May 21, 2006  ·  Lessig


On Wednesday, May 24, in select theaters in New York and LA, a film by Davis Guggenheim about Al Gore’s global warming slide-show will open. I have seen the slide-show. It is — by far — the most extraordinary lecture I have ever seen anyone give about anything. And I’ve now seen the film, An Inconvenient Truth, twice.

I will rarely ask favors of those who read here. But this is one. No issue is as important. I doubt you will ever see an argument as compelling. And though this is a beautiful and pasisonate film, it is, in the end, an argument that gets built upon the ethic that guides at least some conversation in places like this — facts, reason and a bit of persuasion.

I push for you see this because of the peculiar economics of theaters. Unlike blog posts, that are equally as available always, whether or not this film gets seen is a function of what happens in the next four weeks. If many see it, then many more will have the opportunity. So if there is a time to see it, it is early and often.

You’ll see me credited at the end. I gave some advice re fair use (you can’t believe the insanity filmmakers live with). And some might notice that Guggenheim is on the board of Creative Commons. But none of that is behind this recommendation: Even if you want to reject the argument, understand it first. This is a perfect opportunity to understand it.

There’s an overly professional website associated with the film at ClimateCrisis.Net. You can pledge (no, I don’t know whose idea this was) to come, and take others. Tere’s a list of places the film will be showing. And there’s a blog.

Please. If there were an obvious way to put everything else aside and work on this, I would. Meanwhile, please see the film.

  • Seth Finkelstein

    Two pre-emptive resource links, before the inevitable astroturfers show up:

    RealClimate – “Climate science from climate scientists”

    Tim Lambert has excellent coverage on his site Deltoid.

  • Brendan Lane Larson

    Mr. Lessig,

    Do you know if this film will eventually be made available for purchase on DVD (and if so, who will be the recipient of the proceeds)? I am a meteorologist – weather informatician and I would like to help spread awareness of this forthcoming film and the messages it is likely to deliver. One way to do so would be to purchase DVDs as gifts for friends and colleagues of mine who might not have the opportunity to view this film in a theatre setting. Thanks for any additional information you may have.


  • Kimberly Kubalek

    Great post. I look forward to seeing the movie–from all reviews it is relevant and powerful. Wonder if anyone knows when/if it will be available to view in Western Europe? I didn’t see anything here listed.

    Again, thanks for posting about this and championing this important issue.

    -kimberly kubalek

  • Wes

    Global warning is a real issue and hopefully whe we switch political parties we will focus again on this topic by signing agreements with the world, switching our source of fuel to ethanol etc, and inacting better programs to help deal with the issue.

    my blog

  • steve

    RealClimate has posted a note on the science of the movie. Basically they have a few minor nits, but note that Gore gets the basic science right. They also recommend the movie.

  • pelo


  • lessig

    DVDs? Yes, absolutely. It will certainly be DVD after the run in theaters is over.

  • Alan

    Here are the key problems with this issue

    1. it is seen by conservatives as yet another in a long line of schemes to constrain the “bad behavior” of the free world for some “immoral” behavior by the left/anti-freedom forces of the world.
    2. the same scientists/philosophers who state that science is based on the scientific method and materialistic measurements to prove their assertions (e.g. Intelligent design cannot be proved and hence is not science), then make categorical claims of the certainty of their “science” with climatological predictions when they have no way of conducting tests to prove their theories of global warming (and they cannot predict next week’s weather with any realiability).
    3. Because of (1) and (2) above, it is seen as another religion.

    Address these issues and then you have a chance at making a difference.

  • T

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  • Joe Llywelyn Griffith Blakesley

    Lessig:DVDs? Yes, absolutely. It will certainly be DVD after the run in theaters is over.

    I hope they will be real DVD-Videos as opposed to content-scrambled coasters passing off as DVD-Videos, as many of us don’t buy CSS DVDs as an `act of civil obedience’ (i.e.: making life difficult for the powers that be by always following the letter of their criminal laws) as well as the practical, ethical and (two-fold) legal problems.

  • http://b Paul M

    Let’s all pass by the 50 yr old plus war protesters, the Christians protesting the Davinci Code, and all the other protesters and see this movie. Don’t forget the popcorn or sneak in the stuff yourselves. I recycle and even pick up random trash on the ground so I can say this…Who really cares if its a little more windy and there are tropical rain patterns in the north? I am also a voter so I can say we screwed up when we didn’t buy in to Kyoto. So that leaves me, little old peon Paul to live my little old life, I’ll just read blogs and tell Amway and the mormons and the insurance people who have names of my neighbors who have bought their products to please let me be. Watch the movie and be entertained, but really nothing more will come of this except a few thumbs up or down. In a few years it will be shelved in the video store next to bowling for columbine, and there will be more entertainment at the theaters.

