Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth Is the Most Important Movie I've Ever Seen

I was blown away by Al Gore's new movie, An Inconvenient Truth. It's the most important movie I've ever seen. Forget Hillary or John Edwards - if Al Gore runs for president, he's got my vote.

But it's not a political movie. I'm only saying that because Gore truly "gets it." He understands that if we don't stop what we're doing within the next generation, we'll reach a point of no return - the beginning of an inexorable slide into the destruction of our own civilization and all the other species that share the planet with us. There is no other issue that even comes close in importance.

Gore is brilliant. The movie was a perfectly crafted script and performance, the optimum blend of personal journey and science, of frightening predictions and empowerment.

I just hope it's not all preaching to the choir - I hope the Bush supporters (if there are any left) will go see it. I hope those who still say global warming is a "theory" will see it. Most of what he said, I already knew more or less, as a biologist and a science writer - but it still floored me. The movie was by far the most powerful articulation of any issue that I have ever seen.

Gore pointed out many facts that I know to be true. One of those, a fact that my husband Ken tells his biology classes, is about the unwavering conviction of the scientific community. Of 928 published articles in scientific peer-reviewed journals on the subject of global warming, all 928 agreed that global warming is a fact, and is a result of greenhouse gases from our burning of fossil fuels.

But as the result of a propaganda campaign, the popular media are far from such a consensus. Only 43% of popular media stories fully support that global warming is a fact. They have been swayed by an all-out effort from the oil industry to "reposition global warming as a debate." As Gore points out, these are the same tactics perpetrated by the tobacco industry. Both of my own parents died of smoking-related cancer. My mother smoked three packs a day for five decades, and my dad and brothers and I breathed the secondhand smoke day in and day out. Everyone knows now that the tobacco industry suppressed information and deceived the public as long as possible, just as the fossil fuel industries are doing now. Only now the stakes are higher - we are literally talking about eventual extinction of a planet.

Some of the facts that I managed to scribble on the back of my ticket stub (after leaving my note pad in the car):

The ten hottest years in recorded history have all been within the last 14 years. The hottest of all was 2005.

One reason our production of greenhouse gases is increasing so fast is the increase in world population. "It took 10,000 generations for the world's population to reach two billion, and in a 95-year period, it is expected to go from two to nine billion," Gore said. An undisputed fact. See the International Data Base and Population Connection for more on that topic.

Gore pointed out that we in the US are responsible for a huge proportion of the world's troubles with global warming. Of the worldwide emissions that contribute to global warming, 30.3% are generated by the United States - although we have only 5% of the world's population. There are only two industrialized nations in the world that have not ratified the Kyoto treaty to limit greenhouse gas emissions - the United States and Australia. We guzzle fossil fuels because we're wealthy in relation to the rest of the world, and we can afford to. Wealthy, yet oblivious to the consequences of our consumption. We're oblivious because of the conspiracy by the fossil fuel industries and the Bush pro-oil and pro-industry administration to keep us guzzling and ignorant. (This is my point more than Gore's. He said almost nothing about Bush. As I said, it was not a political movie. He was careful to keep it scientific rather than political.)

The most conservative projections are that worldwide temps will increase (on the average) 5 degrees in the next few decades. But that's not evenly distributed around the globe. During that period, the equator will gain one degree, while the poles will heat up by 12 degrees. One reason for that is the loss of ice. Ice reflects 90% of solar radiation back into space. When ice caps melt, the water in their place absorbs 90% of solar radiation that strikes it, heating up accordingly. The polar ice caps are already melting, as are glaciers around the world. The film had footage of dozens of disappearing glaciers - before and after meltoff. If or when half of Greenland melts, and certain pieces of Arctic ice melt that are already well on their way, then sea levels worldwide will rise 20 feet, inundating coastal cities worldwide. For the first time, scientists are finding significant numbers of polar bears who have drowned, unable to find solid ice to stand on.

Yet, it's not hopeless by any means. We still have the power to reduce those emissions with only minor lifestyle choices. It's not like giving up cigarettes altogether. More like cutting back from three packs to one or two packs a day. Can we do it, so we can send our kids into a future that has some promise?

Here are Gore's tips on what we can do to take action and bring about change.

The recommendations are simple, such as using compact fluorescent bulbs in your light fixtures, and turning off TVs etc when not in use. See the movie's web site at for more information. The Union of Concerned Scientists and Natural Resources Defense Council and Environmental Defense have useful web sites on the topic too. The World Wildlife Fund has great suggestions about things we can do at home that make a big difference.

We're going to Home Depot tonight to change out the rest of our bulbs. We can still turn this thing around. But we may be the last generation to have that option.


Lidarose said...

Thanks for writing about this movie. I look forward to seeing it!

As you said in Veggie Revolution, if we all paid attention to the little things we do each day that can make a difference (like changing out lightbulbs, curtting down on meat consumption, etc.) we can collectively make a big difference. I'm glad you posted the links, too, so I can find out more of those things I can do to effect change.

megaselia said...

It's interesting how good it makes you feel to do these little things. I just changed my incandescent light bulbs for florescent ones. It gives me such pleasure every time I turn them on and know I'm using less energy. I also get a kick out of watching my electric meter rotate more slowly.