An Inconvenient Truth: ï¿½We are entering a period of consequences.ï¿½
Part horror movie, part critique of the American government’s stance on the environment since the 80s, Al Gore’s lecture on global warming is riveting, and, towards the end, unexpectedly optimistic. He has been aware of the dangers of the trend since his university tutor introduced the idea to his class – way back in the mid-60s. In the film, Gore expresses astonishment at the fact that so little has been done to curb the damage in the intervening years.
In fact, the effects of mass industrialisation and the excessive burning of fossil fuels are becoming harder to ignore. For instance, the 10 warmest years in history were in the last 14 years, with 2005 beating all of the years before it.
As Gore speaks of the Hurricane Katrina disaster, the fact that Japan now suffers record numbers of typhoons and that South America had its first hurricane last year, he also educates us on the science behind these occurrences. Broadly speaking, the melting of the polar ice caps will not only cause sea levels to rise, with unimaginably devastating consequences, but will also lead to warmer seas. This could lead to more frequent hurricanes. As Gore rightly points out, Hurricane Katrina was only a Category 3 when it was over Florida, but, after passing over the warm ocean to New Orleans, it had gained enough energy to become a Category 5 – and to wreak such havoc.
The premise, with Gore standing on a stage pointing to graphs on a giant screen, doesn’t sound too fun, but his evidence is compelling, and his delivery is, at times, touching, and – more often – funny. When tackling those naysayers, like Sen. James "man-made global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people" Inhofe (chairman of the Senate Environment Committee), Gore uses the analogy of the smoking-lung cancer link, that was generally ignored up until the 1980s. As he says, people may well have all the dots in front of them, but take a while to actually join them.
With all the footage of melting glaciers, parched African landscapes and hurricane damage, you’d think that watching this would be a profoundly depressing experience. After all, who wants to hear that most of the Far East, Calcutta and the World Trade Centre Memorial site all risk being submerged by rising sea levels?
Still, Gore is not without solutions to what is, essentially, a manmade problem; we have been “making mistakes in our dealings with nature.” Gore emphasises the point that the U. S. is the world’s largest carbon emitter, and far outstrips its nearest rivals. If more people could take advantage of energy-saving devices, such as hybrid cars and solar technology, the impending environmental disaster could well be averted.
It’s certainly not impossible; when the problem of the thinning ozone layer was brought to the world’s attention, steps were taken to reverse the problem, and the hole over the Antarctic is now shrinking. Gore takes this as just one of many examples of humankind “rising above ourselves and above history,” to make the world a better place.
There are a few cheeky flashes of “vote for me!” in An Inconvenient Truth, which is only to be expected of the ever-hopeful Gore. He reassures the audience that “political will is a renewable resource,” and that protecting the environment and the economy are not mutually exclusive, as “we will create a lot of wealth and jobs.” Ultimately, though, his point - that there can’t be an economy if the environment becomes uninhabitable for us - is impossible to refute.
An Inconvenient Truth sometimes makes uncomfortable viewing, but that is because it presents the facts as they are, and forces the audience into considering the consequences of the last 150 years of rampant industrialisation. It’s important to confront the reality of environmental change, and also to know that each of us can play a part in reversing the manmade damage.
See below for the trailer.
Or… below for a truly terrifying vision of what Al Gore might do if we don’t listen to him…