  • michiaki

    Say what you want Paul M, but “I recycle and even pick up random trash on the ground” doesn’t amount to much, certainly less than a big documentary which will (hopefullly) suggest some more radical ways the little guy can cut down on global warming.

  • scola

    Awright — I planned on seeing it at some point, but this is quite the testimonial. I’ll go buy my tickets now.

  • Dave

    Don’t expect too much from this film. Reviews say it’s basically a glorification of Al Gore, a lot of impressive charts, and some serious errors of fact. Beyond that, he offers no solution, which is the most honest part of the film, because there is no realistic “solution.” The Kyoto Protocol, for example, addresses less than three percent of the anthropogenic CO2 he is so concerned about.

    Check out the trailer for the first few errors of fact. Toward the end, Gore starts talking about the Arctic ice cap (which he erroneously calls glaciers) and waves his hand over a map of Antarctica(!) saying “if this were to melt, sea level would rise twenty feet.” Sorry Al, the ice in the Arctic is barely three meters thick on average and it’s floating, displacing almost as much sea water as it contains in fresh water. Furthermore, 20% of the Arctic ice cap has already melted in the last fifty years and sea level has risen slightly over one inch in that time. I suspect Al was thinking of the glaciers in Greenland, not the Arctic ice cap, because they could cause approximately 20 feet of sea-level change, if they were to melt. But the interior of Greenland is getting colder, not warmer, as is the interior of the Antarctic, for that matter.

    I recommend that anyone view this film with extreme scepticism, then ask. “so what am I supposed to do about it, recycle?” Apparently he’s asking you for deification of Al Gore. Maybe he really thinks that this error-filled film will improve his chances to get elected for something. Outside of Tennessee, of course.

  • ceejayoz

    Hey, Dave, do you think perhaps when he’s pointing at Antarctica and saying “this”, he means Antarctica and not the Arctic? Just a thought…

    Those backing the Kyoto Accord were quite clear that it was a first step. You don’t move from the Wright Flyer to a 747 in one step, why would you think dealing with climate change would be any different?

    Sounds like you’d made up your mind on the issue long, long, long before the movie’s release.

  • http://b Paul M

    If people like Reagan and Schwartznegger (and others) can come from Hollywood and become powerful leaders, then politicians like Gore can come from leadership roles and make movies. However, the question must be addressed, which of the two will effect the most change? If all Gore has done as a leader has been flushed down the toilet by the new leaders four years later, then why even make a movie like this? Gore had his chance as one of the most intelligent and powerful people in the world as Vice President, if this is his idea of making a difference after his time and after it has been wiped out by new leadership, aren’t we all in trouble in a very bad way?

  • Amar

    Al is cool!

    But there are larger forces at work than global warming fighters want to admit. Climate has changed perpetually on our planet, and it is still changing.

    In fact, everything alive changes, if it doesn’t it is dead! The fact that this climate change is not convenient for us humans is entirely our problem, and Kyoto or anything else is not going to make as much as a dent in the big scheme of things.

    We should look much closer to home for a solution. To ourselves. Once we realize that it might very well be our attitude (not the gas or the trash or the cars, in other words something other than ME) which creates imbalances of energy, we should really get serious about changing ourselves. As Mahatma Gandhi already has stated 70 years ago. As Lao Tse has stated a few thousand years ago.

    Maybe this global warming problem has been introduced to teach us humans something?

  • AJ

    Marx points out that there is this phenomenon known as �class exploitation��but he can not prove that such exploitation is �bad,� nobody can, except from a metaphysical/religious viewpoint. Similarly, the fears about global warming rest on the assertion that �global warming is bad.� Gore might be able to prove that global warming exists as a phenomena but he can not prove that it is bad, and therefore worthy of action�unless he�s going to start making religious appeals about the sacredness of life. If one takes a strictly secular view of life, which might be described as viewing people as clouds of sub-atomic particles bumping around through the universe, then it’s pretty hard to make the case that global warming is bad.

  • Linda

    Those of you who take comfort in the natural variability of climate should be aware of the fact that the *rate* of change is almost as important as the direction. The slow changes over eons allowed ecosystems to evolve in response to the changes. Those few times during which climate changed rapidly were catastrophic for existing species, resulting in widespread extinction. Yes, we have an astonishing diversity of life again after those extinctions but personally I’d rather not have to wait a million years to recapture diversity after an anthropogenic extinction. And diversity is central to the quality of our lives, not just from a “isn’t nature nice” perspective but from that of our health and wellbeing. Thus, I strongly disagree with AJ – it’s pretty easy to demonstrate that climate change is worthy of action, unless economic and ecological devastation are OK with you.

