Is the world getting warmer? All sorts of anecdotal and empirical evidence, as well as what our own senses tell us, would suggest “yes.” The most advanced climatological research comes up with the same answer, and places the blame primarily with the burning of fossil fuels. Against this stand a few skeptics — some well-intentioned, many, funded by the energy industry, not — who claim that global warming is either not caused by pollution, or not happening at all.

It’s rather amusing: Look at the people who are loudest in saying that the flimsiest doubts about global warming, despite a preponderance of solid evidence, mean we shouldn’t take any action to stop it. Well, guess what? These are the same “conservative” bloviators who recklessly cast aside all doubts and supported going to war on some rather flimsy evidence regarding WMDs in Iraq.

This only goes to show what a joke politics are in America these days, as ideology drives pundits into a world of make-believe, where happy little brown people will welcome American invasions with flowers and marshmallow pies. Pixie dust allows you to throw away trillions on a war while cutting tax revenue, and pollution doesn’t exist if you don’t think about it!

An Inconvenient Truth
Director Davis Guggenheim
Run Time 96 minutes
Language English
Opens Now showing (Jan. 26, 2007)

Along comes Al Gore, former vice president and loser to George W. Bush in the 2000 election, a man now long outside the Washington arena, with a sober documentary film entitled “An Inconvenient Truth.” Gore’s film takes on the issue of global warming and reminds us that, as novelist Philip K. Dick once put it, “Reality is what’s still there when you stop believing in it.”

The reality, which Gore seeks to show as incontrovertible, is that the world is heating up, and carbon emissions are the cause. Directed simply by Davis Guggenheim, “An Inconvenient Truth” shows Gore giving a multimedia lecture that he’s been “touring” with these past few years. The idea of the notoriously wooden Gore speaking from a lectern for 90 minutes may be enough to make your eyes glaze over, but really, it’s not that bad. (Really.)

Gore the candidate was never that inspiring, and the common impression was that the man consisted of nothing but opinion group-driven positions his handlers gave him. That changes here, where we see a Gore who’s unafraid of speaking forcefully for what he believes, who’s learned to show some passion, and — get this — even a little irony. (Like when he introduces himself as the guy “who used to be the next president of the United States.”)

Gore explains simply but succinctly, how the thin layer of the atmosphere is being thickened by carbon-based pollution, resulting in more heat being trapped within. Graphs show us how CO2 levels and temperatures have remained pretty constant over the past 1,000 years (as measured by ice-core drills), but have gone off the charts over the past decade. CO2 levels now are more than twice as high as they’ve ever been.

What is truly frightening, however, are the photos, before and after shots that illustrate the stark reality of what’s happening to our planet. A shot of Mount Kilimanjaro 30 years ago, covered in snow and ice, is followed by a recent one that shows it covered in green vegetation. Similar shots show the Alps’ snow-cover disappearing, but most terrifying of all is the ice — or lack of it — in glaciers and the poles.

Since 1970, ice thickness in the Antarctic has dropped by 40 percent. Entire ice shelves have broken up, or disappeared. All that water goes into the oceans, and the more that melts, the more sea levels rise. If Greenland’s ice were to go, as Gore points out, water levels would rise by more than six meters. At least we’d be able to enjoy the karmic retribution as the Bush family home on the Maine coast gets submerged, but that’s mighty cold comfort.

Gore never addressed his nemesis and current occupant of the White House by name, but he does ask, rhetorically, “Is it possible we should prepare for other threats beyond terrorists?” The film also shows us how Bush put a hack from the American Petroleum Institute (an oil industry shill) in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency, and how climate experts had their opinions censored in government reports. All par for the course from an administration that has expressed disdain for its “reality-based” critics.

Gore goes on to criticize the “false choice” being offered “between the economy and the planet,” pointing to international cooperation to fight ozone depletion as a model of success. The film is a call to action, and definitely worth a look.

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