Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

I went to a screening of an inconvenient truth (IMDb). an inconvenient truth is a film directed by Davis Guggenheim about global warming and Al Gore's life long effort to learn about and educate the world about the reality and risk of global warming.

My position on global warming had always been that it was probably a bad thing. Pollution was clearly increasing and it increased the risk of some non-linear event occurring. Having said that, I wasn't THAT concerned and thought that there was still some dispute in the scientific community.

Watching this film has caused me to change my opinion. I now believe that global warming our most urgent and important crisis and something that we all need to rally behind. The movie presents a scientific, moral and political argument that is convincing and also fun to watch. I also felt I got to know Al Gore through the movie in a completely new way.

I've always been a big fan of both Davis and Al Gore, but this movie has really solidified my respect for both of them. I urge everyone to go see this movie. It opens in select theaters on May 24, but the big opening is the first weekend in June. Your turnout to the movie will determine how broadly the movie ends up playing. Considering the importance of this film, it would be great if the maximum number of people possible saw it.


A quick scan of Google News with search terms like "al gore 2008" shows that a lot of people are already suggesting he would be the Democrat's best pick for the next election... this is a really interesting development; not many filmmakers have the potential to turn a successful movie into an election campaign.

I'd just like to hear him introduced at the Democratic convention in 2007 as "Academy Award winner, Al Gore"

Great post. I am definitely voting for Gore in 2008 if he runs.

If I were a US citizen I would definitely vote for Al Gore.

Also look around for a BBC documentary called "Global Dimming":

Scary stuff.

It's inconvenient nonsense.

1. We're pretty sure that warming on some parts of the planet is occurring. Most of it took place before 1800 - prior to the invention of the steam engine, much less internal combustion. There is zero evidence that any warming taking place is anthropogenic in nature.

2. We also know that cooling has taken place within historical times - Greenland used to be -green-, it was settled because of its then-verdant climate. Obviously, it's now a heck of a lot colder in Greenland than it was a few centuries ago.

3. We're seeing evidence of warming on Mars and Jupiter, too - please explain to me how -that- can be anthropogenic in nature? The far more likely explanation is solar variability, perhaps combined with the procession of our solar system through regions of space with varying gas densities.

4. We just don't -know- what's causing this, and the unscientific, politically-motivated propaganda film you cite adds nothing to our body of knowledge. The problem is that this issue has been hijacked by leftists using supposed environmental concern as a way to push forward their controlling political agenda.

5. We don't know if the warming is a bad thing, either - in fact, there's quite a bit of circumstantial evidence that it would be a net gain in terms of arable land, habitable climes, etc.

6. Many of the same people braying about 'global warming' today were braying about 'global cooling' and an 'imminent Ice Age' as recently as 20 years ago. Draw your own conclusions.

7. Al Gore, like most politicians of all stripes, is a moron. The fact that you hold him in such high esteem detracts from my opinion of your perspicacity.

8. This is far too important an issue to leave to the demagogues (like Al Gore). Sadly, I'm unconvinced the issues can be depoliticized and approached in a scientific manner.

Oh - and there *is* considerable dissension on this issue within the scientific community. Your propaganda film asserts otherwise, but that's what propagandists do. They've no regard for the truth.

Joi -

I'll see the movie a. because it has better entertainment prospects than most b. I might just learn something in the process and c. because to know a topic is to listen to all sides (no matter how radical they may seem).

But, please, don't be so smitten with one compelling side that you lose interest in the possibility others may be equally right (or, maybe, just may be totally right)... Remember, the earth was flat once (and was also the center of the universe). Lots of compelling SCIENCE placed those ideas in vogue.

Is Al Gore really a Columbus? A Copernicus? An Aristotle?

Who am I to say? Might be. Gotta admire a person with that kind of conviction and passion... Who was the last ambivalent person you know who changed the world?

Ronald, yes, there is "considerable dissension" in the academic community on this issue, so why not keep it on that level ?

Why label the movie "nonsense" ? (I wonder, did you even see it ? ) Why call the "other" side "demagogues" and "morons" ?

We all need keeping up with new findings from the scientific community and problem-solving in my view.

I wished you had sticked to rational arguments presenting your POV instead of ad-hominem attacks.

This issue is potentially too important to resort to name calling.

Or short and old-school: Audiatur et altera pars.

I suggest that people, especially those who are skeptics, should watch the movie. It really does dig into the science and presents facts that you can dig into. I have begun to do more reading to check on claims in the film and am finding it quite interesting.

Gerald: Al Gore is one of the visible spokes people, but it is clear from the film that he represents the view of a broad scientific community.

Ronald: Can you cite any scientific peer reviewed papers (not main stream media) which support your points?

Greenland was never green. Greenland was named "Greenland" as a ruse by Erik the Red after he was exiled from Iceland.

I don't know about whether warming took place prior to 1800, but if your evidence for that is as shaky as your etymology, I'll stick with Al Gore.

