An Inconvenient Truth

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A movie for every day of the year – a good one

16 September

Signing of the Montreal Protocol, 1987

On this day in 1987, the Montreal Protocol in Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer was signed. It was designed to eliminate from use substances, largely chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which were deemed to be damaging the atmosphere, most particularly by destroying ozone, which absorbs large amounts of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. It is the most universally ratified treaty in world history, Kofi Annan has called it “perhaps the single most successful international agreement to date”. Under the terms of the protocol, the use of CFCs – a propellant in aerosols, a coolant in fridges – was first pegged to 150 per cent of its 1986 level. Then, from 1994 it was limited to 25 per cent of the 1986 level. Finally, from 1996, CFC use was banned entirely. The protocol has been successful at least partly (possibly majorly) because there was access to cheap, non-harming alternatives. Since the ban, the annual minimum recorded values of ozone, as surveyed at the Antarctic, continued to fall for a few years but since 2000 there has been a gradual though significant reversal. It has been estimated by some scientists that the damage will have been repaired by 2050. Though it must be said that the hydrofluorocarbons (HCFC) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) we now use instead of CFC come with their own problems – not least their effect on global warming.

An Inconvenient Truth (2006, dir: Davis Guggenheim)

Having “invented the internet”, another of Al Gore’s great sins against the coalition of autistic conservatives, free market liberals and global megacorporations – who have no goal in common but stick together for reasons they need to reconsider – is his espousal of the theory of global warming. An Inconvenient Truth lays it out unequivocally through what is little more than a Powerpoint presentation, with Gore kicking off with a joke – “Hello, I’m Al Gore. I used to be the next president of the United States” – and ending with a song. Well, not quite, but he end with a call to arms that’s quite upbeat. Quite a feat when you consider what has been served up betweentimes. Which is a depressing series of statistics about the need to get the planet’s carbon emissions under control, otherwise kapowie. Gore busts a few myths as he goes – the big one being that the scientific community isn’t agreed on the idea of manmade global warming. And director Davis Guggenheim does a rare thing – he lets the words, the figures, the charts speak for themselves when necessary, using the pretty, distracting images only as a palate cleanser between courses. Even if you don’t agree with the thesis, this is a powerful film whose arguments, if you’re serious about being a denier rather than a kneejerk fellow traveller of the coalition mentioned above, you need to refute.

Why Watch?

  • A university-style Climate 101 lecture that people paid to see
  • Old-fashioned stump-pounding rhetoric at its best
  • 66% of people who have seen it say it has “changed their minds” about climate change
  • Even if you don’t buy the conclusions, it delivers facts by the entertaining trailerload

An Inconvenient Truth – at Amazon

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© Steve Morrissey 2013

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