The Queen’s Bench in Britain issued a ruling recently regarding Nobel Prize winner Al Gore’s landmark documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. Of particular interest is the manner in which the court addressed “scientific errors” in the movie, although the opinion is generally about whether the movie is too “political” to be taught in British state schools without a counter-balance of an opposing viewpoint being given equal time. The entire opinion can be read here, and it explains, in language I can understand (that is to say, within the structure of a legal analysis), the scientific controversies underlying the movie. From the opinion, it seems to me that 1) the film is indeed quite political in nature, and 2) the scientific disputes with the film, while significant, do not seem to attack the core premise of global industrialization correlating significantly with global climate change. I’m the first to argue that logically, correlation does not imply causation. As a student of history, I know well that there have been generations-long periods of global warming – and cooling – in the past which do not seem to have had industrial causes. All the same, the opinion convinces me that while there may not be as comprehensive a scientific consensus on the issue as there is on (for instance) evolution or particle physics, there is enough data to justify political action intended to control what’s going in to the atmosphere.
If Gore’s award is put in the context of making people more aware of the consequences of their polluting activities, then it is appropriate. I would also feel a lot better about him if he was shown actually doing something either proactively or remedially for the environment instead of just preaching and arm-waving.
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