Hi Joi,

Does your post mean that you're going to quit living on a jet plane, then? ; )


I've written about this before, but jets are a big contributor to global warming and there is very little being done about it. There are several good reports out about this. I am torn about this issue in all seriousness, but I think that I can contribute more to the world by traveling at this point than grounding myself.

*Everything* can be debated.. to death. And this is one case where debating too much longer will result in just that. To those who rather debate and question and name-call: have fun. The rest of us look at the data and think "hrm... what IF what we are doing really IS killing the planet?"

This is NOT a gamble anyone should take as lightly as "oh those crazy scientists..."

Sustainable development. It's time, Joi, that we take everything we know about communication technology and awareness raising techniques and help out those who's information NEEDS to get out. We already started with the free speech, citizen journalism and human rights crowds; now it's time we start talking to people like David Suzuki and others who have been fighting for sustainable development for decades. (I mention David because he knows his stuff AND he's been in media for a looong time.)

Furthermore, on the "Joi flies too much" crap. There is no room for extremism. There is no point in grounding all jetliners tomorrow. An enormous part of the influence and power of people like Joi comes from the fact that he CAN reach around the globe (practically and not only financially) and meet and talk to and change the minds of other influential people. Also, and it's been said before, there are much more valid candidates for being grounded... if we're going down that road... like anyone who visits a third world country just to exploit the local population and economy. Or webmasters who housesit in exotic locations... ahem... ;)

My concern is that Al Gore has shown a tendency to abandon the intensity of his convictions in favor of what he perceives as necessary measures for political self-preservation. Too often, he has drifted towards the center for safety. He didn't invent the Internet; but he should have responded to criticism of that comment because he did contribute to development of network infrastructure in the US.

Global Warming -- what caused it and how we will deal with it: this represents the most important chapter in Human History so far. Al Gore has championed this issue, but backs off when he feels that it might damage him politically. He's smart, but not smart enough. He's brave, but not brave enough.

@Mike: Agree with you on Gore 's self preservation, not only in politics.

As most of you certainly know, Al Gore is on the board of Apple Computer for some years, but the company only recently agreed to recycling old machines and other measures before that (replacable iPod battery).

Both actions were only taken after protest from users and/or environmental groups.

Apple should Think Different in this case and take an even more proactive stand on these issues.

What are the odds that "Roland Dobbin" was *not* paid to write that? My guess is we'll see a whole lot of variations on those talking points as the film gets public release...

Did you see the recent article on Gore in Wired? It said that his family and company buy "offsets" for their carbon emissions in the form of investing proportionally in clean energy technologies. I am sure that was mentioned in the movie too, but I haven't seen that yet.
If you are really worried about your travel maybe you could consider something similar. I agree with you and Boris, though, that the benefits probably outweigh the costs.

There's no doubt left in my mind we are adding tremendous amounts of unnecessary pollutants into the ecosystem.

Just finished reading a book called "A Thousand Barrels a Minute" by Peter Tertzakian. He's a petrophysicist (meaning he helps find oil) by training and is now a finance guy for a company that explores for petrocarbons (oil, coal, gas, etc).

Now, he has a moderate approach. He lays out the history of energy and the consumption of same. Why we went from tallow candles, to whale fat, to coal, to kersoene, to still more refined oil byproducts.

By his reckoning he car manufacturers' gasoline engines are at about 17% efficiency. Meaning, only 17% of the available energy in the burning of gasoline actually gets applied to moving the vehicle. 17%!!! Attack that problem (and I mean LEGISLATE it which is about the only good role Congress seems capable of serving in the energy dilemma) all the while aggresively pursuing wind, hydrogen, biodiesel, ethanol and methanol options (among others we haven't even considered yet)...

The VC ought to seriously consider funding folks like Harrison Schmitt (last man to step on the moon) who propose He3 as a viable energy substitute. I have his email and phone number if anyone is serious. contact me at geraldb28 at mac dot com or read his book "Return to the Moon"... brilliant!

There's no shortage of amazingly bright people out there. Just underfunded (sorry to Guy Kawasaki... yes to be underfunded is possible!). And, here I'll go right back to Tertzakian's book... the gent that put the steam engine to applied use in the extraction of coal couldn't have made it without venture backing (in fact it was the FIRST venture backed technology deal in history... also propelled intellectual property rights to a new level).

amida: That's a good point and I've actually begun to look into this. There are a number of interesting ways to do this that make more sense the more money you have...

Al Gore was at the screening and he answered a question about his possible lack of conviction to these issues during the campaign and his response was that the media was in part to blame. During the election, Bush had promised to deal with the CO2 problem so the environment was considered a "non issue". (One week or so later Bush broke his vow.) According to Al, he talked about global warming a lot during the campaign but it rarely got picked up by the media because it wasn't considered newsworthy.

