Checking out An Inconvenient Truth
I have now seen An Inconvenient Truth the movie featuring former Vice President Albert Gore. When he displayed the deservedly famous “Earthrise” photograph, I recognized it immediately. The Apollo 8 mission to lunar orbit in December 1968 was one of the most exciting events of my teenage years.
Gore pointed out that this classic image had captured the imagination of the whole world, which had never been seen in this way before. People began to understand in a more visceral way that we existed on a single planet, a planet both more beautiful and perhaps more fragile than anyone had realized before.
The case for human-caused global warming has been growing year by year, even as the carbon-dioxide graphs climb ever higher. The ranks of the skeptics have been melting away like the polar ice as the evidence accumulated, till now the only persistent naysayers are the stubbornly ignorant (many blinkered by political ideology), the professional shills (paid lobbyists and industry-affiliated scientists), and a handful of willful mavericks (there's a few in every crowd: when they lead a revolution, they are visionaries; when they obsessively fight against a growing consensus, they are usually reduced to cranks).
Gore's big mistake
I listened attentively throughout An Inconvenient Truth and consider it to be an extremely effectively polemic. The amount of detail was at an appropriate level for general audiences, with Gore avoiding the unnecessarily arcane while still providing the key scientific data that reveal the growing global crisis. His traveling slide show, as captured on the movie screen and augmented by the film's website at www.climatecrisis.net, lays out the case in a relentless and persuasive fashion. It increasingly appears that the earth's greatest ecological catastrophe may have been the stolen presidential election of 2000. We have unregenerate oil men in the White House at the worst possible time.
In the entire movie, there was only one moment, quite early in the screening, when I caught the former vice president in an error. And now it can be told, Al Gore's big mistake: he made an error concerning the moon.
While he was describing the circumstances under which the “Earthrise” photo was snapped, Gore talked about the tension everyone experienced when Apollo 8 ducked behind the moon in preparation for the braking maneuver that would put it in lunar orbit. The astronauts would fire the rocket of their spacecraft's service module while out of radio contact with the earth, traveling over the far side of the moon. A mishap could have caused an impact on the moon's surface. Gore used the common misnomer “dark side” for the far side of the moon. In reality, the far side gets every bit as much sun as the near side. The “dark side” can be any side of the moon, including the front side (from our perspective), which is actually what occurs at every new moon, when “dark” and “near” coincide.
I did a little double-checking to see whether Gore might have been correct after all. Apollo 8's lunar orbit insertion occurred early in the morning (U.S. time) of December 24, 1968. It was only about four days after the new moon, so most of the front face of the moon was dark and most of the far face was lit. The far side was not very dark at all.
And that, ladies & gentlemen & others, is what Al Gore got wrong. That's it. Were you hoping for something more egregious? I am truly sorry to have disappointed you. An Inconvenient Truth is brimming with truth, and it is very inconvenient indeed. Go see it.