On July 16, 2006, 9-11 pm ET/PT, Discovery Channel, BBC News and NBC News present a two hour special on global warming hosted by Tom Brokaw.
On Friday, I previewed the Discovery Channel special and saw An Inconvenient Truth. Below I review both from a teaching perspective.
The bottom line of both Global Warming and An Inconvenient Truth are the same -- global warming is threatening to massively change our planet with severe impacts on our lives and the rest of creation; we have the knowledge and technology to reduce those changes; the real question is whether we have the collective will to do what we need to do before it is too late.
Both Global Warming and An Inconvenient Truth seek to acquaint the audience with the fundamentals about global warming: the causes of global warming, the evidence that convinces scientists why this is not simply part of a natural cycle of warming and cooling, the magnitudes of impacts that we can expect, the technical solutions that can slow global warming, the outrageously large contribution of the U.S. to the problem, and the loomingly enormous potential of China and India if they pursue our development path.
Neither program makes the mistake of trying to be "balanced" in presenting the "skeptics" point of view. Brokaw notes the change in scientific opinion over the last two decades and the agreement of 99.9% of scientists that global warming is real. Gore uses the results of the sample of scientific literature on climate -- where the score is roughly 978 to 0 -- every study assumed that global warming is occurring.
Global Warming is a powerful statement in three respects. First, it is presented by a respected journalist rather than a respected, but partisan, politician. Second, it has an absolutely amazing, all star cast of scientists to help narrate the story. Third, it has some great footage of glacial rivers, rainforests, pacific islands doomed to disappear, and most of all, cute, little polar bear cubs who, along with the rest of their species, are destined to die within the next few decades as the polar ice disappears.
An Inconvenient Truth, on the other hand, has other wonderful qualities. First, it gains traction from Al Gore's droll sense of humor (yes, really) as well as his deep, visible commitment to the issue. Second, it has some incrediblely vivid footage interspersed between the Gore narrative of his life and the Gore global warming slideshow. Third, it conveys the scientific information in more depth, addressing the questions that people have, and illustrating answers with extremely sharp graphics on how temperature tracks CO2, the 650,000 year natural cycles of both temperature and CO2 and how dramatically the present CO2 levels and temperature exceed historical levels, how hurricanes and other natural storms gain intensity from warming temperatures, how global warming can bring both droughts and floods, how El Nino works, how the ocean conveyor belt works, and how the North America glacier melt affected Europe's climate. Fourth, it has some unforgettable visual models of the 2002 collapse of Larson B in Antarctica and what will happen to sea level in NY, Florida, Shanghai, Bangladesh, and elsewhere if either a significant portion of Greenland or Antarctica melts [in the only obvious scientific error of the movie, Gore mixed up the sea level change expected from Greenland melting with that of the Antarctic].
So, which one would I have my students see? Both...they both have unique aspects that are worth a student's while. I'd give An Inconvenient Truth an edge on content, but only if students can get past the fact that An Inconvenient Truth is a great commercial for why we should all wish that the Supreme Court had selected Al Gore, instead of George Bush as our President.
What I wish someone would do is blend both -- take Gore's slideshow, the great scenic footage from both, the Hansen discussion and other scientists from Brokaw and put them together...but, lacking that, see them both!
July 2, 2006 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, North America, Physical Science, South America, Sustainability, US, Water Resources | Permalink
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