It's hard for me to know what to believe about this issue. It seems believable, but yet it also seems like if they want to play things to seem more drastic than they are, it wouldn't be that difficult to sway my emotions in a movie. Do you have a list of cities that this movie will be playing in?

Re: Al Gore and his spinal fortitude... One thing is for certain: we need a President who doesn't feel that the Global Warming issue is one that is still tied up in scientific uncertainty. It's happening. The planet is not a bottomless pit of resources and opportunity. We are indeed messing with it.

Gore ran for cover when Clinton got in trouble. That kind of bugs me. Not sure why.

When I begin to believe that this stuff is correct, it deeply saddens me. But I, like many others, am not sure just what is happening. We see a trend, and we know that our actions could be causing it, but we don't know whether they really are or not.

At any rate, if something bad is going to happen, I think we're basically stuck with it now, whether it was our fault or not. Economics and political will are what control, and they will probably not move quickly enough to change anything. As long as people are reasonably rational actors, they will weigh their present costs as much more important than speculative future costs. The costs to the environment are still an externality as far as average people are concerned. Even if the US were to smack down massive taxes on energy, many parts of the world wouldn't go along. They would just end up with cheaper energy due to the lower demand.

The only thing we can do now is keep following the trend, keep researching, and when it appears to be definitive, prepare ourselves for the consequences. We have proven ourselves adaptable, and I'm sure civilization will survive. The sad thing is that much of our knowledge will probably be lost, we'll definitely be set back technologically, and we may be politically and culturally shocked into stagnation after massive climatic changes...

Trevor: If you believe the facts in the film, which were quite convincing to me, most of the facts about what is causing it are quite clear and what we need to do is clear as well. Al Gore lays out a plan of action involving a number of initiatives that could turn this around and emphasises that the step after disbelief should not be despair.

As Trevor and Roland like to point out, we are not 100 percent sure that we are causing global warming, etc. But that argument is a smokescreen.

We can't say with 100 perent certainty that we are NOT causing global warming.

I say we're better off safe than sorry. If there's even a chance that we're the cause, then we should be trying to do something about it. If it turns out that it's just a phase and things stay normal, then we're still better off because we'll have cheaper fuel sources that don't force us to fight over oil.

Temperature does fluxuate, you know. We can't completely rule out mother nature.

That being said, we *are* contributing to global warming. We meaning all human beings, not just America like some individuals tend to believe.

This is an excellent article about global warming.

I think every American needs to take a look at the impact we have on our environment and we should all work to make improvements. However I do have to question Al Gore's true intentions here. I would prefer to hear this info from real scientists/people who don't have a political agenda.

Seriously, do you really beleive propoganda coming from Al Gore? You have to admit his credibility is a little shakey. I couldn't agree more that we need to take care of the planet. Having said that, global temperatures fluxuate--they went up by a degree in the 70s and pseudo-scientists were screaming "global cooling! the ice age is coming!"

I give no quarter to Al Bore. Come the day when he recalls how he simply abandoned so many illegally disenfranchised voters in FL and elsewhere, in his last bit of shadow-boxing pseudo-presidential antics...


There is NO, absolutely NO dissension amongst established, non-industry backed scientists about the reality of climate change. None. I dare anyone of you non-expert, "faux-claimers of dissent" to produce a scientific paper or a reference, especially one from this year (or the last 2-3 years) that express "dissent". Such papers do not exist, that are not produced by a handful of industry backed quacks--that are easily discernable as such.

I get a call at least once a month--always from a journalist about: "Do all scientists agree on the reality of climate change?" Not only do they agree that it is happening; they don't even discuss that such matters--as such street banter is (for better or worse) for the lay-person.

Much of these media calls are a direct by-product of the millions of dollars per annum that oil, auto and various energy producers dump into massive propaganda campaigns to manufacture dissent where none exists.

You dot-con & com-ers need to get smarter; and be careful of following Stu Brand, not-so-Freeman Dyson, and other pseudo-scientists down myriad long-yesteryear rat-holes, of faux-skepticism in the face of real and growing calamity.

Run your "it ain't happenin'" line with the 150,000 families of those so far killed by changes in the climate. * Tell this "it-ain't-happenin-mumbo-jumbo" to the leaders of Tuvalu who are presently negotiating the relocation of their entire nation--with Australia and New Zealand. Tell this foolishness to the Inuit who have lost their lives and livelihoods as each year brings not just thin, but increasingly no ice in the Arctic.

*(Search the W.H.O. web site for the details on the deaths from the changing climate.)

To those who suggest that "better safe than sorry, we should do something now": the "somethings" that have been proposed come at ghastly expense and would slow global income growth, including in the poorest nations. So what you propose is that, without clear and convincing evidence that we are causing global warming and should do something about it, we should embark on the most expensive undertaking global society has ever known (because it will be, given the extent of the abatement necessary to arrest or reverse temperature increase if these pessimistic models of things carbon content of the atmosphere are correct)? How is that sound or judiciuous policymaking?

