By now it has been widely reported that Al Gore, along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has won the Nobel Peace Prize for their work in alerting the world to the very real and growing danger of climate change.
As an essentially political figure, Gore has taken a lot of flak for his stance on global warming, even before his movie An Inconvenient Truth was released, but since then especially. Many detractors as well as supporters focus more on Mr. Gore and his political ambitions, real or imagined. Even after being awarded the Nobel for his work on global warming, the mainstream media buzz was more about whether this means Gore will run for president than the actual issue of climate change.
While much of the criticism of Gore has been vitriolic bombast from a vocal fringe, there have also been some more reasoned and reasonable concerns raised on the substance of Al Gore’s message on global warming. Lisa Dilling, writing in the University of Colorado’s blog Prometheus, gives a good example of this.
In her post she raises a principal concern that Gore’s message, as seen in An Inconvenient Truth, is light on effective solutions to Global Warming. While doing a good job communicating the problem, he doesn’t do so well in communicating the tough choices faced by the reality for which he has helped alert us.
I have other concerns as well.
When the Messenger Obscures the Message
Too often the issue of climate change is, at least for some people, instantly associated with Al Gore. And when that happens, either from a critic or a fan, the issue of global warming loses some its focus. Solutions are soft-peddled (as I wrote about earlier this year in Al Gore Invented Global Warming), Gore’s “true motives” are questioned, and deniers use him as a focal point to spin up the hyperbolic misinformation, many times questioning his own personal energy use as a means of indicting the whole issue as anything but the legitimate global crisis that it is.
Don’t get me wrong. I admire Al for the work he has done and for his ongoing concern for environmental issues. I remember reading his book Earth in the Balance over a decade ago so he’s no Johnny-come-lately when it comes to the environment. I have no doubt that his heart is in the right place.
Nor is it necessarily his fault that the media focuses on his past and potential future political career. Personally, I think Gore should consider running for president, but that’s a subject for another blog, and the mere utterance here helps to illustrate my point.
As Dilling talks of in her post, what is lacking now is a clear path to viable solutions and a sober realization that those solutions will not be easy – in fact they will change our way of life.
Of course we should all do the simple things like change our lightbulbs to CFL’s, turn off appliances when we aren’t using them (use them less?), drive a fuel efficient car (drive less? not even own a car?), eat less meat and processed food, fly less (hardly ever???) – wait a minute, now it’s starting to get tough…
So kudos to Mr. Gore and the IPCC. They have done a great job in educating the public on the reality and dangers of global warming, including some baby steps we can take right now to address the problem.
If only that were enough. It’s now time for government, business, and most importantly individuals to get down to the real task of doing something about it.
Global warming isn’t about Al Gore, it’s about you and me, and the kind of world we leave our children.