An Inconvenient Truth

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In An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore brings us to the Himalayas, the Swiss Alps, Argentina and Peru to show us that climate change is a global phenomenon, and what it means for us as the future draws near. 

Gore shows us that if you look at 1,000 years of temperatures and 1,000 years of carbon dioxide, they go together. Ten of the hottest years ever measured were recorded in the last 14 years, with temperature increases taking place all over the world.  This includes the oceans, where rising temps are causing bigger storms like Hurricane Jeanie, Francis and Katrina.  According to Gore, “this is not a political issue, but rather a moral issue”, one that is deeply unethical[1]. 

In the film, Gore establishes credibility by describing the roots of his passion for climate change: his son’s car accident that made Gore realize exactly how finite our time on Earth is and how he wanted to spend his.  Gore describes going to Antarctica, the Arctic, the North Pole and to scientists to have them explain the parts of the issue that he didn’t understand.  According to Gore, global warming is a paradox, as it causes flooding, as in Mumbai, India, as well as more drought, as in Darfur and Niger where some of the largest lakes in the world have all but dried up as of recent.  Gore speaks of millions of ecological niches affected by climate change.  He describes a number of exotic species that have rushed in to fill niches, in doing so threatening native species.  He of course shows us the polar bears and describes a new study that shows how some polar bears have actually drowned by swimming up to find ice.  With animals aside, he attacks the issues of refugees and the millions of people that climate change will relocate, in Bangladesh for instance, and eventually in San Francisco and the greater part of Florida.  Gore dives into the issue of automobiles and how the U.S. ranks below China, Japan, Canada and the EU in terms of total emissions[2].

According to Gore, we already know everything we need to know and have everything we need in order to address this problem.  He says that the solutions are in our hands, and that it is a matter of political will.  While U.S. cities and states are stepping up to the plate and taking on global warming, this problem will require not only the cooperation of each state, but each nation.  He implies that although the U.S. has failed in ratifying Kyoto, this is not the end.  Success is possible as it was with CFC’s and the Montreal Protocol.  Gore argues that this is our only home and that our ability to live on planet earth, and to have a future as a civilization is at stake[3]

According to Bjørn Lomborg, Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth, makes extremely exaggerated claims. “While it’s nice to see Gore bucking the trend in a nation where many influential people deny that global warming even exists, many of his apocalyptic claims are highly misleading. But his biggest error lies in suggesting that humanity has a moral imperative to act on climate change because we realize there is a problem. This seems naïve, even disingenuous.”[4] Lomborg claims that morality is not the issue. The movie’s premise, to Lomborg, was to make “three points: global warming is real; it will be catastrophic; and addressing it should be our top priority.”[5] He believes that, “Inconveniently for the film’s producers, however, only the first statement is correct.”[6] Lomborg continues in his article “Inconvenient Truths for Al Gore” to explain where Gore’s data falters, giving concrete evidence from the United Nations Panel concerning global warming.

Lomborg argues that in the film, Gore indeed presents disturbing “consequences of the sea level rising 20 feet (seven meters), flooding large parts of Florida, San Francisco, New York, Holland, Calcutta, Beijing, and Shanghai.”[7] He questions, “Were realistic levels not dramatic enough? The United Nations panel on climate change suggests a rise of only 1-2 feet during this century, compared to almost one foot in the last century”.[8] Additionally, Gore exaggerated other aspects of his argument. He preaches about the horrors Antarctica will face associated with global warming, but in reality, his data is skewed. He fails to mention that only 2% of Antarctica is rapidly warming, whereas the other 98% has actually gotten colder in the last half-century. According to Lomborg, “The UN climate panel estimates that Antarctica’s snow mass will actually increase during this century. And, whereas Gore points to shrinking sea ice in the Northern Hemisphere, he fails to mention that ice in the Southern Hemisphere is increasing.”[9] Gore needs to get his facts together if he wants to accurately persuade the public about the horrors that civilization faces. Lomborg does not argue that there is no such thing as climate change, but he reasonably argues that the picture Gore paints is not entirely factual.

According to Lomborg, the real issue is cost effectiveness and using resources wisely. While global warming is a global problem, there are a dozen other global problems that can be solved much more cheaply.  While global warming is a problem that we will need to tackle in the 21st century, but it is not the end of the world.  We must keep things in perspective: sea levels are rising, but they have been rising for a century already[10]. Lomborg proposes the converse: tackling problems that we can fix cheaply. He argues that combating disease, hunger, and polluted water would bring immediate benefit to millions and allow developing countries to increase productivity and break the cycle of poverty.  In doing so inhabitants of such countries would be less vulnerable to the hazards of climate change. According to Lomborg, "generations will not chatise us for not having committed to Kyoto, but rather wonder why in 'in a world of inconvenient truths' Gore focused on the one where we could achieve the least for the highest cost."[11].   


  1. An Inconvenient Truth. Dir. Davis Guggenheim. Perf. Al Gore and Billy West. DVD. Lawrence Bender Productions, 2006.
  2. An Inconvenient Truth. Dir. Davis Guggenheim. Perf. Al Gore and Billy West. DVD. Lawrence Bender Productions, 2006.
  3. An Inconvenient Truth. Dir. Davis Guggenheim. Perf. Al Gore and Billy West. DVD. Lawrence Bender Productions, 2006.
  4. Lomborg, Bjørn. “Inconvenient Truths for Al Gore.” Project Syndicate. 2006.
  5. Lomborg, Bjørn. “Inconvenient Truths for Al Gore.” Project Syndicate. 2006.
  6. Lomborg, Bjørn. “Inconvenient Truths for Al Gore.” Project Syndicate. 2006.
  7. Lomborg, Bjørn. “Inconvenient Truths for Al Gore.” Project Syndicate. 2006.
  8. Lomborg, Bjørn. “Inconvenient Truths for Al Gore.” Project Syndicate. 2006.
  9. Lomborg, Bjørn. “Inconvenient Truths for Al Gore.” Project Syndicate. 2006.
  10. Lomborg on Colbert Report.
  11. Lomborg, Bjørn. “Inconvenient Truths for Al Gore.” Project Syndicate. 2006