As I implicitly promised
we went to see Al Gore's new documentary on global climate change,
An Inconvenient Truth,
when it opened in Seattle last night. We brought some friends too.
Gore lays out a compelling case that global climate change is real,
that it's been happening for decades, and that it's spiralling out of
control. He backs it up with plenty of statistics and graphs.
The ten hottest years on record have all been since 1990.
The glaciers are in full retreat everywhere. The "snows of Kilimanjaro"
are almost gone.
At current rates, the Arctic ocean could be ice-free by 2050.
If either the ice covering Greenland or the ice on the western side of
Antarctica goes -- both very real possibilities -- the global sea level
could rise by 20 feet.
That rise would devastate coastal areas everywhere. At least 100 million
people would be homeless.
Gore points to a
review in Science magazine of 928 peer-reviewed scientific articles discussing
"climate change". Not one of the papers disagreed with the scientific
consensus that "climate change" is a real phenomenon.
He points to a similar review of leading US newspapers over the last
fourteen years, where more than half of the articles gave equal weight to
the scientific consensus and to the view that human beings played no role
in global warming.
The "controversy" has been manufactured by front groups for Exxon-Mobil and
other leading polluters, just as the tobacco companies tried for decades to
confuse the public about the linkage between smoking and lung cancer.
Gore earned the reputation in the 2000 election of being dry and wooden,
but here he's engaging and animated. It's clearly a subject that he cares
deeply about, and one that he's been agitating about for more than
30 years. He says that he's given his slideshow, which we see in several
forms, over 1000 times, and he's gotten very good at delivering this
message. The film is filled with science, but there's also a human touch.
Gore brings in elements of his own life, such as his son's brush with death
that energized him to make a difference to the Earth.
Terry Gross of NPR's Fresh Air interviewed Al Gore the other day:
listen to the interview
or read the transcript.
GROSS: ... at the beginning of the movie, you say that you've been
trying to tell this story about global warming for a long time and that
you feel as if you've failed to get the message across. Why was it so
difficult as a politician to get the message across?
Former Vice President AL GORE (Author, "An Inconvenient Truth"): Well,
Terry, I think there are several reasons. First, it's a complex issue.
When you boil it all down, it's fairly simple, but it does have a lot
of moving parts. And the complexity by itself is an obstacle. Secondly,
there's a natural tendency to avoid thinking about the subjects that
might involve some psychic pain, and the idea that human civilization
is colliding with the earth's environment is a painful reality. And,
third, it's a new reality. Nothing in our history or culture prepares
us for the new reality, the new relationship between human civilization
and the planet's ecosystem.
We've quadrupled our population globally in the last hundred years, and
we've magnified the power of our technologies thousands of times over.
And when you combine those two elements, 6.5 billion people times
incredibly powerful ways of exploiting nature, and then you mix in a
new philosophy of discounting the future consequences of present
actions, it produces this new collision, the most dangerous part of
which is global warming. And so it's hard to absorb it, but I think it
is now beginning to sink in. I think people are coming to grips with
it, and I'm actually becoming optimistic that we're going to respond in
GROSS: You've traveled around different parts of the world looking at
the symptoms of global warming. What's the most disturbing thing that
you've seen in those travels?
Vice Pres. GORE: The melting of the North Pole is one of the most
urgent catastrophes that should be prevented as quickly as we can
convince people to act. It's a fairly thin floating ice cap, and as you
know, the Arctic and the Antarctic are very different. The Arctic is
ocean surrounded by land while the Antarctic is land surrounded by
ocean, and that makes all the difference in the thickness of the ice.
It's 10,000 feet thick in Antarctic and less than 10 feet thick in the
Arctic. Much less now. We've lost 40 percent of it in the last 40
years. And when the ice there melts, there's a dramatic change in the
relationship of the surface of the Earth there to the sun. The ice
reflects 90 percent of the incoming sun's energy like a mirror. But the
open seawater, after it melts, absorbs 90 percent. And that's a phase
change. It sets up a positive feedback loop that magnifies and speeds
up the melting process.
And the North Polar ice cap is in grave danger now. And nearby the
great ice mound of Greenland is under increasing pressure from growing
temperatures also. If that were to melt, it would--or to break up and
slip into the sea, it would raise sea level 20 feet worldwide. The west
Antarctic ice shelf, that's on the other end of the planet, the other
pole, is the part of Antarctica propped up against islands that allow
it to be affected by the warming ocean but also allow it to raise sea
level by 20 feet, again, if it melts or breaks off and slides into the
And these are the three areas that many scientists point to as
affecting a so-called point of no return which we need to avoid because
if we cross that point of no return, then the process of a downward
spiral would be irretrievable. So we have to stop short of that.
Gore has written a
which I'm going to order.
I'm not the only one who thinks it's a great film.
Roger Ebert gave it a 4-star review
What can you do? You can go
see the film
and you can
This is something that (should) transcend politics and nationality.
We are all going to be affected by climate change, for the worse.