Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:10 PM GMT on February 26, 2007
If you haven't seen Al Gore's global warming movie, "An Inconvenient Truth", it's time you watched this important film. The movie took home the Oscar award for best documentary feature of 2006 at last night's Academy Awards, and also won an Oscar for best original song, singer Melissa Etheridge's "I Need to Wake Up." As I wrote in a movie review last year, Gore does a good job educating the non-scientist about the science of climate change and the dangers it poses. The only major flaw scientifically in the movie is the unwarranted connections he makes between climate change and severe weather events such as Hurricane Katrina and the record number of tornadoes in 2004. I gave his science a "B" overall. I thought the movie was a bit too long and was excessively political, but definitely worth seeing (2.5 stars out of four). It is difficult to make a scientifically accurate movie about climate change that will also be interesting enough to do well at the theaters; an "An Inconvenient Truth", while admittedly imperfect, does a respectable job educating us about climate change and the challenges and dangers it poses.
Should "An Inconvenient Truth" be shown in schools?
According to a recent blog posted at realclimate.org, "An Inconvenient Truth" has a become a required part of the science curriculum in some countries. One of the producers of the film, Laurie David, recently offered 50,000 free copies of the $19.99 DVD to National Science Teachers' Association (NSTA) for use in U.S. classrooms. The NSTA turned down the offer on the grounds that the NSTA has a 2001 policy against "product endorsement", and a fear that distributing the film would place "unnecessary risk upon the [NSTA] capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters." Realclimate.org points out that one of these targeted supporters is oil giant ExxonMobil, and questions whether concern about losing funding from ExxonMobil influenced the decision not to take the free movies. I don't have a problem with the NSTA rejecting the free movies on the grounds that Al Gore's presentation is politicized. However, as pointed out in the realclimate.org post, NSTA does not offer much content on climate change in their list of recommended materials. One of the recommended books, "Global Warming: Understanding the Debate", has no business being on their recommended reading list. This book is written by Kenneth Green, a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). This fossil-fuel funded think tank recently offered $10,000 to scientists willing to criticize the recent landmark 2007 Summary of Policy Makers climate change report issued by the United Nations-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). AEI offered to award the money to scientists who would "thoughtfully explore the limitations of climate model outputs", as explained in an article in the UK Guardian. Given the lack of quality climate change education material it offers to teachers, NSTA needs to seriously rethink their recommended offerings on this important subject. If they are going to continue to recommend a book written by the fossil fuel industry-funded American Enterprise Institute, they should recommend Al Gore's movie as well. The two best books for teaching about climate change are missing from the NSTA's recommendations: Robert Henson's excellent Rough Guide to Climate Change (high school level) and The North Pole Was Here (grades 6-9), by New York Times climate change writer Andrew Revkin.
I'll be back Wednesday with a look at the weather of January 2007--the warmest January on record, globally.
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