Note carefully that the advocates of rolling back greenhouse gas levels actually have *two* burdens of proof to meet. The first is to demonstrate that we are behind rising global temperatures and that the process will continue or actually accelerate AND that reversing this is less costly than simply adapting to a warmer world. They are probably 85% of the way toward demonstrating that our behavior has played a significant role in rising temperatures, 15% of the way toward demonstrating that the process will accelerate and .1% of the way toward demonstrating that we should seriously attempt to reverse warming rather than adjust to it.

According to the film, the US has one of the worst emmissions standards in the world and China's current level of control exceeds what is being resisted by companies in the US for FUTURE targets.

Again, according to facts from the film, the changes that are currently being anticipated are not possible to "adjust" to unless you consider death and calamity something you can adjust to.

I was convinced that 1 - CO2 directly affects temperature, 2 - our CO2 level have been rising year on year and do not appear to be slowing down, 3 - measurable temperature increases are occuring, 4 - the risk of a non-linear event such as the sudden melting of ice caps or Greenland ice could occur causing a risk of a surge in the ocean level or a disruption in the thermal flows causing an ice-age sort of event, 5 - that curbing a number of our activities could slow down CO2 production to a managable level.

OK, point by point:
First, Whatever China's emissions standards in principle, in practice their emissions per unit of output must be at least as bad as ours. You've seen China's cities. And most reasonable projections have China as bad an arrgregate polluter or worse in the forseeable future. THe performance of Kyoto signatories clearly shows that there is a big gap between rhetoric and standards on the one hand and performance on the other. As for your points:
1. Probably incontrovertible.
2. Probably incontrovertible, though accurate and comprehensive time series remain surprisingly sparse.
3. Yes.
4. Perhaps, but now on the modelling level you are beginning to move into the truly speculative.
5. Yes, but if the pessimistic models that have prompted calls for curbing emissions are correct we will have to curb a great deal to return to, say, the 1900 environment.

As for the statement "changes that are currently being anticipated are not possible to "adjust" to unless you consider death and calamity something you can adjust to": this is absolutely silly. Homo sapiens have been adjusting to changing climactic conditions from the dawn of our species. The world is ever changing and we are constantly making cost-benefit decisions (what other rational basis is there?) in formulating policy. The optimal choice by this standard almost always involves some kind of costs (no one ever said the best path was a free lunch: this does not invalidate the cost-benefit approach per se).

Oh, and if you slow income growth down, people will die that way to: for one thing, they will not be able to insure as well over weather risk even in a less stormy world. For instance, despite the halcyon weather of the Middle Ages, Europe's peasants were far more exposed to weather risk than the current, much richer, citizens of that continent where the weather now is much worse (by the temperature standard) and may continue to worsen.

The idea that we are changing our environment does not in and of itself demand a response by way of an attempt to roll back those changes. Did you know that applying the logic of the most pessimistic models to the last 10,000 years suggests that we have already, by dint of the age of agriculture, probably altered our climate enough to avert the onset of new glacial maximum?

Lets consider another example: the Judea of old and the Israel of today. By most accounts, Judea had a far more lush climate than Israel does today. The area has grown drier and likely hotter. MAssive deforestation and erosion have occurred. On the face of it, your logic would suggest that today's Israeli's should be far worse off and living in a constantly perilous state. In fact, the opposite is true. Why? Dramatic income growth has allowed them to more than offset the risks associated with an increasingly inhospitable climate.

Be very careful about throwing a wrench into the engine of global growth. Without the income growth of the last 5 centuries, you and I would likely be peasants (you in Japan and me, somewhat more uncomfortably given my mixed heritage, splitting my time between Ireland and Sicily) living in, to be sure, a far more climactically stable world, but every year asking the same question: will we starve this season?

Look, I have not actually decided personally what should be done about global warming. But what I am saying is that issue, taken in general equilibrium (where full costs of each decision must be weighed) and parsing what we can prove from what we suspect to be true, is vastly oversimplified by that movie. It is very popular to ridicule the position of people like Bush on this issue, and the basis of a lot of his reasoning is to be sure at least as silly as that which I have myself ridiculed here. But even a broken watch is right twice a day. And it might be that time of day. You can't prove otherwise.

I think the argument is that you can curb emmissions without the negative impact on growth as some people may assert. I suppose this is an area where we need more data and I will try to get more information on the emmission standards in China. We have tried to encouraged Al Gore and Davis to put more of the data on the web and let us dig in.

That oft-made argument is almost certainly incorrect. Broadly speaking, if lower emissions approaches were more productive per se, the market would already be pursuing them. The fact that that is not happening in many high pollution sectors is the most important stylized fact undermining that argument.

Unfortunately, there are nothing but difficult choices here. I salute your efforts to get these guys to release some of their data or reveal data sources.

