on July 3, 2006
I have seen An Inconvenient Truth, the movie; and, I have browsed An Inconvenient Truth, the book, at a local bookstore. I enjoyed the movie, and I chose not to buy the book. This review was mainly written for people who have seen the movie, and are thinking of picking up the book.
It's unfortunate that there are no preview pages currently available on Amazon. The book is not printed like a typical non-fiction work of black-and-white text and charts. Instead, 90% of the pages are full-page, full-color photographs, maps, charts or graphs, with a few sentences or short paragraphs on each image describing the situation. While there are 328 pages, it can probably be read by most people in the time it takes to watch the movie.
Most of the photos and graphics are exact copies of the ones shown in the film. In most cases where animations were shown in the film, a series of similar graphics are in the book.
I would say An Inconvenient Truth makes a very good "coffee table" book -- easy to pick up, flip through quickly, look at some interesting graph, and share and discuss among friends.
The book's goal, in my opinion, is to say, "global warming is a large, real problem needing urgent attention, and we can solve it," and it does a good job at that. It is beyond the scope of the book to discuss solutions in any detail, and it leaves you with a few leads to help solve global warming (in the back of the book), but specifics are left mainly as an exercise for the reader. Gore argues that (lack of) political will is the biggest obstacle to solving the issue, and he encourages readers to contact their political leaders to change that.
Like the film, there are mini-biographies of Al Gore laced throughout the book -- about five; each touches on a turning point in Gore's life -- usually a loss or near loss -- that guided him down the path that lead him to making this book. I could have done without these, as I feel they distract from the other content of the book, but they are easy to skip. (I do see the value in including them, however, and you will find them interesting if you want to know more about the author's personal life.) They are in a different style from the rest of the book; they read a bit like a magazine, with quarter- or half-page-sized (usually black and white) photos accompanying them.
In conclusion, the book is essentially the same as the film, but in a handy, take-it-with-you "book" form. The book adds a few more photographs, and a useful "Top 10 Arguments Against 'Global Warming is Real'" (something like that) at the end, but not much else. I enjoyed the delivery of the film more, as I felt the impact of Gore's speeches (where timing was sometimes very important) and the colloquial style of the film did not translate as well as they could have on to the page.
Recommended if you can't see the film, if you don't want to sit through the "Al Gore" parts of the film, or if you loved the film and want a hardcopy to show your friends some of your favorite charts. Not recommended if you're looking for more in-depth coverage of the material.
on June 21, 2006
This is a well-written book and definitely worth reading. I haven't seen the movie so I can't compare it.
This is obviously a controversial book- given the wide range of previous reviews. It's impossible at this point to say whether Gore's views are prophetic or grossly exaggerated. Unfortunately, it's simply human nature to ignore any abstract threat until it's staring you in the face ("people only believe in what they can see"). For ex., for several years before 9/11, I saw occasional news stories, warning about Bin Laden. Unfortunately, nobody did anything until it was too late. Let's all hope we're not in that same situation again with global warming- because the worst-case scenarios are an order of magnitude more serious than terrorism.
Regardless of your scientific beliefs on this one, we should all follow one simple thing from Gore's book. At the end, Gore states that if every American household replaced a single incadescent bulb with a fluorescent one, it'd be equivalent to taking a million cars off the roads. I've already switched 5 bulbs, so I've done my small part :)
on July 12, 2006
That's the message from a lot of reviewers. Why? Well, I'll hit on many of those issues people had with the book (or global warming) since the comments need to be addressed. But first, a word from President Bush.
President Bush: "I believe that greenhouse gases are creating a problem, a long-term problem that we got to deal with. ... There's an interesting confluence now between dependency upon fossil fuels from a national economic security perspective, as well as the consequences of burning fossil fuels for greenhouse gases." He said this in an interview on June 30, 2005. (Find the interview that contains this quotation by searching google with "bush global warming quotation" and look for the timesonline site). The fact that President Bush acknowledges global warming as a problem caused by humans is important and should have been included in this book and the film. I think this would have reached out to those who do not trust the media or Al Gore. Also, note most other major leaders, such as Tony Blair, have personally acknowledged global warming and are actively working to reduce human impact on the climate.
