A few days ago, I caught the last half of the documentary An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power (2017), the sequel to the very popular documentary An Inconvenient Truth (2006). Former VP Al Gore looked ten years older but his enthusiasm for Climate Change advocacy did not seem to diminish at all. I still couldn’t imagine how anybody could vote for George W. over Al Gore.
I did not see the full documentary so I could not write about it. But from what I’ve seen, it is more than an updated version of An Inconvenient Truth. Here, Mr. Gore actually talked to World Bank officials to convince them to give loans to countries like India so they could build renewable energy plants. He was not just narrating or giving presentations, he was actually manipulating governments to switch to alternative energy sources. Not anybody can do that. It would need the stature of a former presidential candidate who actually got more popular votes than the eventual winner.
Below is my review of The Inconvenient Truth. This was published back in 2007 in Mr. & Ms. magazine.
The run-away favorite to win this year’s Academy Award (OSCAR) for Best Documentary is Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. Like Farenheit 9/11, the box-office success of this film proves that film goers are also interested in documentaries dealing with important political issues.
Al Gore, the man who won the American people’s vote but lost the presidency in 2000, is a long-time advocate of environmental issues. After his presidential defeat, Gore went around the US and the world speaking on Global Warming, His multi-media presentation, which he calls his “slide show”, is quite impressive – with just the right amount of scientific data and humor.
The cartoon presentation of “What is Global Warming?” featuring Mr. Sunbeam and a gang of greenhouse gases is funny yet informative. It makes global warming understandable even to grade school children.
Mixing Gore’s “slide show” with stories and clips from his own life was the job of Davis Guggenheim, the director of An Inconvenient Truth. The result is an intimate, personal multimedia lecture on Global Warming.
The documentary showed that Gore, unlike our own Energy officials, did not stumble on the Global Warming issue only lately. It showed that Gore’s interest in the subject started in his college days in Harvard with his professor, Dr. Roger Revelle. Revelle was the first to measure and study on a long-term basis the CO2 (carbon dioxide) levels in the atmosphere. The documentary then enumerated Gore’s actions in the House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as in the election campaigns regarding the issue of global warming.
In 1992, Gore wrote a best-selling book, Earth in the Balance. He mentioned in the documentary that he pushed for bigger US role in the UN Earth Summit of 1992 in Rio de Janeiro. He backed the carbon tax which was partially implemented in 1993. He also pushed for the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol.
In December 1997, delegates from 160 nations agreed on a covenant now known as the Kyoto Protocol. The purpose of the Kyoto negotiations was to establish a near-term goal for more modest emission cuts in the next decade or so, going beyond the targets agreed to in the Rio Summit.
As mentioned in the documentary, the US and Australia refused to ratify the Protocol. When Gore went to Australia to promote the film, the Australian Prime Minister refused to meet him and was quoted saying, “I don’t take policy advice from films”
The Kyoto Protocol supports emissions trading where governments can buy and sell emission credits or allowances to meet their commitments.
When I was a Manager at PNOC, I pushed for renewable projects that would not only help the world cut its greenhouse gas emissions but will also be profitable for the country. In the Kyoto Protocol framework, if the Philippines will embark on large-scale renewable energy projects, it can sell emission credits to industrialized countries. I got two giant Japanese conglomerates very interested but the company (PNOC) top brass went green – with envy.
NUCLEAR POWER LOBBY
As a petroleum engineer, I was at first critical of the global warming theory. In the late 70s and early 80s, the Nuclear Energy lobby vigorously attacked fossil fuels (oil, coal and gas)as emitters of greenhouse gases which cause global warming. As a result, many countries went nuclear. About 70% of France’s electricity is nuclear-powered. Even then President Marcos bought the nuclear lobby’s propaganda and had the Bataan nuclear power plant built. The accidents at the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl nuclear plants put a stop to the intense nuclear lobby.
With the nuclear lobby silenced, the Fossil Fuel lobby was unstoppable as there was no comparable industry to compete with. Small NGOs and advocacy groups could not fight the multi-billion dollar fossil fuel industry.
But with Gore’sdocumentary, it seems that the nuclear lobby is back. The chair of the US Senate Committee on Energy, Senator Jeff Bingaman has announced that “nuclear power has to be expanded.”
Gore’s lecture-documentary does not only tell the viewers about the horrors of global warming but shows convincing images like the pictures of vanishing ice from Mt. Kilimanjaro to the Alps to Patagonia, which is at the tip of south America. Viewers get to see massive glaciers breaking down, which may drive home the point that all these melted ice could have devastating effect not only on the now-endangered Polar Bear but on our very homes and cities.
Paradoxically, while polar caps are melting and sea level is rising, lakes and inland seas are drying up. Lake Chad in Africa, which used to be one of the world’s largest lakes, and the Aral Sea in Central Asia, which used to be the world’s fourth largest inland sea, have dried up. Hopefully, this would not happen to our two biggest lakes – Laguna de Bay and Lake Lanao.
The documentary shows that global warming is caused by many things. Population explosion is also a culprit. According to Gore, in the lifetime of an average Baby Boomer like him, the population will grow from 2 Billion at the time that he was born to 9 billion at the time that his life is statistically expected to end.
With such rapid increase of population, it would follow that greenhouse gas emissions would also have an exponential increase. All these new people would need more electricity, more gasoline and other fuels which would increase greenhouse gas emissions and would intensify global warming.
UNDERSTANDING GLOBAL WARMING
Gore quoted Upton Sinclair who wrote,” It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” George Bush, Sr, is an oilman. And so is Vice President Cheney. Their salaries depend upon their not understanding Global Warming. President George W. Bush is a former governor of Texas. According to BBC’s Stephen Sackur, eleven coal power plants are planned to be put up in Texas. Fifty-two percent of electricity in the US is coal-fired. Coal is the biggest greenhouse gas emitter.
Incidentally, the Philippine Energy Plan envisions more coal power plants for the country. In fact, coal is the Philippines’ primary fuel source for power generation.
In a BBC talk show, Senator Jeff Bingaman said that he agrees that if nothing is done today, the effects of Global Warming in 50 years would be worse than the great wars or the Great Depression of the 20th century. While he believes that there should be mandatory limits to greenhouse gas emissions, the problem is to get the agreement of others (in the Senate and the House of Representatives).
It appears that the problem with Global Warming is not that it is not understood. The problem is that it is quite inconvenient for the powers-that-be. But what is inconvenient for this generation may be catastrophic for the coming generations.
A GREAT INTRODUCTION
Al Gore’s documentary is a great introduction to the dangers of climate change.
The book of the same title by Al Gore is a good complement to the movie.
The next step would be to read the Stern Review: The Economics of Climate Change. This report was commissioned by the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer. Sir Nicholas Stern was the Chief Economist of World Bank and an official of England’s Treasury. He is a professor of the London School of Economics.
Incidentally, the Stern Review recommends that Al Gore be a consultant to Her Majesty’s government on the issue of Climate Change. This is another proof of the credibility of Al Gore as the champion of climate change.
When you think you have enough knowledge of Climate Change, then, as the documentary advocates, turn this knowledge into action – write, speak up, lobby or run for Congress!
Published in Mr & Ms magazine April 2007