Book Review – An Inconvenient Truth

People…want to deny global warming because it’s easier than dealing
with it…

An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore

First off, this book reads like a cross between a National Geographic article, a memoir, and a Dr. Seuss book. Three hundred twenty-five pages and I finished it in two and a half hours. If Al Gore was trying to write a book that was “accessible,” he overshot. Slightly. I could have read and understood this book back when I was in the third grade. When I flipped through it in the library, I laughed. Out loud. I probably startled a few people. There are big pictures that take up both pages, some with a little caption. There are pages that have, I shit you not, about five words on them. The most words per page are found in the sections where he talks about his sister, or his childhood, or when he got elected to some office or other in Tennessee. Hell, his memoirs took up more of the book than his “science.”

And about that “science.” The entire book rests upon one premise: that climate change is anthropogenic. (This blog is not written by a five-year-old, nor is it written for five-year-olds. If that word is too big please go read Twilight or something.) Gore’s entire argument for anthropogenic climate change rests on one flimsy chart. There’s a picture of the movie version here, along with some criticism. One commenter on that post pointed out that the “recent” rise in temperature doesn’t match the rise in CO2 the way the other rises in temperature matched their rises in CO2. I found that interesting, myself. If you were wondering about those lags, they’re right here on this graph. This guy, who seems to be in the global warming camp, even says “It turns out that the story is far more complex than [CO2→ΔT], and although Al Gore was not lying when he said that the CO2 and temperature are related, his presentation of what occurred was intentionally misleading.”

And that’s the crux of the matter, here. The whole book is one misleading graph, chart, or statement after another. A chart just before his famous one depicts the “departures in temperature from the 1961-1990 averages.” It goes back 1,000 years. According to the chart, with few exceptions the temperature has been below the average until recently. Seems pretty straightforward. But it stops at 1,000 years. Turn the page, you see the main graph, which goes back 600,000 years (and depicts that our planet has, in fact, been warmer than it is right now. Somehow I think the planet survived just fine.) But if we have all that data, why bother showing the smaller graph, which is just a different depiction of the same damn data? Furthermore, he showed us the smaller graph twice. First, vertically, on page 63, and then again, horizontally this time, on 64. The next freaking page.

And that was it for proving the anthropogenic nature of climate change. One measly little graph that only requires a mention that correlation does not mean causation. After that, he moves straight on to “more ‘proof’ that the planet is getting warmer” and “what will happen to the planet if it gets really hot.” For the next 250 pages. At one point, he lists American cities that had record-breaking heat waves in 2005, “including, significantly, New Orleans.” For one, he doesn’t seem to know where exactly New Orleans is. Mississippi Delta, yes? For some reason, it’s depicted as right in the middle of Louisiana. And the bullet merely states “On July 25, 2005, The Louis Armstrong Airport in New Orleans, Louisiana, hit 98 degrees F.” If Louisiana is anything like Texas (and considering the proximity of these two states I think it’s likely), then 98 is fairly common in the summer. No “record” is mentioned. Apparently he was stretching for a few more bullets to round out his little map of the US.

I could go on. For days. I actually have the back of a receipt filled with notes on various oddball bits of shit that are in this book. Photos of rivers wet one year and dry the next, which is probably due more to seasonal and yearly fluctuations than climate change. I should also mention that his assertion that hurricanes are more costly now than ever before because of climate change is flawed. Hurricanes are more costly now because we have more crap than ever before and we’re living on the coast more than ever before. What did I say earlier about correlation and causation?

One interesting thing I’d like to get a source on was mentioned only briefly during one of his memoir-like digressions. “…[T]he presence of air pollution in the ice cores visibly declined not long after passage of the US Clean Air Act in 1970…” I’d like to look into that to see if it’s true.

Now it’s time to be brief and harsh. This book is full of shit. It was written by a hypocritical dumbass who assumes that people will eat up any pseudo-scientific bullshit you feed them. The scary part is that a lot of people did eat this up. At best, this should have been titled “An Inconvenient Half-Truth Spread With a Liberal Dose of Misinformation.” And speaking of liberal, apparently everything is the Republicans’ fault, specifically the Bush-Cheney administration. Too bad most of the graphs he uses show that shit started happening in the 1970s, well before Bush the Second was elected into office.

I will not mention carbon offsets. I will not mention carbon offsets. I will not mention carbon offsets. I will not mention carbon offsets. I will not mention carbon offsets.

I’d also like to mention briefly that I picked the leading quote out because I thought it was funny as hell. I’m a climate change skeptic with a smaller carbon footprint than Mr. Gore and that amuses me to no end.

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8 Responses to “Book Review – An Inconvenient Truth”

  1. I don’t know much about the science of climate change. And I think I am one of the few people who will admit their ignorance. I do try to learn about it, but reading New Scientist will only get you so far. I *think* climate change is happening, but I think it would happen if we were here or not. (And that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to live greener lives)

    What really grips my shit are people like Al who think scaring people with misinformation is the way to go. It’s not. It also pisses me off that folk like him do sweet fuck all to stop the “man-made climate change” they believe in. If they are really that scared, why aren’t they doing anything?

    End of rant.

    • Precisely. By now I’m pretty well convinced that the planet is warming up. But how much of that is anthropogenic (and how warm it will get/how much “damage” it will cause) I’m uncertain about. And as you said, Al Gore’s lifestyle doesn’t exactly scream “looming catastrophe.”

  2. Dargon Says:

    The comment about New Orleans reminds me of a similar comment I once heard on an internet forum. The person there arguing about the existence of climate change dropped the startling fact that Texas was expecting high temperatures over 100F! Needless to say, as a native Texan from a region where heat was measured by consecutive days over 100F, and where 115F was not uncommon, my reply was a might bit scathing.

    I also found amusing your quote about “[assumptions] that people will eat up any pseudo-scientific bullshit you feed them.” Take for instance the guy I mentioned above. Or alternative medicine. The anti-vaccine movement. Detoxification. Anything Deepak Chopra has ever said. People do eat up any psuedo-scientific bullshit you throw at them.

    • I stand corrected. Why I overestimate the intelligence of humanity when it’s proven to me time and time again that most people are idiots is beyond me. Maybe because I’m an idiot.

      • Dargon Says:

        I do it too. I’m getting better at it, though. I think it takes being bashed with enough stupid to realize that stupid is, in fact, the norm.

  3. A person who lives like this: http://articles.latimes.com/2010/may/13/home/la-hm-hotprop-20100508
    has forfeited their right to speak about the environment, I think.

  4. WhiteFox Says:

    It’d be nice if actual scientists who have done actual studies of the phenomenon and look at information other scientists have done would be at the forefront of popular literature rather than a politician who’s done nothing of the sort.

    But that’s just wishful thinking :P

    And I do think that global warming is happening, and probably is partly influenced by humans, but just because I THINK I’m right and I THINK I see support for that in whatever charts I read doesn’t mean I actually am right. And even if I was, it wouldn’t matter because it’s already here and going on and this is just how it’s gonna be then. Gotta adapt to whatever’s going on just like all organisms try to do.

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