The problem really is that we can't do anything without agreement among all developed and developing countries. Acting alone is not in our best interest. I seriously doubt that India and China are interested in limiting their emissions at all in the next 50 years.

To say we need to do this or that simply ignores the vast collective action and externality problem we face. I don't see how we can do it without somehow propertizing such that private parties can appropriate the gains from reduced CO2 emissions.

Trevor actually brings up another really interesting dimension of this: from a global standpoint, commitment (measured by polls; local laws and regulations; signing and actually adhering to the Kyoto treaty, etc.) to abate pollution closely follows the net gain from doing so. It isn't a big surprise that a country like the US has been so aloof on this issue. Our costs of abatement will be really high, while the net expected losses (ie losses over and above what would occur if the climate wasn't changing) the US is projected to experience by our best economic estimates and under the worst case climatalogical projections are pretty modest in comparison to projected national income. Indeed, we as a nation will actually capture very few of the benefits of our own abatement in terms of lower weather-related losses. Thus, a global abatement regime would actually also represent a kind of income transfer scheme, as nations like the US effectively pay to reduce the risks other countries might experience. That suggests that any workable global abatement scheme is going to have to involve offsetting direct financial transfers (eg from Europe, which will be screwed if the Gulf stream shuts down, to the US, which will be less affected (as a resident of North Carolina, I have to say that the prospect of a climate more like that of northern Maryland will start looking better and better come July)).

There are of course those who would argue with great outrage that this is a standard expression of American arrogance and excpetionalism, but that is neither here nor there: the US is a sovereign state that cannot and will not (as a practical political reality) be compelled to do anything that runs against its interests. This is a fact on the ground and if you really care about global warming you will recognize that and work with it. Indeed, the President of the US, who is really the CEO of the US and not the world (as opposed to people like the leaders of Germany, Spain and France, who increasingly cannot seem to decide whether they are tasked with protecting the interests of Europe or those who elected them), should be thrown out of office for ever leading us on such a course.

The point I am making here is that you can already see the rough contours of a politically workable solution.

An interesting thing is that I think hundreds of US CITIES have signed and agreed to abide by Kyoto.

And I would think again about China. If you want to build technology for export, you care about emission control technology. And there are many experts in China working hard to get them to control emissions. It IS hard but there is a great deal of activity and I wouldn't underestimate them.

"An interesting thing is that I think hundreds of US CITIES have signed and agreed to abide by Kyoto."

But what does that mean in practice? The local activists showed up and screamed at a city council meeting and the council, in the time honored tradition with which it handles everything, passed some sort of meaningless resolution. Do you know how many foreigh policy resolutions Carrboro, NC has passed? I don't either, but its in the dozens. For God's sake, Carborro has its own Iraq policy. Do you know how many would have passed if put to a true popular vote? Probably one or two (including the standard "Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, Osama bin Laden's bad, mmmmmmmmmkay?" resolution passed by so many communities after 9/11). And Carrboro is as leftist as the American south gets. Local politics are a backwater in the US unless and until some really important issue comes up. Most Americans can't even name their city council representatives and there is a good reason for that: as long as the machine is running tolerably well, and in most places and times it is, the costs of further research and political involvement are not worth the gains for the average voter.

When Bush killed Kyoto, the bottom line is that it was going down 99-0 in the senate. And the senators read public opinion very, very carefully, lest they run the risk of committing leadership. Americans are all in favor of improving the environment...until confronted with the costs. Then support begins to collapse. That may change but up to now has been a general truth of American national politics (the key to understanding some environmentally friendly policies passed at the local level is often to recognize that there was some real local gain to enacting these measures).

Finally, in the net China remains a vast net *importer* of technology. I have no doubt that there are people working hard on these issues in China. There are here too. But that does not an aggregate truth make.

You know, when I hear many of the activist on this issue speak forcefully about what can (politically) and should be done, I am often reminded of an old quote from Sam Rayburn (the legendary US House speaker): "They may be just as intelligent as you say. But I'd feel a helluva lot better if just one of them had ever run for sheriff."

Interesting post... I just can't help but be wary of letting this movie convince me, considering that Gore seems to exaggerate quite a bit...

Trevor wrote:

The problem really is that we can't do anything without agreement among all developed and developing countries. Acting alone is not in our best interest. I seriously doubt that India and China are interested in limiting their emissions at all in the next 50 years.

Just returned from India recently. Was shocked and amazed by the amount of traffic in Mumbai and Bangalore.

Trevor's comment makes me think about international cooperation. If we are to solve the problem of accelerated Global warming, the cooperation of many nations is not preferred, but mandatory. Traditionally, such concerted efforts and unilateral agreements have been elusive amongst humans; if not impossible.

