Raw Thought

by Aaron Swartz

An Inconvenient Truth

Al Gore’s presentation on global warming is filled with graphs — Gore is fanatical about collecting evidence, even at one point going to the North Pole to persuade the scientists there to release their records of the ice shelves — but only one of them really matters. It comes early in the film, as Gore talks about the large ice core samples that scientists take to trace the history of the Earth’s temperature and CO2 ratings.

Gore shows the results of these samples and then says we can go back further. The screen expands in both directions to show a massive graph of CO2 concentration going back 600,000 years. Its had its fluctuations over that time — large hills and then valleys. Underneath it, he then graphs temperature over the same period.

Temperature tracks CO2 almost exactly, with a several-decade lag. Those large fluctuations? Those were the six ice ages we’ve had over the past 600,000 years. CO2 in the atmosphere goes up and so does the temperature, the CO2 trapping the sun’s radiation inside our planet, where it heats the Earth.

These huge fluctuations are the difference between ice ages and where we are today. Then Gore shows the most recent trajectory of CO2: straight up, more than doubled. “If that much CO2 in one direction causes an ice age,” Gore says, “imagine what it will do in the other direction.” And then he shows the projections for the next 50 years. Again straight up, another doubling. “This is literally off he charts,” he explains. He has to climb up to reach that peak.

“Not a single number in this graph,” he says, “is in dispute.” This is the inconvenient truth: unless we change, we will destroy the environment that sustains our species.

You should follow me on twitter here.

June 6, 2006


Yeah, I saw this movie as well. It was remarkable. I can’t stop thinking about it. I’ve been riding my bike to get around a lot more ;)

posted by Ryan Mahoney on June 6, 2006 #

Hi Aaron,

Just to point out that we probably won’t destroy Earth. She will do just fine. A little chillier or warmer. It doesn’t make a difference to her. On the other hand, we are the ones who are probably fucked.

Keep up the good work, Antonio

posted by Antonio TouriƱo on June 6, 2006 #

Civilization is a fragile thing.

There’s a scary argument that intelligent life is ultimately self-annihilating (i.e., destroys the environmental conditions which created it).

posted by Seth Finkelstein on June 6, 2006 #

Yeah but come on, I mean Al Gore sighed a lot in the debate with Bush. And Matt Drudge says he drove to the premiere in Cannes! Oh, and I hear the oil co’s say carbon is good for us!

posted by chad on June 6, 2006 #

Antonio, fixed.

posted by Aaron Swartz on June 6, 2006 #

i had mixed emotions about the movie. it drove the point of urgency home, but i don’t feel it offered much in the way of how joe public can really make a difference.

additionally, the film largely ignored the elephant in the room - the interests of corporate america, and the role multinationals play in the democratic system. until we address the vice grip corporate america has on the policies of american democracy, little we do can have any lasting effect.

posted by greg on June 15, 2006 #

Share “An Inconvenient Truth”

…or enable others to share it. Allow me to explain:

I was finally able to see the movie last Sunday. Ever since then, like Lawrence Lessig, I’ve been haunted by wanted to act.

So I created a site, a framework for a community, where people can pay for the tickets of others. http://sharethetruth.us. This is not an “advertisement” in the sense that I wish to make any money or publicity whatsoever.

I just launched it, so there’s totally just tumbleweeds there, but I have high hopes that if people start visiting, some of those people were inspired by the film, like me.

I believe that real change, which gives us a fighting chance against possibly the most important issue in our lifetime, cannot happen without political will from the top down. And for that to happen, awareness must spread enough for the general populace to muster up enough resources to make enough noise to make it happen.

At any rate, the site is fully functional but I’m going to add lots to it to streamline the mechanism whereby people can help others.

I’d appreciate it if you just had a look. Thank you for your time!

Best regards,

Eric Pan

posted by sharethetruth on June 16, 2006 #

I just saw the movie last night (6/22/06) and as a lot of other people I feel compelled to educate myself. While googling I found this site and wanted to respond to greg (6/14/06). He said ,”i don’t feel it offered much in the way of how joe public can really make a difference.”

I disagree. And this is the sentiment I believe that Al Gore was referring to in the movie when this topic has been slow to action with our government. Do you really need someone to tell you what to do? Educate yourself. Learn how you can make a difference. And Al Gore does offer some examples of what can be done and at the end of the movie there are many examples cited while the credits are rolling. You can make a difference every day in the choices you make going through your daily life.

posted by Bernadette Fleming on June 23, 2006 #

Can someone please help me with the 17000 scientists who signed the petition that global warming is a myth. The documentation here seems well done. and totally refutes ‘An Inconvienient Truth’



posted by John Autin on July 6, 2006 #

I’m not sure what you want help with, but that petition is a joke:


posted by Aaron Swartz on July 16, 2006 #

I was allowed to do a complete analysis of the movie and its affects on the public. I took my mother with me because she was intrested and she walked out crying. We’ve decided to buy a rain tank for the house and we’re looking into solar heating.

it doesnt matter if the average joe makes a big difference its the fact that when one person does it they can influence a small number of peple around them to do the same.

posted by Australia on November 21, 2006 #

Human civilization is a ever expanding multidimensional web driven by the pursuit of wealth and power. As the web grows larger and the number of humans gaining access to the wealth and power increases. Which in turn increases the growth and decreases the chances of controlling the growth. Eventually the growth will exceed the caring capacity of the earth and there will be a significant die off (i.e. typically 90-95% in most population growth experiments). The earth will rebalance over a period of thousands of years. And life will continue on for another 4 billions years or so until the sun inevitably turns into a red giant and consumes the earth prior to going super nova.

