Saying It in Cinema
President Bush doubts he'll see it, but millions of other people undoubtedly will. Former Vice President Al Gore's docu-horror film about the frightening future promised by global warming--an apocalyptic world of deadly hurricanes, rising oceans, disease, drought, and famine--is pushing the debate to a new level. While tracking Gore's political ascent and contentious loss of the presidency in 2000, the film zeroes in on Gore's newest campaign: to educate the public about the perils of global warming one PowerPoint presentation at a time. Although Gore insists he has no plans to run for national office, the film has thrust him back into the national limelight and sparked an industry of "Al Gore for president" speculation. His well-publicized movie has also provoked critics to run campaign-style ads challenging climate change science. Gore spoke with U.S. News about the film, An Inconvenient Truth, already playing in select cities and slated for 125 markets by July 4. Excerpts:
Public indifference. We are dumping tens of millions of tons [of carbon dioxide] into the atmosphere every day, and it has literally changed the relationship between the Earth and the sun. It's a challenge to our moral imagination to understand we are now like a bull in the china shop. [And] there has been a very well-organized and lavishly funded effort by a few irresponsible polluters to intentionally confuse the American people by spending millions of dollars a year on pseudo-science reports--the same way the tobacco industry used that technique to stave off action to save the lives of smokers.
Saving the Earth vs. saving the economy. The companies that are doing well ... are the ones that have become more efficient. Reducing pollution actually creates jobs and strengthens the economy. Pollution is waste, and the modern approach to pollution reduction dovetails with successful business making higher profits.
Gore's stiff personality. I benefit from low expectations.
Losing the presidency. I don't cry over spilled milk. It's very difficult in a national campaign for any candidate to be seen and heard without the distortions his or her opponent makes on an hourly basis. I think I've been through a lot since the 2000 campaign, and that old cliche, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger," is sometimes true.
Global warming and the media. The debate over global warming is over. The slide [in my presentation] people most ask me about is the one that contrasts the massive study of 10 years of peer-reviewed scientific articles on global warming, zero percentage of which disagreed with the consensus, and the study of 14 years of newspaper articles, 53 percent of which expressed doubt about whether the problem is real or not. That is really a striking contrast.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute's TV campaign. I'm not surprised. They're funded by Exxon Mobil, and they put a lot of money into trying to confuse people. Unfortunately, they have succeeded. I'm hopeful they will soon be recognized for what they are and put in the same category as people who still believe the moon landing was staged in a movie lot.
Looking back on the Senate's turndown of the Kyoto Protocol. I did push as hard as I knew how to. The truth is that Congress was not willing to ratify it. It was already controlled by the Republicans, but if it had been controlled by the Democrats, I dare say at that point, the result would have been nearly the same. I think that is changing.
Lobbying the people, not the politicians. Nothing is going to change in Washington until the sense of urgency felt and expressed by the American people changes. I'm concentrating on that task.
Practicing what you preach. We have a hybrid car and all the new light bulbs. My family is completely carbon neutral. That means reducing as much carbon dioxide as we possibly can and then buying offsets to cancel out the rest.
If Gore were president. One difference is that you might see George W. Bush doing a cold opener on Saturday Night Live from an alternate universe.
This story appears in the June 5, 2006 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.