Gore isn't a scientist, so why should we trust him?
Frankly, scientists rarely address the public directly and they use PR people to do that. Gore is doing a portion of that PR work with the book and film. To understand the issue, acknowledge the serious problem we are facing, and portray that to the public you do not have to be a scientist but a person who is good at getting information out.
Why no citations?
Basically because the book (and movie) are directed at non-science people and as a first source of information for most people. If you want to find the info that Gore talks about, it isn't hard -- just do some searching on the internet and you will find (dependable) websites with the information. For example, the ice core data can be found by searching "Vostok Ice Core Data."
Global warming is from natural cycles, not CO2.
No one seems to even be saying this anymore -- this is an old argument that those who haven't been keeping up to date still repeat. Yes, there is a possibility that natural cycles could contribute to global warming, but the current trend is much beyond what could have occurred from natural cycles alone and CO2 emissions account for the remaining portion.
Volcanic Eruptions & Wildfires are the real problem, not people
Wildfires, yes. Volcanic eruptions, no.
Volcanic eruptions can (and most do) actually have a strong initial cooling effect -- they don't just put out CO2 but put out lots of aerosols. Further, humans still put out more CO2 than these rare eruptions (since 1800, CO2 levels have increased 30% beyond any other time in the past 600,000 years).
Wildfires do produce a lot of CO2, but humans still produce about 1-2 times more. If fires were the cause of CO2 rise, why is it that they have conveniently happened during the last 200 years when that never occurred over the last 600,000 years?
Global warming is bunk, the world is cooling!
A serious look at any source that says this reveals the source is only looking at a small region of the globe instead of looking at measurements from around the globe. Often the sources say this early in their writings but fail to bring it up later when they make their conclusions.
The warming is just like the Medieval warming period.
That is inaccurate. The data that supports the existance of the MWP is only from the European region, which supports that Europe was warmer, but doesn't conclude the world was. When data that considers temperatures from around the globe was analyzed, it was found that the average global temperature actually remained pretty much constant (the MWP is nothing like we are seeing now).
Gore is a hypocrite -- he's just flying around wasting jet fuel!
Yes, his personal emissions are high, but consider what he has done. He has really pushed the issue into the public eye and made the issue become a more common discussion topic. Also, directly due to the movie, my family is now working to reduce CO2 emissions and we are buying green power. The good he is doing overall, reducing emissions by tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people, greatly outweigh his own emissions due to his travel.
Why does the movie/book cost anything? Wouldn't it reach more people if he made it free?
Good questions, but there are a lot of costs involved with both, and whatever profit that would otherwise be given to Gore is actually going towards educating people on this issue (Gore is taking no profits from the book or movie -- NONE). Costs include the production of the movie & book, along with paying people for the rights to use all the images in the book along with the many snippets of video in the movie, paying for the (quite expensive) film for movie theaters, etc. All this adds up to a lot of cost that needs to be paid down somewhere. Again, what profit that would be made by Gore is going towards the cause; he gets no money from the book or movie.
Why no "e-book?"
I'm actually not sure, but I have 3 good guesses. My first guess is to protect the copyrights of the hundreds of pictures in the book; it is much easier to make a copy of a digital image than it is to scan an image from a book. Secondly, ebooks aren't always very popular, and with all the pictures in this book, it really is nice to have a hard copy. Lastly, it is much easier to share a regular book with a friend than an e-book, so the book may get more "reads" if it is a paper copy.
There is of course the obvious possibility that they just didn't think about doing an e-book since they aren't terribly common.
There is so much personal information in this book! I don't like it!
Yes there is, and since this is a book, you can skip it! But if you want to get into WHY Al Gore is doing this, what motivated him to do this, or why people really should care about global warming, read it. A lot of the personal stories really boil down to one fact -- we are responsible for global warming and our kids who are going to pay for it.
Combatting global warming will hurt our economy.
