politics

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Political Challenges Facing The Global Warming Politics Essay

The film chosen for the analysis is “An Inconvenient Truth”. This is a documentary film made in 2006, directed by Davis Guggenheim and presented by Al Gore, the former Vice-President of USA and a US presidential Candidate. The film deals about global warming and climate change and it presents and explains to the public a crisis that impacts and will impact us all. This film, although not a Canadian production, was chosen for several reasons. First climate change and global warming is a global issue, affecting all people on Earth, regardless of their nationality, religion or social status. It is also a Canadian issue because Canada is a part of this global community but it also a Canadian issue because of very specific environment in the north of this country. Also, Canada is one of the biggest polluters in the world and is ranked amongst the ‘dirty dozen’: the twelve biggest producers of greenhouse gases. Second, climate change has in the last couple of years become a very important political issue. The issue of global warming and other environmental issues have been widely discussed in the Canadian press while the politicians have been increasingly debating this topic. Since the public awareness about the climate change has grown (partly because of this film!), Canadian voters have made the environment a very important, if not the most important issue in deciding which party to vote for. Third, climate change and global warming have been in the center of media attention because of Canada’s recent withdrawal from the Kyoto protocol. Also the Conservative government’s decision to develop a national plan for the reduction of the greenhouse emissions (instead of joining the international effort) additionally raised public attention Stephen Harper’s government claims that the Kyoto commitment would be too disruptive to Canada’s economy, and hence the change. Finally, the global warming theorists have responded to the documentary with their counter argument; some are good, and others are weak. The proposal of this essay is to attempt to present both sides; what is presented in the film documentary, how it is debunked by supporters of the global warming theory, and what information presented in the documentary and in the response can be debunked; and what is left after the debunking. What science remains after applying science to both arguments?

The film follows Al Gore’s lectures to mass audiences on global warming and climate change. As Mr. Gore states himself, he has given the lecture a thousand times in cities all over the world. To an average person a retired politician giving a lecture on a complex science issue may seem like something that one would probably sleep through. Yet, Gore is very passionate on the subject; the lecture is very well conceived, prepared and presented. In the film the lecture is combined with dramatic images and facts thus giving it a feeling like a good action movie. Gore is eloquent, funny and entertaining. The facts are presented in a very simple yet extraordinarily effective manner. The lecture as well as the film is most likely aimed at people who know little about this issue. However, even those who believe to know a lot may still be in for several surprises. For example, I was shocked to find out that US cars couldn’t be sold in China since they do not meet the Chinese environmental standards! In fact, Chinese mileage standards are better than the mileage standards in Canada.

“An Inconvenient Truth” is an excellent film, primarily because it manages to get its message across. For the first time, global warming has become a mainstream issue and everybody is talking about it. Even those who criticize the film and call it a lie are nevertheless thinking about it and acting on it. The issues of global warming, climate change and their relationship with the increase of greenhouse gases are not new. In fact as Mr. Gore states in the film, the evidence that there is an increase in CO2 levels in the global atmosphere has been around since the early 1960s. Despite this fact a controversy around this issue arose in past decades. Some sources claimed that the increase in the concentration of green house gases is not a product of human activity at all but is rather a natural process. However, this controversy was not created by the scientific community. There is no doubt amongst scientists that the current global warming is caused by human activities. They have also presented a range of effects that we can expect to occur. The ‘controversy’ is a political creation perpetrated by popular press. As Mr. Gore eloquently tells us, “there is no controversy about these facts. Out of 925 recent articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals about global warming, 0% said that that the causes of global warming are uncertain”.

