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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

an inconvenient truth

This weekend I saw ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ – Al Gore’s documentary about global warming, and it is an absolutely sobering movie going experience - definitely a must see. The film is not so much a film, as it is the filming of Gore delivering the multimedia presentation that he has been giving over the past three years.

Anyone who has followed Al Gore’s political career knows that for maybe the past 20 or so years, he has really been the only politician steadfast in his concern for climate change. There’s a great Upton Sinclair quote that is spoken in the film, which is that “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” A-fucking-men – I think that anyone with even a minimal understanding of global warming knows the one basic truth – which is that our politicians have almost universally lacked Gore’s particular acumen when it comes to environmental issues. Their decided passivity has sadly lead us to a point of no turning back.

Watch the 'An Inconvenient Truth' trailer here -

It seems that after what Gore has described as our recent “nature hike through the Book of Revelations” (the record breaking heat, the melting ice fields and glaciers, the increase in tornadoes and oh yeah – the hurricanes) that perhaps, Washington is beginning to take these issues more seriously. Here’s hoping.

‘An Inconvenient Truth’ traces Gores interest in global warming all the way back to his undergraduate years at Harvard in the 1960s, where he was a student of Roger Revelle, one of the first scientists to recognize the effects of rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide on the Earth’s surface temperature.

In 1981, as a U.S. House rep from Tennessee, Gore held the first congressional hearing on climate change. Three years later he was elected to the Senate, where he remained until he became Vice-President in 1993. While the crux of this documentary has nothing to do with Gore himself, there are some flashback moments, as well as some voice over sections where he reflects on the recent past – namely the 2000 election debacle.

There’s a great moment during the film where Gore introduces himself to an audience by saying ‘Hi, I’m Al Gore and I used to be the next president of the United States.’ Without this turning into a PSA about Gore, and my opinions on whether he could be a viable answer for 2008 and to the Hillary juggernaut, I’ll quickly give some good stats from the film– some of the science behind climate change.


Carbon dioxide and other gases warm the surface of the planet naturally by trapping solar heat in the atmosphere. This is a good thing because it keeps our planet habitable. However, by burning fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil and clearing forests we have dramatically increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere and temperatures are rising.
  • The number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes has almost doubled in the last 30 years.
  • Malaria has spread to higher altitudes in places like the Colombian Andes, 7,000 feet above sea level.
  • The flow of ice from glaciers in Greenland has more than doubled over the past decade.
  • At least 279 species of plants and animals are already responding to global warming, moving closer to the poles.

If the warming continues, we can expect catastrophic consequences.

  • Deaths from global warming will double in just 25 years -- to 300,000 people a year.
  • Global sea levels could rise by more than 20 feet with the loss of shelf ice in Greenland and Antarctica, devastating coastal areas worldwide.
  • Heat waves will be more frequent and more intense.
  • Droughts and wildfires will occur more often.
  • The Arctic Ocean could be ice free in summer by 2050.
  • More than a million species worldwide could be driven to extinction by 2050.
To see some ideas about what you can do to help, go here. You can also contact your Senators as well as your state and local representatives - and urge them to push these issues to the forefront of their agendas. For contact information, go here.


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