Actually, if you do everything as an individual that is reasonable to combat global warming, you will break even or be very close to breaking even. For example, buying a compact fluorescent light bulb instead of a traditional incandescent actually saves the user $30-60 over the lifetime of the bulb in energy costs (it is just that upfront cost that people don't like), and on top of that it prevents about 1000 pounds of CO2! Note that if you do buy these bulbs, buy bulbs with a higher equivalency than what is needed since companies often inflate the equivalency. Buying high efficiency appliances also often saves money in the long run. The only real money-eater in going green is paying the premium for renewable energy; thankfully the energy that these sources produce continues to drop by a few percent annually, making it very competitive in the long run -- it just needs a little help and a bit more time to really get going*.
*Note that there really is no free market right now -- the fossil fuel industry is subsidized, making it an unfair (national) market against renewable energy. Further, the fossil fuel industry has received tens of billions of dollars in subsidies over the years to build their infrastructure, especially when they were getting off the ground. Perhaps it would be fair to help the renewable energy industry get going as well since they offer us more national security on top of clean energy.
The book isn't as scientific or as rigorous as it should be.
This book is directed at non-scientists, so perhaps this is an unfair demand. For more rigorous info with lots of scientific citations, look online for (accredited) estabishments with websites that explain the issue. Right now the best source for this type of information is the internet. If anyone is curious where the data for the ice cores is, search "Vostok Ice Core Data"; Gore's information there is accurate (I graphed the data myself to confirm his graphs since the data is available online). Also check out "Beating the Heat," which is a book with LOTS of citations.
The book design is really annoying and Gore is condescending.
If you think Gore is condescending, just keep in mind that is not his intention. He is just doing his best to get this information out there. If you already know a lot about something in the book, skip ahead a little so you don't feel like he is trying to tell you something you know! It's a book so you can do that!
The book design is a little over the top, but I'm guessing it was done the way it was to make readers feel like they were flying through the information (always encouraging). I also thought it was a little too much but it was something I obviously was able to look past to see the major issues.
I've read every 1, 2, & 3 star review in the first 125 reviews here on Amazon. Of the 34 reviews, 26 gave absolutely no impression that they had actually read the book. 4 said they read the book but gave no information in their review that suggests they actually did*. I am convinced 4 actually did read the book; of those 4, their issues were all addressed above.
*One recent review (6/21/06, Michele Mccrum):
"I was not able to finish this book, so maybe I shouldn't review
but just the few chapters I read, and the rest I scanned, I knew for a FACT to be highly exagerated or just wrong outright."
If the reviewer had actually looked at the book, she would have known the book has no chapters and is just a continuous text. Here is an example of a reader who claimed to have read the book but clearly didn't even look at the inside of it. (This paragraph is part of the updating I have done to this review -- I'll continue to address new reviewers and add to the section above.)
As some previous reviewers have noted, the book and movie are similar. Honestly, I would recommend the movie (5 stars) over the book (4 stars) because it struck me much more to see video of events. The only thing that is really lacking in the movie is a description of what to do to reduce your own carbon emissions, all of which can be found on the book and movie's website, climatecrisis . n e t
Former V.P. Gore reminds us that the pace of destruction of the global environment has worsened, caused by population explosion, the technological revolution, and a willingness to ignore the future consequences of our present actions. Why do our leaders seem not to heed clear warnings (eg. in 2005 the national academies of science in the 11 most influential nations jointly declared that the "scientific understanding of climate changes is now sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action")? Gore suspects that it simply is inconvenient for them. But he goes on to point out that our recent experience from ignoring warnings can bring dire consequences - eg. Katrina.
On the other hand, dozens of companies have cut emissions of CO2 while saving money; others (eg. G.E.) see enormous opportunities offered by a clean energy future. Thus, Gore sees an opportunity for sharing a unified cause, across the U.S. and the world.
The bad news - of the 21 hottest years measured, 20 have occurred in the last 25 years. The frequency and intensity of storms has increased about 50% in the Atlantic and Pacific since the 1970s. Global warming will also bring drying out of soils. An overall increase of about 5 degrees (58 now) will result in only about 1-2 degree increase at the Equator, and over 12 at the North Pole. Diseases (both of man and plants), climate patterns, and seashore levels will all be adversely affected - the latter requiring millions to be moved.
