blogger/columnist, I was so moved by his pseudoskepticism that I emailed him and we had a short exchange, which I wrote up and submitted to an edition of the Carnival of Green (my post).

Nearly every criticism I've read, especially on the internet, about Gore was by someone who didn't watch the movie or read the book. I haven't read the book, but I did watch the film.

I don't know if human activity is having any significant impact on global warming -it might be that climate change is naturally occurring. But I find the pseudoskeptism that surrounds the topic to be fascinating.

Christopher O'Brien said...

Yes, I agree. I'm not entirely convinced the warming phenomenon is entirely anthropogenic, but you're correct about the skepticism behind Gore and others: it's usually nothing more than pro-business griping. I haven't spent as much time looking at global warming per se, but anyone familiar with paleoenvironmental analysis knows that the climate is constantly changing. To suggest that we aren't currently experiencing a long term change in cllimate is ridiculous to the extreme. The question, of course, is whether this is "natural" cyclic fluctuation or caused (perhaps exacerbated) by anthropogenic factors. It is clear, however, that human civilization doesn't have the greates track record for heading environmental warning signs. Humans usually go for the short-term benefit and ignore the long-term implications.

Ranger X said...

Sorry it has taken me so long to comment on this story. Thanks for your reference! Have you heard about the scandal of showing the movie in Washington? You are totally wright about substituting creationism and religion. Check out my blog for the latest details!

Anonymous said...

Re your comments on the Anasazi - for a really scary look at what we're doing to our world and the lessons to be learnt from the failure of earlier cultures try the ever erudite Jared Diamond's "Collapse" - then weep.

Michael said...

You noted that ..."out of 925 recent articles in peer-review scientific journals about global warming, there was no disagreement. Zero.

Correct and so what? While most climate scientists acknowledge that global warming is occurring, their debate centers on the extent of the anthropogenic effect.

Using the claim that no disagreement exists about climate warming is a straw man, disengenuous at best, and belies a serious understanding of the issue.

You should know better...