I first posted this at www.davidcorn.com….
Al Gore for President?
Not really. But l recently attended a screening of his new film, An Inconvenient Truth. And as the film ran, I–and probably many in the crowd–couldn’t stop thinking this one thought: why wasn’t he like this in 2000? The documentary follows Gore as he travels the world giving a slide show on the reality and perilous consequences of global warming, and much of the film shows him presenting his laptop show-and-tell to what seems to be a hand-picked crowd in a space-age auditorium. On the screen, he comes across as passionate, smart, committed, self-deprecating, and funny–all in the right balance. But when the film shows Gore delivering the slide show to real audiences, he does seem a slight bit pedantic. It’s a distinction the movie does not emphasize–but a telling one. This guy had the potential to be a decent leader, but when it counted he could not pull it together. And this film is a painful reminder.
That is not the point of this engaging documentary. It is meant to be a wake-up call. And it does sound one damn big alarm bell. Halfway into it, my gut was clenched, as I despaired about the future of our beautiful blue and white orb. Professor Gore presents a tutorial that overwhelms with facts and graphics, including graphs, satellite imagery of the Earth, video footage from Antarctica, and fancy computer stimulations (such as a harrowing one showing how much of Beijing, New York City, Holland, and San Francisco would be flooded by rising sea levels). Gore makes the point over and over–and it does bear repeating–that there is no longer any debate over the science: global warming is happening, its causes are predominantly human-linked, and the results will be awful. Take that, Michael Crichton. And while Gore’s spiffy presentation–which includes a cartoon from Matt Groening’s Futurama (an animated Fox show that one of his daughters worked on)–is full of bad news, he does list all the first-steps that could be taken to lower global warming emissions quickly, if there were the political will to do so.
That political will does not yet exist–particularly within the current administration and Congress, as Gore notes (with various jabs) in the film. And Gore is honest about the overall failure of the political system to deal with this issue–and his own failure. He talks about his efforts within Congress over many years to turn global warming into a compelling legislative matter. “I feel as if I have failed to get this message across,” he says, explaining that he thought the story was so “compelling” that Congress would have to act. But it hasn’t. And he knows why: if a politician acknowledges the full ramifications of global warming then he or she has a “moral imperative” to address it. And that’s the tough part: telling Americans they have to change their energy-gorging ways. So they duck the issue. (One nifty graphic in the film shows that the United States is now responsible for about a quarter of all the global warming gasses being spewed into the atmosphere. Another chart noted that mileage standards for cars are much higher in China than the United States.)