Hey, Roland Dobbins, does anybody pay you to cover the truth or you are just naturally delusional? The negative environmental impact of the human activity is REAL - it is not just the global warming - and the danger is bigger than anyone can imagine. Instead of hiding your head in the ground, we better do something before it is too late!

Mike B., I agree with your sentiments but the problem is that you cannot make cooperation mandatory. You have to enact mechanisms that make net losers under lower-emissions regimes (such as the US) want to cooperate anyway.

Bonny: if the danger is indeed bigger than anyone can imagine, what is the unique source of your handle on the situation?

Here is one suggestion about the collective action problem I mentioned above.

One of the few forces throughout history that has gotten people to act collectively against their individual self interest has been religion. I see one of the major benefits of christianity as having gotten people to attempt to be honest in their dealings with others, even when it has not been in their personal interest. Honest trading (above at least a certain threshold of honesty) is really what has made capitalism possible.

If people could be persuaded that their religion requires them to reduce their consumption, I think we could see a success, but this position would have to be adopted by major religions around the world. It would be very unpopular, but IMHO would have much more success than trying to get people to envision the future consequences of global warming...

Could you see Al Gore collaborating with the baptists on this one?? ;)

@ Peter

Yes, you're right. I just meant that it was mandatory in the sense of the bigger picture.

You have to enact mechanisms that make net losers under lower-emissions regimes (such as the US) want to cooperate anyway.

Totally. Fear and pain. There's no avoiding it. Maybe we still have a choice of flavor, though. Fear and pain today, from conservation and sweeping changes in energy policy. Or will it be fear and pain from a series of energy wars spanning deep into the 21st century? Should we choose fear and pain where the environment is wrecked and the planet is less habitable?

Mike, is the planet wrecked and the planet less habitable? The movie surely portrays it as such, but I have a hard time believing it. I also don't believe Al Gore invented the Internet. Call me a cynic.

So far I am less concerned about wars because market mechanisms appear to be quite intact in the oil market, for example. I am more worried about steadily rising prices from surging demand in places like China, for which there is no obvious military solution. The environment as we know it might be wrecked but in a larger sense it won't be. It will just be different. No doubt the changes will benefit us in some ways and hurt us in others. One thing it might compel the US, a comparatively new society, to do is stop putting cities in places that are untenable or extremely vulnerable, which would probably be a good thing in the very long term.

From the Wikipedia entry on Greenland:


The fjords of the Southern part of the island were lush and had a warmer climate at that time, possibly due to what was called the Medieval Warm Period. These remote communities thrived and lived off farming, hunting and trading with the motherland, and when the Scandinavian monarchs converted their domains to Christianity, a bishop was installed in Greenland as well. The settlements seem to have coexisted relatively peacefully with the Inuit, who had migrated southwards from the Arctic islands of North America around 1200. In 1261, Greenland became part of the Kingdom of Norway. Norway in turn entered into the Kalmar Union in 1397 and later the personal union of Denmark-Norway.

After almost five hundred years, the settlements simply vanished, possibly due to famine during the 15th century in the Little Ice Age, when climatic conditions deteriorated, and contact with Europe was lost.


Yes, old Erik engaged in a bit of salesmanship, but the place was much more hospitable than it is today.

See the Wikipedia entry on the Medieval Warm Period, as well.

I haven't been paid by anybody to post anything on this subject - I just don't like to see my tax dollars put in the service of what appears to me to be junk science being pushed for purely political reasons. We need real science on this issue - we need to know if there is in fact an anthropogenic component to the warming. I strongly suspect any such effect is miniscule, compared to natural causes, but we just don't know - and can't know, due to the ideological lockstep of the global warming crusaders and their stranglehold on the sources of funding for science in this area.

And whether or not the warming we've observed is actually harmful is another question which has yet to be settled.

Again, I remind you that many of the same people screaming about global warming today were screaming about a global Ice Age just 25 years ago. What if they were right back then, and the warming we're seeing is the only thing holding back a new Ice Age? My point is that we just don't know, and propaganda films like the one Joi Ito cited don't help us know. Also, facile politicians like Al Gore don't help us know, either - no matter the political leaning of a politician, you can guarantee that the only thing he cares about is political advantage, period. Unfortunately, this also applies to the majority of the vocal (note 'vocal'; not an actual majority) of the scientists looking at these issues, who are as addicted to grant-money as politicians are to pork

BTW, Medieval Warm Period that many people point to when discussing the issue of global warming as a "it has happened before and we were fine," example... It was a very small blip compared to what we are seeing if I understand correctly. I'll try to get a chart.

Some interesting graphs are seen here:
I think that temperature fluctuations in some localities were much more severe in the medieval warm period and little ice age.

Of course, the dramatic nature of recent temperature increases still does not amount to strict proof of the magnitude of our role. And even proof of our role does not automatically suggest that reversing our imprint on the earth's climate is to be preferred over adjusting to that changing climate. But you are right about the magnitudes.

