Friday, April 20, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth, salt, measuring beach rubbish, and people

So I turned up at the Village Hall just before 8 o'clock to see Al Gore's film. The car-park was full. "Wow" I thought "It's going to be packed". Nope turns out there were two other meetings going on, in total there were about twenty of us. I had a quick chat with Nigel Knowles from Worcestershire County Council. "Picture in the paper" I said and we talked about how you'd have thought they'd have checked they could replace the slabs before digging them up; I mentioned the pavements in High Street and then joked about how if there are roadworks in Bewdley it makes the front page, if there are road-works in Kidderminster it makes the front page, but roadworks in Stourport... page 5 if you're lucky.

Okay the film was... interesting. One-sided to an enormous degree, and happy to gloss over certain things that might have been made clearer. I'll give an example. Sunlight, we're told, hits the earth and warms it up. Some of that heat radiates back into space, but some is trapped in the atmosphere. With all the pollutants in the atmosphere it gets thicker and more of the heat is trapped. Uh okay, but if the atmosphere is getting 'thicker' wouldn't that lessen the amount of sunlight getting through in the first place. Now I know the answer to that, but it would have been nice to clear that point up.

He also talks a lot about ice-ages, taking ice-core samples and measuring carbon dioxide and oxygen isotopes we can chart carbon dioxide levels and temperature for a period extending back 650,000 years. Gore produces a nice graph points to the temperature dips calling them ice-ages and then points to the rises between them. Critics use this to show that it's cyclical, he tells us. He then shows where we are now. Whoosh that's a big jump upwards.

Okay first off we're in an ice-age now you can tell that by looking at the poles - hey they're covered in ice. What he's talking about is glacials; at the moment we're in an inter-glacial, that is the ice-sheet has retreated to the poles. Secondly why can they only go back 650,000 years. There was a particularly bad ice between 850 and 630,000,000 years ago which may have extended as far as the equator. So what was the temperature like between 630,000,000 and 650,000 years ago? Could it have been hot, could it in fact been as hot as it's getting now?

Next up we're told that carbon dioxide levels are going up as we're destroying the forests, a nice green issue to latch onto; except earlier when discussing the annual up-down pattern of carbon dioxide emissions Gore likens it to the Earth "taking a breath" With the North tilted towards the Sun the levels go down, when tilted away the levels go up. So by killing the forests we're stopping them from doing their thing during the Summer, but we're also stopping them doing their thing during the Winter- a net result of zero.

By the end of the film we're told what we can do to cut down on emissions how if we do this, this, and this we'll get back down to 1970 levels. So will that solve the problem, will that prevent the rise in temperatures, um don't know that's never explicitly stated.

The best part I found of the whole film was talking about fuel efficiency of vehicles, up comes a graph plotting their increase in mpg (nice to see the UK so high) and in comes the USA down the bottom. Attempts to increase fuel efficiency were being lobbied against by the motor industry as against the economic interest. So these companies can only sell their cars in America as they're not up to the standards of other countries, whereas foreign manufacturers can sell their cars anywhere including the USA; economically who' s in the better position?

Okay I've drawn up a few points some of which can be answered by a bit of research, the trouble is you've got to do that research. For a film that's trying to get people to act now, Gore leaves way too many holes in his arguments to be exploited by those against his views preaching to people who won't do the research.

It's salt again and adverts have been cropping up about us eating too much salt. Haven't we done this before not many years ago? If I recall correctly it completely backfired and experts had to tell us that we were now not eating enough salt. Look out for them to return again later this year with the same message.

Our beaches have twice as much rubbish as they did ten years ago as reported on both the BBC and GMTV. Ben Shephard couldn't understand why people left their rubbish behind "Pack it up and take it home" or um put it in the rubbish bins? Anyway on average we're looking at "two pieces of litter per metre" parroted word-for word by both broadcasts. 2 per metre isn't so bad. Take a beach 1km long and 100m wide split it into metre strips along the 100m and that's only 200 pieces of litter. Oh I suppose you could split it along the 1km in which case you're talking about 2,000 pieces which isn't so good. You don't suppose they meant two pieces per square metre do you, using a measurement of area rather then length?

People are strange. Stuck in a queue this morning in High Street I watched an elderly couple standing not too far from the pedestrian crossing waiting to cross. Others were already waiting by the crossing yet this pair chose to stand where they did, making a few abortive attempts to cross when the traffic slowed. The lights went red and they dashed across both one-way lanes. between the one-lane of traffic (and fortunately not getting hit by any vehicles travelling up to the lights in the other lane). I then watched with cynical amusement as upon reaching the other side of the road they they walked up to and past this very same crossing falling in behind those who'd taken the safer route. I don't get it, I really really don't get it.