The success and the impact of the film can be attributed to many dramatic images that are used to show the effects of global warming and which the creators use to punctuate the facts they are presenting. A good example is a photograph of Mount Kilimanjaro in Kenya, Africa. The film begins and ends with image of the Earth, landscapes, seas, lakes and sunsets. The first photo is from the 1970 and then several follow up until 2005. Each show an increasing and alarming reduction of snow and ice at the peak of the mountain with the progression of time. On the last photograph there is hardly any snow. The emotional impact is heightened with dramatic images of New Orleans after the hurricane Katrina. The hurricane was directly linked to climate change and global warming because one of the effects of global warming are more severe storms. Another segment which was chosen to ‘touch’ US viewers was the one in which Mr. Gore discusses the fate of certain low-lying regions in the worst-case event of melted icecaps raising the sea-level by twenty some feet.

The film does a nice job also of giving some perspective to Mr. Gore's passion. He talks openly and emotionally about his son being hit by a car at the age of six, and how thinking he was going to lose his beloved child made him reconsider his priorities and what he was doing with his life. The emotion of two other events in Mr. Gore's life and how they inspired his environmental activism also come across in the film: his defeat in Florida to Bush, the death of his sister, a lifelong smoker, from lung cancer and the fact that his family farmed tobacco and didn't stop until after her death. However, these are very briefly covered but still are an important piece of the story. Furthermore, Mr. Gore’s presentation is very straightforward, simple and precise. He gives it ‘flavour’ by adding jokes, literary quotes and by using a sleek, savvy and sophisticated power-point slide show. These details make up for the lack of literally any other person addressing the audience.

Al Gore and the makers of this film go to great lengths to emphasize that the problem of global warming and the issues related to climate change as well as the urgency of the need to do something about it should not be political issues. To Mr. Gore this issue is so important and the potential consequences so dire that it is necessary to put aside all political differences and to go beyond politics. Yet in the film, the authors cannot help but criticize the Republican Party for their attitude towards the environment. The scenes in New Orleans after Katrina link the consequences of the current US Administration’s lack of action against global warming with the Administration’s failure to act and help the people of New Orleans after the hurricane. There is a scene in which two Republican Presidents are commenting on global warming as a non-issue, an attitude that seems ridiculous at best. To Mr. Gore global warming and its consequence go beyond politics and borders: it is a moral issue. If we do not do something to stop it we will be acting unethically. Nevertheless, he does not steer clear of politics. He compares our current attitude of doing almost nothing against global warming to the attitude of world powers in the 1930s while the Nazi were rising to power in Germany.

Although it should not be a political issue because global warming is a fact and not an ‘opinion’ or one partly or the other, nevertheless it is clear that it is now exactly a political issue. People are divided amongst two groups. In the first group are those who agree that global warming is taking place, that it is caused by human activities, particularly fossil fuel burning and that it is causing dire consequences. In the second group are those who believe that the current global warming is a natural occurrence and that it is not caused by human activity and that therefore nothing needs to be done about it. The first group are usually liberal, environmentalists; the second group are people in the oil and automobile industry, conservatives, Republicans. Hence, in this way global warming and problems surrounding it actually become a political issue. Mr. Gore states in the documentary that he wants to reach as many people as possible one city at a time. However it is more likely that people who share views with him will be the ones that will watch the film. Those who oppose them, will not want to see it. Yet the film will also reach those that are undecided or more importantly know little or nothing about global warming. Some may know a little bit about global warming but be unaware of the far-reaching consequences it may have on the global climate. It is these people that the movie is targeting.

The main message of the first movie is that global warming is real and is happening, that humans play a significant role in what is happening, and if we continue to neglect what is happening the future could bring catastrophe on a global scale. What Mr. Gore and the authors of the film are doing is simply offering up the growing mountain of scientific evidence that backs this argument to as many people as possible in a simple and approachable fashion. The idea of the film, much like the idea behind Mr. Gore’s lectures is to inform as many ordinary people as possible. Global warming has become a political issue, although as Mr. Gore argues it is an issue that goes beyond politics. The political aspect cannot be ignored particularly because of Mr. Gore political history and because the USA is currently all but ignoring the topic of global warming.