Thanks for the link Peter. Nice graphs. I think there is another graph that I saw in the movie that plotted the CO2 on top of the temperature change and it is clearly linked. I think that if we agree on this, then the issue is really about what happens to us if the temperature goes up.

There are signs of glaciers in major on-land ice masses melting and falling into the sea. The rise in sea level should cause "problems" for many shoreline populations like Shanghai, New York, the Netherlands, etc.

Also, there is a risk of a rush of fresh water from Greenland causing a change or even stopping of the ocean currents in that area the same way that the melting of the North American glaciers did to cause an ice age in Europe.

I think that both an ice age in Europe and a significant rise in the sea level could be pretty "bad" although I suppose we could "adjust".

Other issues are rising mosquito lines, scorching of earth while flooding in other areas, hurricanes...

Global warming is one of many inconvenient side effects of having no economical, clean, renewable, energy source. If we had such a clean, cheap, efficient energy source for the entire world today, many wars would end, agriculture would flourish in places where there was nothing before due to the massive desalinization plants around the world, and the environment would hopefully be able to repair itself. I encourage all of you to watch Dr. Richard E. Smalley's presentation from 2003 at Columbia University, "Our Energy Challenge."

The issues I see with the US (or another nation) discovering such an energy source would be, sadly, politics blocking any knowledge sharing over a nation(s) power.

When I hear news of new massive fossil fuel reserves being discovered and reported as if "Hooray! We're saved!", it makes me fume. Streamlining the efficiency of current energy technology or finding new fossil fuel reserves is akin to applying a bandaid to someone's midsection after they've been disembowled by a bear.

Here's a link which contains a synopsis of many of the uncertainties we face with regards to global warming, and includes a list of several climatologists and other experts who don't agree with the so-called 'consensus' on anthropogenic global warming.

This issue is too important to be left up to self-serving politicians, self-aggrandizing bureaucrats, and ideologues. We need to understand what is happening, and why, so that we can then formulate an appropriate response - and even if everything the alarmists claim is true (which I do not for a minute believe), the Kyoto Protocols are not an effective or economically-feasible solution. Rather, they constitute a power-grab by unelected bureaucrats which will do nothing to address the issue at hand, yet provide faceless government agencies with the ecnonomic equivalent of the PATRIOT Act.

Even those sceptic of global warming (like Bush) agree that we need to stop burning oil and start burning hydrogen instead.

That is especially true for Japan, which is much too dependent on oil. Jump-starting the hydrogen economy should be a rather urgent priority.

For starters, cover all the deserts completely with solar panels and windmills and use that clean energy to produce hydrogen. Japan would want to look at the Gobi desert first, located closest to Japan.

Karl-Friedrich-Respectfully, Japan cannot and should not do anything of the sort. You do not ever *choose* to rely on a vital source of energy the control of which you cannot militarily contest is need be. Sometimes the evolution of circumstances places you in that position, but no rational policymaker should ever choose to do so. That would be an energy source could not even partly protect.

Paul, that is an interesting point but cooperation is perhaps a necessary (through even then, while I concede that the lackl of cooperation isn't helpful, I'm how damaging it is either) but certainly not sufficient condtion for achieving a meaningful solution as we take the long view and see a future with a far more prosperous humanity with vastly greater energy needs. What we need are the enormous resources necessary for something like a second Manhattan project directed at cold fusion or something along those lines. But those kind of financial resources are beyond the scope of the government's of the world today (the likely costs of developing something like that would make the Iraq war look like a pittance).

I'm surprised that Exxon's Global Climate Science Communication Plan hasn't been mentioned here yet.

"Victory will be achieved when uncertainties in climate science become part of the conventional wisdom" for "average citizens" and "the media."

Just FYI, The single most helpful blog/web resource I have found to sort through all the "contradicting" scientific and non-scientific theories (although among scientists the real conflicts are about the details, rather than is climate change it real or caused by human activity) is Real Climate, a blog by climate scientists about climate science. It sticks to the science, allowing for debate on both sides, so long as they are scientifically grounded.

Also, if this peaks your interest in Sustaianble Development you may want to check out World Changing if you haven't already heard of it.

Peter, do you think Japan is able to militarily contest the control of oil, or should be in the business of trying to get that ability?

This kind of world view seems to be compatible neither with reality nor with the Japanese constitution.

Sorry, I wrote a response to this a few days ago and must have screwed up submission of it. Brief points:
1. Japan is not able to militarily contest oil supplies, but that is an artifact of a situation that largely evolved under one set of circumstances. The issue here is whether they should *choose* a policy intended to put them in a security hole. In any case, within a decade Japan could develop means second only to the US in contesting those resources, if need be. I don't see her developing the means to challenge China on the Asian landmass to secure those solar panels, wind generators, etc.
2. You are I suppose referring to the famous "Peace Clause" of the Japanese constitution. That is highly interpretable, and can be bent to mean whatever it needs to. In any case, it was installed mainly to give the US a pretext to nip any Japanese aggression in the bud (remember the context) and it is highly unlikely that under the circunstances where Japan felt the need to secure oil resources the US would try to veto that move: we'd probably be singing together in the same choir.

