Jul 10, 2006
An Inconvenient Truth is a documentary about global warming, narrated by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. The movie certainly has the air of self-promotion by a politician, but it does lay bare the consequences we could face if earth temperatures continue to rise.
As Gore points out, measurements show that the earth’s average temperature has been steadily rising in the past few decades. In this sense, “global warming” is a fact, and we are already seeing some of its consequences. Most particularly, polar ice caps are melting at an even faster rate than scientists had first predicted. It’s even possible that the recent spate of intense tropical storms, floods and droughts is tied to this increase in temperatures.
If this trend continues, we can expect big disruptions in the earth’s climate patterns and thus in agriculture; the rising of sea level up to 40 or 50 feet, causing the flooding of many major population centers and creating hundreds of millions of refugees. And all this perhaps as soon as within the next 50 years.
Most scientists think that this warming trend is the result, at least in part, of human activity – in particular the burning of fossil fuels (coal, petroleum, natural gas), which has increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere abnormally in the last few decades. Gore joins them, and then says that we are doomed if we don’t reduce carbon dioxide emissions as soon as possible.
There is a level of sensationalism in what Gore is doing – for his own purposes, no doubt. But still, the risk involved in continued warming is so serious that, at this point, any rational society would start doing everything possible to address the problem, including by reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
In fact, we are in a good position to do that. Technology to make the burning process more efficient in power plants and car engines has existed for a long time. And the technology exists to build safe nuclear power plants, which produce no carbon dioxide at all. Widespread public transport systems would further reduce exhaust from cars.
But all this technology is not used by the corporations that run this society, because they are narrowly focused on maximizing profits and nothing else. And the politicians, who are intimately tied to big corporations, have never held them accountable.
Being one of these politicians, Gore doesn’t go there either. Instead, he tries to put the responsibility on individuals. Gore’s list of “things you can do” at the end of the movie includes: “Call your Congressman, and if that doesn’t work, run for Congress.” Gore himself counts as living proof that this doesn’t work. Another suggestion is: “Buy a hybrid car” – which, Gore admits, not everyone can. And, finally, “Pray”!
In other words, after sounding all those alarm bells, Gore turns around and tells us that we are helpless.
No, we aren’t. Not if we stop allowing a handful of individuals, whose only concern is profit, to make decisions that concern the future of humanity.