About 30% of the problem comes from the U.S. 29% from Europe, 14% from Russia, and 12% from S.E. Asia/China/India.
Mr. Gore also makes an important point about "fair" press coverage being a major problem. There were 428 peer-reviewed articles published regarding climate change in the last ten years - 0% in doubt regarding the cause. However, the popular press over the last 14 years has published 636 articles - 53% in doubt regarding the cause. Meanwhile, the Bush administration adds to the problem with staff that censor government reports to reduce their certainty on global warming.
Options include conservation, wind energy, nuclear generation, etc.
Clearly an important work.
on December 19, 2006
As a chemical engineer, I was somewhat dubious of the forecasts of global warming. I grew up in the 70's when we learned to doubt everything, to recognize spin in every statement from the left and the right. It is a weakness of being human that signs of gradual change are missed.
Although the author's book has a clear political message I can find no fault in his basic reasoning. The presentation is sound, though it often relies on anecdotal information. He avoids drastic, unsupportable statements. When describing the danger of diluting the Atlantic and diminishing the Gulf Stream circulation he avoids the conclusion of the movie, "The Day After Tomorrow." Such gloom and doom movies do not supply the grist for serious debate. What Al Gore has done is present basic facts, at a middle school level, for the public to consider. If you can look at a picture of a glacier in the Andres and argue that it's a natural cycle of nature -- good luck.
So, what is lacking? Perhaps it's the scientist in me that wants more statistical analysis. The charts, graphs and photos are very useful but looking at the hard data is often better for number-crunchers.
This is a great book for children and adults a like. The pictures alone make it worthwhile.
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on May 13, 2011
Al Gore did not write this to be an exhaustive *scientific* explanation of the global warming phenomenon. He wrote it as a guide for the average person. An Inconvenient Truth puts the damning evidence in clear focus for the modern, TV and video game conditioned mind. Gore presents graphs charting trends going back as much as a hundred thousand years, showing that yes, the Earth is warming, and yes, it will inundate major cities.
However, the book has a glaring flaw: Gore does not focus on the effects of global warming in America. This book seems tailor-made for U.S. liberals and young people, who are more likely to think on a global perspective. That's exactly why U.S. conservatives, influenced by potent nationalism and radio talkers hailing the benefits of cheap electricity and transport using fossil fuels, find this book easy to dismiss. The average middle aged or older adult does not care much about the disappearance of coral atolls in the Pacific and the flooding of the Ganges delta. Actually, neither do we care what will happen to the houses of people who live directly on the coast - except those whose sole income comes from the seafood industry or hunting big game. (Think alligator meat, which is actually quite tasty.) Many people who live directly on the coast are low-income service sector workers in the tourist economy, which is powered by the deep pockets of the middle class (those who are financially secure). If the great tourist resorts are destroyed, the rich will find other places to vacation, and the service sector employees will be sure to follow inland. Tell us, former Vice President Gore, what damage global warming will cause to Hometown, USA, and you can be sure more people will listen.
Will our farmland be plagued by drought? Will our watersheds run dry, turning large cities into ghost towns? That would be an inconvenient truth that would worry all Americans. Perhaps we need another book focusing on the effects on the contiguous 48 states, where the majority of the U.S. population lives - a state-by-state analysis of the effects of global warming on our livelihood. If the people can be convinced that global warming will destroy America as we know it, they will demand change. All the money of the coal, oil and gas industry cannot compete with the collective will of 300,000,000 Americans.
I'm with you, Mr. Gore. I agree with the science and the fact that we need change. I'm willing to overlook the hypocrisy of using traditional incandescent light bulbs in a huge mansion and flying everywhere in a private jet - regardless of how many offsets you purchase, you are still polluting - and fight for change. But until Americans understand specifically how global warming will affect their own country, they will continue to fall victim to the disinformation campaigns put out by the fossil fuel industry and their political lackeys in the Republican Party. You have to understand how the average person thinks; the average person today cannot afford to go to any of the places you mention in your book. We (Americans) don't all own private jets, and we can't buy carbon offsets. Target the mainstream, not the easier-to-persuade liberals, and live up to your own expectations for the rest of the world, and you will certainly get the change you are hoping for.
on June 24, 2006
Al Gore's message is nothing new. Psychic visioneer Gordon Michael Scallion [...] has been warning about earthly cataclysms and catastrophes as early as the 80s, drawing from his psychic experiences and seeking confirmation from scientific knowledge. I guess Scallion was among the first to draw a map of the US, Europe and Asia with redefined borders as water rises 40-50 ft from current sea levels. Of course, he was summarily dismissed as a charlatan by a vast majority of TV viewers.