The film documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle (2007), by director Martin Durkin, features some of the world’s – and certainly the United States’ – most highly credible and respected scientists in a discussion on global warming. The scientists are taking the position that global warming is occurring, but that it is more scientifically seen as the natural forces of nature as opposed to the man-made greenhouse gasses or CO2 put into the atmosphere by mankind. Their argument about global warming as a natural occurrence is compelling, and convincing.

At the foundation of this argument, which has garnered great support, including celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, and political force, like former Vice President Al Gore who has made a film about man’s abuse of fossil fuels; is the notion that global warming is bringing about climate change that is responsible for everything from the melting of the icebergs at the north pole, to tidal waves and hurricanes (Gore, A., An Inconvenient Truth, 2006, motion-picture).

In response to the allegations that mankind and, especially, that CO2 – regardless of who put it into the air; mankind, plants, the residual of the decaying plant and life processes. A group of scientists, including highly respected Professor Tim Ball, of the University of Winnipeg; Professor Niv Shaviv, University of Jerusalem; Professor Ian Clark, University of Ottawa; Professor John Christy of the University of Alabama and lead author International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Professor Philip Stott, University of London; Professor Richard Lindzen, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and others from Harvard and other highly respected universities around the world. Have come together on film, loaded with scientific information which, if it does not refute mankind’s responsibility for global warming, at least demonstrates that there is a lack of scientific evidence to support that contention.

Because it is highly controversial, and because these scientists have taken the unpopular position of anti-CO2; they have now been called names like “heretic” and have even been the subjects of death threats because of their outspokenness. It is not, they emphasize, to be unpopular to contrary to a popular notion, but to refute bad science, they say, that they come together in this way to present the other side, the scientific side, of global warming that is not found in Al Gore’s very popular film on mankind generated global warming, An Inconvenient Truth (2006).

Anytime a cause has the huge special interest of the environmentalists, responsible for preventing exploitation of fossil fuels in the pristine Alaskan range; and add to that mix the celebrity of Hollywood and the political clout of the man from whom the 2000 presidential election was stolen from, Al Gore, then you have an emotional, but highly powered, or fueled, group of advocates. It is not that their goal of alternative fuels is not an admirable goal; only, contend the scientists of The Great Global Warming Swindle, that it is, at best, bad science, and, at worst, responsible for keeping the third world nations in the dark because of their support and influence in preventing development or industrialization in third world nations.

Carbon dioxide, the scientists of The Great Global Warming Swindle, contend, has always had a fluctuating presence in the earth’s atmosphere, and that it is a relatively small amount in the atmosphere. The data, they contend, shows that there is a surface warming of a slight level, but no atmospheric warming. The recent warming of the earth, they contend, happened in the early part of the 20th century, and, if the CO2 theory were valid, it would be reflected in the data that shows that the most significant increase in human generated CO2. Professor Ian Clark has examined ice samples going back thousands of years, but that link between CO2 and the weather, but that the CO2 levels lag behind the temperature increase by 800 years. So when the temperature rises, behind it, consistent with historical data, the CO2 rises. The most fundamental assumption of climate changes because of CO2 is proven wrong, the scientists say.

In fact, that the CO2 increases in the atmosphere is more easily proven scientifically to be consistent with global cooling, than global warming. Other natural bodies, like the oceans, are the source of CO2 than is the modern technology of mankind.The scientists say that the global warming, now, is a result of coming out of a “mini-ice age,” and that during that time, which predates modern civilization, the temperatures were much cooler than those times going back to the “little medieval period,” when in fact the temperatures were much higher than temperatures today, and during a period when mankind could not have had any responsibility for putting CO2 into the atmosphere. It is not, these scientists contend, CO2 that drives climate change.

They do agree that climate change is occurring, that the global warming is occurring; but that it is more related to the activity of the sun, solar flares, solar winds that pass close to the earth, than mankind’s generating CO2 into the atmosphere. It is important to understand that these scientists do not disagree that there is a need to find alternative fuel sources, or that environmental conscientiousness is a good thing; they do, however, adamantly maintain that they cannot stand back as scientists and allow to be put out as fact and good science, when in fact it is not.


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