Joi remarked:

"I think the argument is that you can curb emmissions without the negative impact on growth as some people may assert."

Look at Toyota: chortling all the way to the bank, due to the Prius selling like hotcakes, while GM is playing catchup. As recently as 2003, GM's CEO was saying hybrids were too costly to sell:

Changing climate represents economic opportunity, not just in cars, but also in solar cells, fuel cells, and numerous other areas. Companies that make such products may be able to sell into not only domestic markets but also into the booming Indian and Chinese markets. Of course, the way things are going, most such companies will not be from the U.S.

Climate change can even represent profit for the oil companies, as they convert from oil to hydrogen infrastructure; see Winning the Oil Endgame:

Someone recommended for its list of scientists who supposedly disagree about the reality and human causation of global warming. Its domain is registered to the National Center for Public Policy Research, about which:

'In 2002 ExxonMobil donated $30,000 for "educational activities" and a further $15,000 for general support. [3] ( In 2003 the company boosted its general operating support to $25,000 with another $30,000 for 'global climate change/EnviroTruth website".[4]'

In other words, is part of Exxon's disinformation campaign, Exxon being one of the few big oil companies that hasn't yet stopped being a warming denier.


hey joi,

have you heard about

from berlin


Peter, a skilled debater, has taken the conversation off-point in his own initial argument,..."So what you propose is that, without clear and convincing evidence that we are causing global warming and should do something about it, we should embark on the most expensive undertaking global society has ever known".

The film is just the tip of the iceberg that there is more than enough clear and convincing evidence for confronting and addressing the reality. The global economic implications, many of which we've not even begun to imagine, should we accept Peter's position, will cost trillions. Imagine the intensity of the immigration debate on Capital Hill when within the next decade or two several hundreds of millions of people accelerate relocating to climatically more friendly environments.

Denial of the clear and convincing evidence is global suicide, socially, economically, politically, and literally.

Watching this film has caused me to change my opinion. I now believe that global warming our most urgent and important crisis and something that we all need to rally behind. The movie presents a scientific, moral and political argument that is convincing and also fun to watch. I also felt I got to know Al Gore through the movie in a completely new way.

Unfortunate to know that propaganda is alive and well in the 21st century, and so effective on very smart people.

Joi, a sizable cut (say 10%) on the amount of CO2 produced each year would cost trillions of dollars. Meanwhile, for just a few dozen billion we could provide safe drinking water, end malaria, even cure AIDS. We really need to get our priorities straight.

People generally find it very diffiult to change their habits and their beliefs.

It can make one feel uncomfortable and disempowered

Denial of truth is a typical response of humans who find new truths- even scientific ones, as that all our society currently values- too uncomfortable to coexist with their construct of the world.

This forum represents the response of a broad range of the human species.

Consider the metaphor of the frog in the boiling water- it expresses our limited capacity to understand and recognize change that is happening at a rate that is below that we notice - the critical level at whihc we notice change can be termed the Minimal Perceptible Difference (MPD).

If we assume that the MPD to environmental change varies amongst humans - this would explain the vastly differing responses to this film.

Thedenial that some people on this forum so proudly and loudly state is to be expected and understood. It is an essential part of some peoples survival strategy to maintain status quo and believe in government policy, and deny all scientific fact, except the bits that support ones own long held beliefs.

After all, too believe in the opinions of the overwhelming number of brillian scientists etc, in this instance leads to a conclusion which is most inconvenient - environmentally, economically and personally

Something very strange happens when you talk about Global Warming: science goes out the window and "belief" and "consensus" becomes the topic of discussion.

It's because of that fact that I give a failing mark to Al Gore's documentary.

Instead of promoting intelligent discussion, he kept the debate at the level of "belief" and "consensus".

Of course, when you're trying to sell the world into spending trillions of dollars to "stop Global Warming" you may thing it's a problem to tell the scientific truth: we don't know how much of the current warming was caused by humans. Maybe none of it, maybe some of it, or maybe it has over-ceded the next Ice Age and we got really lucky not to have boiled the planet.

But the fact remains that we don't know.

so we're asked to "believe" in the "consensus". Never mind that any scientist that strays from the "consensus" is ostracized. Never mind that scientific inquiry is about straying from the consensus. Einstein didn't "believe" in the consensus, neither did Copernicus or Galileo.

So why so much scorn placed on those very researchers who would advance the field by asking the tough questions? If Global Warming is so incontrovertible, surely a few people testing that theory can't be so threatening.

What is going on here? That's the movie I was hoping Al Gore would have made. Istead, he chose to shore up his support with the true "believers" of the "consensus".

Sad, really.