Unfortunately, the message does not go away.
Over the years, scientists from different disciplines are tending to draw the same conclusions about global warming, the shift of the earth's axis, desertification, permafrost thaw, malevolent proliferation of new diseases, the rise of volcanic activity, radical global climatic changes all pointing back to the impact of human technologies on the earth's fragile natural cycles.
We cannot erase from memory the recent explosion of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines, the deadly tsunami waves generated by an underground earthquake in Indonesia which affected Thailand, Bangladesh and India, new diseases like birdflu and our very own Hurricane Katrina.
And now, one of America's foremost personalities Al Gore is calling for a concerted campaign.
The book is a compendium of scientific data collected over the last 60 years showing a tight correlation between the concentration of CO2 gas and the earth temperature. It is no coincidence that 20 of the 21 hottest years ever measured, occurred within the last 25 years. We are experiencing the most unusually powerful hurricanes, cyclones and tornadoes because as the oceans get warmer, the storms get stronger. Droughts and desertification advance as soil moisture evaporation increase. Lakes disappear and whole glaciers of ice start to crack and melt. In Siberia, permafrost thaw is being blamed for infrastructure damage. The arctic ice cap is expected to completely disappear each year during the summer. Disruptive global climatic changes give way to upsets in the delicate balance of nature, thus resulting in extinction of certain species of animals and plants while enhancing the malevolent proliferation of new viruses and diseases. Unusual warm ocean waters encourage dense algae blooms which suffocate ocean life. The threat of rising sea levels as glaciers and ice shelves melt is very real. Examples are shown of redrawn maps of US states, Europe and Asia showing advancing shorelines requiring the evacuation of millions.
A turning point has been reached. We need to change our ways to reverse the crisis of global warming.
I recommend for everybody to watch his documentary (An Inconvenient Truth), read the book, be politicized and take action --> even the simple reduction of home electric consumption, the use of solar and other regenerative sources of energy, or the support of legislation to reduce CO/CO2 emissions can go a long way. There are many environmental groups like the Sierra Club or the WorldWatch Institute [...] that can use your extra dollars.
on July 9, 2014
A good first book on the topic. He's not a climate scientist, and so sometimes the technical details get confused, or misleading statements are made but this is a very important topic (actually the most important issue of this century) and he gets the basics out there.
on July 13, 2006
I think that Mr. Gore has really placed "environmentalists' foot in the door" with this book about the truth of global warming. On started the book not having much previous knowledge about the issue of global warming, but I believe that Gore really backs this "inconvenient truth" about global warming with abundant charts and statistics legitimizing it. I have to admit that in the last election I voted republican, but this issue extends further than the lines of political parties because it involves the fate of the whole country much less the world. If you are at all skeptical about the issue of global warming I dare you to read this book and learn why it truly is a problem and why scientists' opinions are starting to converge more and more that global warming could have devasting effects on the future of the world if it isn't controlled.
on July 21, 2006
While the evidence Gore uses in the book could be better documented, as some have mentioned, this is still a book that everyone should pick up. The pictures alone tell a fascinating story and are a good supplement to the rest of the literature that is already available.
My only issue is that as much as books like this one explain the details, we need more guidance to stimulate action. Most people understand the facts (except for some people in the oil-soaked fantasyland of Texas--see the last post), but don't feel an immediate or direct impact. It's the fight or flight mechanism that gets people to act, so the up-to-now gradual local changes don't give incentive to act. Simple direction, or government action, could really push the masses forward and stimulate innovation that will not only solve these problem, but bring us into the next stage of economic development(industry-->technology-->information-->efficiency??). Maybe that will show up in a supplementary volume?...