Realistically everybody should just enjoy the time they have left. There really is no way the hand full of worrying westerners are going to convince the billions upon billions of 3rd world poverty stricken Asians to stop growing there new found industrial wealth. They were really looking forward to this being their century after all. And don’t want any gloom and doomers spoiling their plans.

posted by Mike McGuire on December 5, 2006 #

And just when you thought there was no hope. Take a look at www.junkscience.com/news/robinson.htm There are 2 sides to the argument. Beware the media hype.

posted by Mike McGuire on December 5, 2006 #

There is more CO2 dissolved in the ocean than in the atmosphere. As the ocean warms, it releases CO2. Gore has the tail wagging the dog. This is well known in climate paleontology, from what I have found.

CO2 has increased by 30% since that guy in Hawaii started measuring it in the 1950’s. His data is very good. The atmosphere already absorbs 88% of outgoing 10um band radiation. By increasing CO2 by 30% we are already halfway there to the full effect of saturation of CO2 absorption. Going beyond doubling CO2 will have the same effect as putting another coat of black paint on an already blacked out window. Gore does not mention this, and even suggests that temperature will track CO2 with no limit. This is wrong. The earth will warm a bit more. Warmer winters, longer growing seasons (helped by more CO2), more water out here in the Western US due it increaes rainfall from more water evaporation. Effects will be mixed, some good, some bad. We just have to live with the uncertainty while taking what steps we can (insulating houses, fully inflating our car tires, more hybrids etc.).

But you have to keep questioning things. Does anyone know of an estimate of the latent heat in the icecaps? Could this be keeping temperature relatively constant while the ice melts? When the ice is gone, temperature would then reach a higher equilibrium. The GW could, then, be more than double the effect we are witnessing now. It is very difficult to get real answers in this field. There is so much hype and so many half truths on both sides. I will keep looking.

posted by Dave Dougherty on December 31, 2006 #

Antonio, I think your assumptions are wrong… we ARE distroying the Eart. A few degrees hotter or cooler can effect the environment, the level of water and even the size of countries.

It is people like you, the uneducated, that are causing Global Warming.

posted by Evelyn on February 4, 2007 #

Did the movie have a brochure accompanying it, one that provides documentation for the various statements in the movie?

I have postponed for a long time looking into the Global Warming issue. I would like to start here.

Can anyone recommend a website that has the documentation, point by point?

Thank you.

posted by Burgess Laughlin on February 4, 2007 #

Having finally watched this film, I was rather surprised that he used this graph so predominantly. Although I can’t find the exact graph that he uses, this is the same info: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/6/63/Co2-temperature-plot.svg

As you can see, in many or most cases, the peaks of CO2 occur hundreds of years after the temperature peaks. This would indicate that rises in CO2 are a symptom of higher temperatures, and not a cause.

Before you dismiss me as a “denier”, I’d like to mention that yes, it is obvious that temperatures have risen in recent years, and that yes, Man probably has something to do with it. I just hope we don’t pin all of our resources on “fixing” something that might not be the true cause of the situation.

In response to Burgess - I’d LOVE to see a printed set of materials to accompany the film. The official website is “inconviently” missing any of it.

posted by Andy on March 11, 2007 #

can you comment on the fact that the tempurature change actually comes before the increase or decrease in CO2. That is the TRUTH on how this works. Don’t get sucked into Al Gores profit compaign. Search for truth, not the work of grifters like Gore. Look it up, check what the actual scientists not on someones payroll say about the ice core samples. They are not even reliable.

posted by matt on March 14, 2007 #

didnt see andy’s post, but yeah what he said is what I was trying to say. THERE IS NOT 100% PROOF THAT THIS IS MAN MADE! THE SUN HAS A HUGE EFFECT PEOPLE!

posted by matt on March 14, 2007 #

I saw Inconvenient Truth for the first time last evening. What struck me as extremely odd was the graph of CO2 and temperature over the past 600,000 years. In the movie, it looks very much like swings in the temperature graph preceed swings in the CO2 graph. I haven’t found the data he used, but I did find a recreation of the graph. What I saw confirms what I thought I saw in the movie. If true, then his argument is turned upside down — CO2 doesn’t cause temperature, rather temperature causes CO2.

posted by Ant on March 22, 2007 #

You’ve got it backwards. Watch the movie again. The CO2 lags behind the spike in temperature by close to 800 years. The CO2 is the result of the temperature rise. Not the other way around. This is one of the fundamental flaws of Gore’s film. The spike in CO2 is caused by the massive amount of CO2 generated by the oceans of the world, but because they’re so big it takes decades, even hundreds of years for the effect to be noticed. In essence the oceans today are a reflection of what our environment was like hundreds of years ago. Ask yourself a question… why is there a rise in CO2 600 years ago? I know I wasn’t driving a car around back then. It’s because it’s natural. The Earth Changes. In fact without CO2 we’d be a giant ice ball in space.

posted by John on May 5, 2007 #

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