  • AJ

    Linda: Why is global warming bad? I am not saying it doesn’t matter…I just think we should answer that bigger question first, and then talk about finer points of specific instances of climate warming. Let’s first consider man’s place in the universe, before we consider his place in the world. To paraphrase Carl Sagan, the earth (and all its inhabitants) is nothing but a pale blue dot–if you can refute that, then perhaps your beliefs about global warming will cause me to worry. Incidentally, I live well above sea level. So, if the oceans rise, my real estate could be come more valuable. I should be rooting for global warming.

  • Jen

    yesterday I heard a radio talk show host give his critique of the new Al Gore movie. i’m not the biggest Al Gore fan, and I never thought I would want to see his face blown up on the movie screen, however, I am seriously considering biting my lip and going to see it. The issues are important, and I’m curious as to the “facts” that he presents.

  • james

    Al Gore supports Censorship.

    If You Support Al Gore, Then You Are Supporting Censorship!

    from Wikipedia:
    ‘Newsweek journalist Greg Easterbrook wrote about calls by Al Gore and Paul R. Ehrlich for journalistic self-censorship about criticisms of climate change, saying they had “ventured into dangerous territory by suggesting that journalists quietly self-censor environmental evidence that is not alarming, because such reports, in Gore’s words, undermine the effort to build a solid base of public support for the difficult actions we must soon take.” Easterbrook wrote: “Skeptical debate is supposed to be one of the strengths of liberalism; it’s eerie to hear liberal environmentalists asserting that views they disagree with ought not to be heard.” ‘

  • David Hartley

    My first thought after seeing Inconvenient Truth was – I’ve got to share this with as many people as possible.
    My second thought was- This movie should be opened up under something like the Creative Commons license!
    Is there any chance that this movie can be made available to freely and legally share via P2P, etc? Perhaps Mr. Lessig can contact the right folks at Paramount and make it so!

  • david

    Check your science, Al wasn’t talking about the Artic cap raising the sea level 20 feet, he was talking about Greenland and Antarctica. They are now searching for and finding fossils of land mammals of the coast of Florida in 20-30 feet of water. Fiords are well know in the Scandinavia region but are also prevalent in the Northeastern United States, are drowned river valleys.
    Lastly, the artic cap is 40-50% gone and will probably be gone in your lifetime at the current rate, you might not want invest to heavily in Ocean front property.

  • Wayne

    I certainly do not profess to be an expert on the subject. I do know one thing. Over my 63 years on this planet, one can see a difference in the climate, at least in the area where I live. No I do not know what is causing this weather change. It may be natural and it may not be. Whether it is natural or not, there are little things we can do to help out the situation. Or, we can sit on our a$$es like we as humans do with most things and do nothing.

    I prefer to caution on the safe side. If everyone does something to help, if nothing else, the planet we live on might be a little cleaner to the ones left behind after we are gone.

  • Rusty

    Wow…someone asked why global warming is bad?

    OK…I’ll bite.

    The cost of relocating the hundreds of millions of people living along coastlines around the world. Or the cost of fighting a losing battle to keep the oceans at bay. Or the mass migrations that will be required by severe climate disruption. Or the wars that will inevitably result (most wars iun human histroy are the result of a disagreement over resources)….

    But hey, maybe growing bananas in Alaska will make all that worth it.

  • Pozycjonowanie

    Say what you want Paul M, but “I recycle and even pick up random trash on the ground” doesn’t amount to much, certainly less than a big documentary which will (hopefullly) suggest some more radical ways the little guy can cut down on global warming.
    Keep up the good work. Greetings

  • Biura

    I’d suggest a good read concerning the issue: scholarly electronic network moderated by Benny J Peiser at Liverpool John Moores University @ Lately it deals mostly with global warming, emissions trading, etc.

  • ole kristensen

    hey – to the few of the people commenting that the climate crisis is not to be solved – i have some good news.

    i live in a small country called denmark, we still consume too much – but have a look at our power production, on the danish grid windmills are taking over – one night a few months ago, the windmills accounted for 80% of the national power supply.

    when we can go to the moon, why shouldn’t we be capable of scaling down and rethinking overconsumtion of natural resources?

    and then to mr. lessig – thank you for taking this serious and contributing – you are one of the shakers and movers towards a rational rethink of resources and ownership, my guess is that your work will in fact affect the way we think about nature – keeping the ‘commons’ concept alive is of major importance to the way we percieve natural resources vis-a-vis the 100% private ownership models, that give incentives to exploitation rather than sustainable use.

    from the ted conferences i heard that al gore is at least trying to get a creative commons for some of the work in the film, and i look forward to translate and use of the material to promote the need for action.

  • BP

    How can I legally show AIT in a public forum, are there rights fees of anything?


  • Kięgowość

    The panic about global warning is just a bunch of crap, used to steal money from us poor tax-payers!! Actually, various reasearch has proved, that it’s getting cooler and cooler… With or without the help of industry…

  • andrey