Inconvenient Truths for Al Gore @@Bjorn Lomborg

Cinemas everywhere will soon be showing former US Vice President Al Gorefs film on global warming. gAn Inconvenient Truthh has received rave reviews in America and Europe, and it will most likely gain a large worldwide audience. But, while the film is full of emotion and provocative images, it is short on rational arguments.

gAn Inconvenient Truthh makes three points: global warming is real; it will be catastrophic; and addressing it should be our top priority. Inconveniently for the filmfs producers, however, only the first statement is correct.

While it
fs 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 naive, even disingenuous.

We know of many vast global challenges that we could easily solve. Preventable diseases like
HIV, diarrhea, and malaria take 15 million lives each year. Malnutrition afflicts more than half the worldfs population. Eight hundred million people lack basic education. A billion donft have clean drinking water.

In the face of these challenges, why should stopping climate change be our top priority?
@Gorefs attempt at an answer doesnft stand up to scrutiny.

Gore shows that glaciers have receded for 50 years. But he doesn
ft acknowledge they have been shrinking since the Napoleonic wars in the early 1800fs - long before industrial CO2 emissions. Likewise, he considers Antarctica the canary in the coalmine, but again doesnft tell the full story. He presents pictures from the 2% of Antarctica that is dramatically warming, while ignoring the 98% that has largely cooled over the past 35 years. The UN climate panel estimates that Antarcticafs 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.

The movie shows scary pictures of the consequences of the sea level rising 20 feet (seven meters), flooding large parts of Florida, San Francisco, New York, Holland, Calcutta, Beijing, and Shanghai. 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.

Similarly, Europe
fs deadly heat waves in 2003 lead Gore to conclude that climate change will mean more fatalities. But global warming would mean fewer deaths caused by cold temperatures, which in most of the developed world vastly outweigh deaths caused by heat. In the UK alone, it is estimated that the temperature increase would cause 2,000 extra heat deaths by 2050, but result in 20,000 fewer cold deaths.

Financial losses from weather events have increased dramatically over the past 45 years, which Gore attributes to global warming. But all or almost all of this increase comes from more people with more possessions living closer to harm
fs way. If all hurricanes had hit the US with todayfs demographics, the biggest damage would have been caused not by Katrina, but by a hurricane in 1926. Allowing for changes in the number of people and their wealth, flood losses have actually decreased slightly.

The movie invites viewers to conclude that global warming caused Hurricane Katrina, with Gore claiming that the warm Caribbean waters made the storm stronger. But when Katrina made landfall, it was not a catastrophic Category 5 hurricane; it was a milder Category 3. In fact, there is no scientific consensus that global warming makes hurricanes more destructive, as he claims. The author that Gore himself relies on says that it would be
gabsurd to attribute the Katrina disaster to global warming.h

After presenting the case for the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change, Gore unveils his solution: the world should embrace the Kyoto Protocol, which aims to cut carbon emissions in the developed countries by 30% by 2010.

But even if every nation signed up to Kyoto, it would merely postpone warming by six years in 2100, at an annual cost of $150 billion. Kyoto would not have saved New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina. But improved levees and maintenance could have. While Gore was campaigning for Kyoto in the 1990
fs, a better use of resources would have been to bolster hurricane defenses.

Indeed, the real issue is using resources wisely. Kyoto won
ft stop developing countries from being hardest hit by climate change, for the simple reason that they have warmer climates and fewer resources. But these nations have pressing problems that we could readily solve. According to UN estimates, for $75 billion a year ? half the cost of implementing the Kyoto Protocol ? we could provide clean drinking water, sanitation, basic health care, and education to every single human being on Earth. Shouldnft that be a higher priority?

Recent hurricanes killed thousands in Haiti, and not in Florida, because Haiti is poor and cannot afford even basic preventive measures. Combating disease, hunger, and polluted water would bring immediate benefits to millions and allow poorer countries to increase productivity and break the cycle of poverty. That, in turn, would make their inhabitants less vulnerable to climate fluctuations.

At the climax of his movie, Gore argues that future generations will chastise us for not having committed ourselves to the Kyoto Protocol. More likely, they will wonder why, in a world overflowing with
ginconvenient truths,h Gore focused on the one where we could achieve the least good for the highest cost.

Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, is Director for the Copenhagen Consensus Center and Adjunct Professor at the Copenhagen Business School. His most recent book is How to Spend $50 Billion to Make the World a Better Place.


Humanity is sitting on a ticking time bomb. If the vast majority of the world's scientists are right, we have just ten years to avert a major catastrophe that could send our entire planet into a tail-spin of epic destruction involving extreme weather, floods, droughts, epidemics and killer heat waves beyond anything we have ever experienced.

If that sounds like a recipe for serious gloom and doom -- think again. From director Davis Guggenheim comes the Sundance Film Festival hit, AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, which offers a passionate and inspirational look at
one man's fervent crusade to halt global warming's deadly progress in its tracks by exposing the myths and misconceptions that surround it. That man is former Vice President Al Gore, who, in the wake of defeat in the 2000 election, re-set the course of his life to focus on a last-ditch, all-out effort to help save the planet from irrevocable change. In this eye-opening and poignant portrait of Gore and his "traveling global warming show," Gore also proves himself to be one of the most misunderstood characters in modern American public life. Here he is seen as never before in the media - funny, engaging, open and downright on fire about getting the surprisingly stirring truth about what he calls our "planetary emergency" out to ordinary citizens before it's too late.

With 2005, the worst storm season ever experienced in America just behind us, it seems we may be reaching a tipping point - and Gore pulls no punches in explaining the dire situation. Interspersed with the bracing facts and future predictions is the story of Gore's personal journey: from an idealistic college student who first saw a massive environmental crisis looming; to a young Senator facing a harrowing family tragedy that altered his perspective, to the man who almost became President but instead returned to the most important cause of his life - convinced that there is still time to make a difference.

With wit, smarts and hope, AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH ultimately brings home Gore's persuasive argument that we can no longer afford to view global warming as a political issue - rather, it is the biggest moral challenges facing our global civilization.

Paramount Classics and Participant Productions present a film directed by Davis Guggenheim, AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH. Featuring Al Gore, the film is produced by Laurie David, Lawrence Bender and Scott Z. Burns. Jeff Skoll and Davis Guggenheim are the executive producers and the co-producer is Leslie Chilcott.