An Inconvenient Truth Film Analysis
In the film documentary “An Inconvenient Truth”, former Vice President Al Gore primarily discusses the topic of global warming and the possible adverse effects that the world may have to face due to unawareness of this significant issue. In the movie, Gore seems to portray the general public as careless towards the matter. This is what I believe led his determination to let the issue be brought into further detail such as portraying the very serious and severe effects on many, if not all, parts of the world. Although the general consensus by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is not one hundred percent positive on the direct cause of global warming, it has been stated that “The Earth’s climate changes in response to external forcing, including variations in its orbit around the Sun, orbital forcing, changes in solar luminosity, volcanic eruptions, and atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations” (Bard). Among these the only issue that we as humans can actually help to resolve is the amount of greenhouse gases that are produced, and try to help curve the accelerating depletion of our ozone layer. Gore focuses on topics of greenhouse gas emissions, such as the relationship between CO2 levels and global temperature, the actions that can be taken to decrease global CO2 levels. To further reiterate the issue, Gore goes into detail about the melting of land-based ice and the impact it will have on global water levels, and the severe global impact of the arctic polar ice cap melting.
The term Greenhouse Gases generally defines the gases in our atmosphere which keep the earth at an inhabitable temperate climate. Carbon Dioxide, Methane, Nitrous Oxide, Ozone and Chlorofluorocarbons are all among the greenhouse gases existing in the atmosphere. A focus Al Gore emphasizes on in the film is the relationship between CO2 levels and its effect on the overall global temperature.
One primary piece of evidence Gore uses in this specific argument is the Keeling Curve which is a graph showing the variation in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere since 1958. The graph is based on continuous measurements taken at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii under the supervision of Charles David Keeling. “Keeling’s measurements showed the first significant evidence of rapidly increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Many scientists credit Keeling’s graph with first bringing the world’s attention to the effects that human activity were having on the Earth’s atmosphere and climate” (Briggs).
Another topic Gore brings into the picture, which in my opinion was a good topic to bring up because of the complete unawareness of the matter, is the subject of the melting of land-based ice and the impact it will have on global water levels. The retreat of glaciers all over the world has substantially increased dramatically just in the last century alone. Aside from watching An Inconvenient Truth, I actually went and researched on a lot of the glaciers and ice barriers around the world and personally found it astonishing on how many ice shelves have thawed out in the past century… Hell, in the past twenty years! In the documentary, Gore discusses more so the effects that this ice rapidly melting will actually have on different parts of the world. One main impact the film had on me personally was his discussion of the possibility of the collapse of a major ice sheet in Greenland or in West Antarctica, either of which could raise global sea levels by approximately 20 feet, which in turn would cause the flooding of numerous coastal areas. Areas such as The Netherlands, parts of Northern Europe, the West Indies, and Florida would be completely drowned thus leaving millions homeless. Gore predicted that if either of these catastrophic events were to occur, over 100 million refugees would surface. Being a Florida resident, this obviously concerns me. I did some further investigation into this and
retrieved these facts from the National Snow and Ice Data Center:
The potential for major sea level rise depends mostly on a significant melting of the polar ice caps of Greenland and Antarctica, as this is where the vast majority of glacial ice is located. …for at least the next 50 years, snowfall on the continent of Antarctica should continue to exceed glacial losses from global warming. The amount of glacial loss on the continent of Antarctica is not increasing significantly, …although the Antarctic Peninsula has warmed in recent years, causing glacier retreat in that region.(BAS) If all the ice on the polar ice caps were to melt away, the oceans of the world would rise an estimated 70 m (230 ft). However, with little major melt expected in Antarctica, sea level rise of not more than 0.5 m (1.6 ft) is expected through the 21st century, with an average annual rise of 0.004 m (0.013 ft) per year. Thermal expansion of the world’s oceans will contribute, independent of glacial melt, enough to double those figures.
Another issue Gore brought up in the documentary was that melting water from Greenland, because of its lower salt content, could immobilize the currents that keep northern Europe warm and quickly trigger dramatic local cooling there. This would create a new Ice Age, leaving most of northern Europe completely uninhabitable due to the harsh climate. That kind of information would of course stir anybody up, but the matter to me is how accurate these conclusions actually are. Yes of course extensive research has been done and ‘yada yada’, but if all these facts are scientifically proven than why in the world is there so much controversy about all of it? That’s the significant fact that I can not simply come to terms with. The documentary ends with Gore arguing that if we take the appropriate actions that are necessary to prevent this soon, the effects of global warming can be successfully reversed.
So what can us as people do to hinder this lunacy? Of course I am only exaggerating to a certain extent. Although there may not be much that we can do about stopping the polar ice caps from melting directly, there were key actions that Gore pointed out which could be taken to decrease global CO2 levels. By lowering global CO2 levels, this could modify the production of greenhouse gases burning through our protective ozone layer. This in turn would stop the increasing intrusion of the sun’s rays, lessening this global warming that we are enduring.
Some steps that Al Gore suggested to take as individuals in this documentary were replacing regular light bulbs with fluorescents, driving less by taking public transit or carpooling, recycling more, using less hot water, being more conservative with electronic devices, adjusting your thermostat by 2 degrees, planting a tree, avoiding products with excessive packaging, and checking the inflation of your car tires to promote better gas mileage. All of these steps, if taken by the majority of the population, Gore believes can decrease global CO2 levels, thus stopping the progress of global warming. And if the process of global warming actually can be successfully stopped or reversed, the positive effect is our children and following descendents will still have a beautiful thriving world to live in. I’ll close with Gore’s opening monologue to the documentary:
You look at that river gently flowing by. You notice the leaves rustling with the wind. You hear the birds; you hear the tree frogs. In the distance you hear a cow. You feel the grass. The mud gives a little bit on the river bank. It’s quiet; it’s peaceful. And all of a sudden, it’s a gear shift inside you. And it’s like taking a deep breath and going… ‘Oh yeah, I forgot about this’.
The documentary was not meant be an exploitation of the world coming to an end in any manner, as far as my opinion goes. But what Al Gore succeeded in doing a phenomenal job at was spreading the word about global warming and explaining that there are things that we as people can actually do to make earth live longer.
Bard, Edouard; Frank, Martin (2006). “Climate change and solar variability: What’s new under the sun?” 248, 1-14.
Briggs, Helen (3-11-2007). 50 years on: The Keeling Curve legacy. BBC News.
Gore, Al (05-24-2006). An Inconvenient Truth. Paramount Classics.
National Snow and Ice Data Center. Global glacier recession. GLIMS Data at NSIDC. 2006.
Ondonic, A (4-16-2008). An Inconvenient Truth. Wikipedia.org;