I first learned about protecting the environment in sixth grade. At that time, the focus was on not polluting the planet. Near the end of that year, I earned first place in pollution prevention poster contest. For the rest of my life, I kept that interest in protecting the environment. My awareness was raised to a higher level when I lived in Germany where reducing exhaust from vehicles and recycling were a part of the culture. As an adult, I even managed environmental protection programs in a few of my jobs.
To keep myself abreast of the field I read books and watched documentaries when I got the chance. In 2006 Al Gore made a very slick documentary titled An Inconvenient Truth. This documentary that won the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Documentary, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Song, and the American Cinema Editors Guild Best Edited Documentary. Furthermore, in 2007 Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change received the Nobel Prize. Al Gore won the award for his tireless campaign to put the climate crisis on the political agenda. I saw that, at least in part, as making the documentary. Many people I knew watched the documentary myself included.
I thought it was the best documentary I had ever seen. The documentary was a dramatic improvement over the old documentaries that were often dull and monotone. I was surprised at the way the director kept the emotions high using events from Gore’s life to raise emotions.
However, no documentary can stand on the quality of presentation and flashy camera work alone. There needs to be some truth there. To prepare for this blog post, I watched An Inconvenient Truth again. One chart at the beginning stood out to me. It was a quote from Mark Twain that I paraphrase here “What gets us into trouble is what we know that just ain’t’ so.”
This quote stood out because there are several things that Al Gore refers to that simply are not true or accepted as fact:
- The most obvious to me is was that Gore speaks as if man made CO2 is the cause of warmer temperatures. I have done a lot of research, and there is considerable disagreement as to how much man-made CO2 affects the environment.
- Another was the connection with the rise in temperature and CO2. There is conflicting agreement with some sources saying the increase in temperatures come first then the CO2 which is the opposite of Gore’s claims.
- Gore spoke of an increase in hurricanes and their strength. That has not happened.
- Gore inferred that global warming caused Hurricane Katrina. Experts disagree on any connection between the two.
- There was also the note that there were no articles in peer reviewed journals that denied global warming. That in and of itself should have been a red flag. I am not aware of very many topics in science that have zero opposition. Information has come out that editors of peer reviewed journals do not accept for publication articles that question global warming.
- Gore also said that small groups of people deny global warming. Those small groups add up to about half the scientific community.
- Gore also raised the issue of scientists who were punished for supporting global warming. What I see are scientists punished for not supporting global warming.
Despite my disagreements with the documentary, I learned a valuable lesson. If you want people to accept and listen to safety, occupational health, and environmental protection messages you have to dress them up as Gore did. Many people watched this documentary. How many watched your last workplace video or even noticed your recent poster? First make sure your videos and posters are correct then make them slick or flashy and I think more will notice.