An Inconvenient Truth

An Inconvenient Truth (ignorance is bliss?)

Everybody has got responsibility. Many people leaving the theater during Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth” (Norwegian: “En ubehagelig sannhet”), clearly shows that the topic is concidered boring and uninteresting – and that people does not want to take any responsibility whatsoever. It all boils down to one simple question: Do we want to save our future or not?

For the first time polar bears have been found drowning. When they have swimmed over 100 km to find ice and still have not found any, they give up and die in the water instead. The ice at the North Pole, at the South Pole, Greenland, and glaciers around the world are all melting – at a speeding record, due to the continous increase of temperature on Earth. Not only does the melting ice affect the local environment, but it also leads to a colder sea and an increase of water volume. The cold water can distroy important transportation of warm water, like the Gulf Stream, and if that happens it does not matter how sorry you will be afterwards. The northern parts of Europe will be uninhabitable.

But let us look at something we all know at least a little about. The air in the atmosphere mainly consists (99,9% in total) of nitrogen (N2), oxygen (O2) and the noble gas argon (Ar). It also consists of small amounts of the gases carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and ozone (O3). It is important to remember that CO2 is vital for the cycle on Earth, but that the human impact distroys the balance of this cycle. It is really quite logic that letting out all that energy that has been created over millions of years, in just over 100 years (so far), must create a certain unbalance somewhere in the system. The price for this energy is large emissions of greenhouse gases.

Carbon is the sixth most common chemical element in the universe, and it plays an important role in the cycle on Earth. 95% of all chemical reactions we know of contains carbon. The carbon dioxide molecule (CO2) is built up by one carbon atom and two oxygen atoms. They are held together by to double chemical bonds where two electrons are shared. Naturally CO2 emission comes from decomposing organic materials, by respiration and by natural bush fires. The human-made emissions come from the usage of fossile materials and deforestation. Today, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is over 300 ppm (the last number I heard was 360 ppm). Never before has the concentration been this high.

Harmful gases are classified into two groups. Greenhouse gases and gases that break down the ozone layer. The sun, our closest star, sends out sunbeams (rays of sunlight). Some of this energy (light is energy) is absorbed by clouds and mirrored back to the universe. Some of the sunbeams still hits the atmosphere, where UVA is let through. The dangerous UVB is absorbed by ozone and UVC is absorbed by oxygen. Gas molecules, among them CO2, absorbe some of the long waved rays and the outgoing heat transportation from Earth is partly blocked. The result is an increase in temperature. The warmest year ever was the year 2005! Other greenhouse gases are CH4, N2O (dinitrogen oxide) and CFC (Chlorofluorocarbons). An unfortunate reaction to this is that ozone is created in lower air layers, which is very dangerous as ozone can break down the DNA.

Gases destroying the ozone layer is the second type of gases. These gases have no direct impact on the increase of heat on Earth. Instead they break down the ozone layer and contribute to the expansion of the ozone hole. The CFCs are among the most common known gases of this kind. The gases were created in laboratories (they do not occur naturally) for the first time in the 1920s. They were looked upon as a revolution. They are not poisonous, corrosive or flammable. At the beginning of the 70s scientists discovered something negative about them; they can live for a long in the atmosphere and they break down the ozone mulecule. In 1987 many contries, among them Norway, signed the Montreal protocol, an agreement obligating the signing countries to reduce the emission of CFC gases with 50% by the year 2000. In Norway the CFC gases were prohibited from 1995. Another group of gases similar to the CFCs are the halons. They consist of bromine (Br) combined with either chlorine (Cl) or fluorine (F). They also have a negative imapact on the ozone layer. The halons were prohibited in Norway from 1994.

But why is ozone so important? UVB, coming from the sun, which can lead to cancer, is stopped by the ozone molecules. We get the following chemical reactions in the atmosphere:

O2 + UVC –> O + O (1)
O + O2 –> O3

O3 + UVB (dangerous) –> O2 + O (2)

There is a cycle here, where the split atoms from reaction (2) reenter the first (1) reaction. The problem arises when there are other substances in the atmosphere splitting O3, before O3 gets the chance to split the UVB rays. UVB will then reach the Earth instead. One of the CFC gases, CFC 115 can live (the time before the molecule is being split and creates new substances) in 1700 years! When the substance reaches the atmosphere it is split by the sun rays and one chlorine atom, not one molecule, can split between 10,000 and 100,000 O3 molecules. We can easily see that these reactions rapidly can get out of control.

There are many sides to the climate changes and the climate research. Some will claim that some of the changes we see are caused by natural variation, but scientists generally agree that humans can have a huge negative impact. We have bigger and more powerful machines than ever, and we can more than ever before make big changes in a short time.

Al Gore’s movie brought up a lot of these problems and questions and told us once again that the US is the biggest air polluter of the world. The government in the land of “the brave and the free” are using their future CO2 quotas, they edit scientific results before they reach the public and make people believe it is alright; gas is supposed to be cheap and charcoal based power plants are totally ok. I get scared when I see people that do not care. They do not care neither locally nor globally, and they choose their spokesmen based on economical and personal interests – and this affects us all! We will never have a world to show our future grandchildren. Not the way we are carrying on.

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  1. Nika
    januar 18, 2007, kl. 00:22

    Hi Kristy, do you know, is it true that Inconvenient Truth is required viewing in schools in Norway and Sweden? Thanks,
    Nika

  2. januar 18, 2007, kl. 19:12

    I don’t think so, no. I’m a college student, but it would have been in the news at some point if it was mandatory to watch it at a lower grade. I’m sure a lot of school classes have seen it though, but as far as I know it’s not a part of the curriculum.

  3. Liz Kelly
    februar 27, 2007, kl. 01:57

    Hi Kristy

    I’m in a heated debate over the Movie «An Inconvenient Truth» that 2 of the scientists that worked with Al Gore in the Documentary quit because they didn’t back the finding in this documentary. Is that true or were they part of the goverment not wanting this information to get out to the public.

    If you can shed more light on this question it would be helpful for me to understand this issue more.

    Thank you

  4. mars 1, 2007, kl. 10:53

    Hi Liz,

    I haven’t heard this particular rumor, so I’m sorry to tell you I can’t help you. Personally I just think it’s a rumor; It’s been so many vicious rumors about Al Gore and his movie that I would conclude this is just one of them. Also, I don’t understand how he could have fabricated anything, since the facts he presented has been researched on by many scientist in many different countries. And by looking at the weather one can easily see that something’s not right..

    Happy debating. ;-)

  5. oktober 12, 2007, kl. 13:31

    Al Gore getting the Peace Price today makes me incredibly happy! We’re certainly on the right track! :-)

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