I have been looking forward to An Inconvenient Truth ever since I heard it was being made. Al Gore’s book, Earth in the Balance, had a huge impact on me when I first read it during the runup to the 2000 election, and I have always admired his tenacious advocacy for the environment whether it was politically popular or not.
It was heartening, therefore, to see this column from Richard Cohen in the Washington Post, in which Cohen correctly highlights the importance of the film:
I promise, you will be captivated, and then riveted and then scared out of your wits. Our Earth is going to hell in a handbasket.
Those of us who have been paying attention to global warming are already terrified, of course, but for most Americans climate change has never attained the sense of urgency that would allow the necessary societal changes. There are two reasons for this. First, climate change is not simple or instantaneous, so that the many small changes over time don’t seem to be alarming. Second, groups who make money in industries that cause climate change have been busy spreading disinformation so that the climate issues will seem awfully confusing, thus supposedly justifying endless spurious debates as a technique to maintain the status quo.
The film answers these two challenges with a wonderfully American solution: a movie with vivid, horrifying images:
You will see the Arctic and Antarctic ice caps melting. You will see Greenland oozing into the sea. You will see the atmosphere polluted with greenhouse gases that block heat from escaping. You will see photos from space of what the ice caps looked like once and what they look like now and, in animation, you will see how high the oceans might rise. Shanghai and Calcutta swamped. Much of Florida, too. The water takes a hunk of New York. The fuss about what to do with Ground Zero will turn to naught. It will be underwater.
We will see what kind of impact the film has, but I suspect that these images will be enough to impel people who haven’t been sure to make up their minds. Another interesting point that Cohen makes in his piece has to do with science and politics:
But it is the thought that matters — the application of intellect to an intellectual problem. Bush has been studiously anti-science, a man of applied ignorance who has undernourished his mind with the empty calories of comfy dogma. For instance, his insistence on abstinence as the preferred method of birth control would be laughable were it not so reckless. It is similar to Bush’s initial approach to global warming and his rejection of the Kyoto Protocol — ideology trumping science. It may be that Gore will do more good for his country and the world with this movie than Bush ever did by beating him in 2000.
Truly, one of Bush’s most long-lasting legacies will be the damage he has done to science and intellectual pursuits in our nation. I am happy that Gore is out there, speaking about a real problem that faces us all, and encouraging the use of ingenuity, ethics, and responsibility to solve it.