My Inconvenient Truth: Reflections on Al Gore’s Impact 10 Years On

Al Gore and global warming ten years on

In May of 2006, Al Gore’s now-classic climate change documentary “An Inconvenient Truth was released. The movie won an Oscar in the Featured Documentary category, and Gore was co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, along with the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The nominating committee recognized Gore and the IPCC “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.”

For many, it was as if Al Gore invented global warming. Or that global warming invented Al Gore, I’m not sure which. What is certain is the enormous impact the movie and Gore’s advocacy through the years had on raising awareness about the, well, inconvenient truth of climate change.

To be perfectly candid, I think “raising awareness” is among the canon of over-hyped phrases like “paradigm shift.” Meaningful at their core, these idioms are overused, often with a pretentious tinge, to the point of diffusing much of their impact and credibility. This is ironic given that we live in transformative times ourselves, witness to a global paradigm shift of raised awareness.

It’s tricky.

I read Gore’s 1992 nonfiction book “Earth in the Balance,” so I was no stranger to his environmental advocacy. But “An Inconvenient Truth” brought the issue to the forefront of public consciousness like little did before or since (except the changing climate itself), for better and worse. I can only speak anecdotally, but I believe Gore is likely the most famous straw man alive — and for some, also the most reviled. He raised awareness about global warming so masterfully that he has become synonymous with it, often not in a good way.

This may sound like I’m being critical of his work. If I do admit some ambivalence, it is not for lack of admiration and inspiration for what Gore has done and is doing in the public campaign to push for climate action. I’ve heard Gore speak on several occasions. I’ve gone through his Climate Leadership training. He is passionate and sincere about his work.

Perhaps my ambivalence is directed more toward the climate change narrative itself than to Gore’s engagement with it. It is a narrative too often oversimplified, tortured beyond all recognition of civility and imbued with an ideological fervor that has little to do with the task at hand.

And it’s for all this that I’d like to take the opportunity of the 10-year anniversary of “An Inconvenient Truth” to thank Al Gore for changing my life.

An inconvenient journey

I can’t say exactly when I first learned about climate change, but it was long before Gore’s movie. I’d also read other cautionary works like Jeremy Rifkin’s early work “Entropy,” Paul Ehrlich’s “Population Bomb,” Robert Heinberg’s “The Party’s Over” and The Club of Rome’s “Limits to Growth,” among others. 

From a very young age I was a budding Malthusian.

But while contemplating this doom, I also found great joy in the beauty of the world around me. My ambivalence was my own.

I acquired the domain name “globalwarmingisreal.com” several years earlier, but after seeing “An Inconvenient Truth” in May of 2006 I decided to focus my efforts on what I cared about most and launched the official blog GlobalWarmingisReal.com (GWIR). It was a humble launch, but 10 years on it is still going strong.

What’s more, I’ve had an opportunity to temper my general Malthusian worldview with a sense of guarded optimism. While I’ve endured over the years the expected heaving of hate and fear, I’ve also seen firsthand the hard work of many talented, passionate and brilliant people focused on moving the world toward a better future. That’s what gives me inspiration to engage with these pathfinders, tell their story and each day try a little bit harder to help light the way.

“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself,” Robert Kennedy said in a 1966 speech in South Africa, “but each of us can work to change a small portion of events. And in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.” We all have within us the power to send out “tiny ripples of hope” that will converge into a mighty current of sweeping renewal.

Few of us have the influence or reach of Al Gore, but we all have a responsibility to pursue the harder path before us, so that others may follow. Each in our own way.

Is Al Gore the reason I am concerned about global warming? No. But Gore and his documentary helped set me out on the path I am on today, and upon which I intend to remain for the rest of my life

“My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
so much has been destroyed
I have to cast my lot with those
who age after age, perversely,
with no extraordinary power,
reconstitute the world.”
— Adrienne Rich

Image credit: Woody Hibbard, courtesy flickr

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Tom is the founder, editor, and publisher of GlobalWarmingisReal.com and the TDS Environmental Media Network. He has been a contributor for Triple Pundit since 2007. Tom has also written for Slate, Earth911, the Pepsico Foundation, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, and many other sustainability-focused publications. He is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists

19 responses

  1. Seems like these dumbed down liberals who all fell for the grand hoax of global warming / climate change just can’t see the scam in all this. Now that the lawsuits have started will their lame science that the hoax is based on hold up in a real court of law. We realize the expert testimony we hear in congressional hearings really isn’t scientifically sound as it’s presented by ideologues with their own agenda in mind. Remember the English courts determined that Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth was based on a minimum of Nine (9) lies so trust isn’t on their side. And even if proven wrong in court the liberals never admit they were wrong.

    1. You got it. Note that global warming morphed to climate change when the temperatures did not rise as fast and high as predicted. They get it both ways with climate change as they can point at anything and say “see.” too hot, too cold, too ordinary….

    2. “the hoax of global warming” LOf’nL! What rock have you been living under?

      Stop blaming science and scientists for you total lack of science acumen.

  2. The Global-Warming-of-Doom religion uses manipulated data and fraudulent studies to perpetuate fear among its believers and other ignorant people. Non-manipulated temperature data, e.g. from UAH satellite or USCRN, show no significant recent warming. Actual sea level trend data show land movements as the dominant factor, not climate. Global sea ice data show no alarming losses. And global cyclonic energy data show no increases in overall storm energy levels now versus the past. The only reason to be an alarmist is to continue feeding at the government trough.

        1. Try a bit harder when using google…
          The 30000 scientists lawsuit is completely bogus.
          https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100729214718AAMg6oH

          In the other lawsuit you referenced, both parties agreed that human-caused global warming was real and a serious problem but the suit was about whether the State was doing enough to combat it.
          It pays to not only find an article online, but to actually READ it.

  3. I guess everyone needs to earn a buck somehow. Way back in the day, this would have been called “snake oil sales” or possibly a “carpetbagger”.

    What happened to Gore-on’s miss on the northern polar cap. That was to have melted completely by 2013. It’s now 2016.

  4. Anyone who still believes global warming is a hoax after 100 years of accumulated scientific evidence is completely divorced from the physical reality of what is happening to our planet.
    Species that are unable to to adapt appropriately to changing physical conditions go extinct. That can potentially include Homo Sapiens to. Every other hominid species has gone extinct over the past 200,000 years.
    The window to prevent runaway climate change that will destroy virtually all life as we know it on this planet is rapidly closing. We are already past the trip point where we can stay below 1.5C increase this century, the goal set by the climate summit last year. Human carbon emissions are still increasing. The onset of natural feedback loops that will accelerate warming is now occurring decades earlier than predicted by Hansen in the 1970’s. He thought we would be smarter and change our civilization.
    If we screw up policy decisions globally over the next 10 years, then more than 1/3rd of the current human population will disappear by 2100 from lack of food and water and modern civilization itself may collapse from the conflicts and mass migrations these changes will produce.

  5. Remember when Gore was caught using electricity at his own home that was 20 times the average American household? Evidently his movie applies to all the surfs, not himself.

  6. Unfortunately for the author, he has been taken in by authors like Paul Ehrlich whose greatest achievement is a road map to humanity’s worst possible evolutionary destination. Worse is Al Gore and his distorted, mistaken projections, contained in “An Inconvenient Truth.”
    Trying to put the square peg of global temperature into the round hole of rising CO2 is problematic. One is clearly linear. One is not.
    With apologies to the many impartial scientists concerned with climate, climate science has become newer version of the Cargo Cult leaning precipitously toward shamanism. This may be Al Gore’s lasting legacy.
    It is getting warmer as summer comes on and not soon enough. The climate is getting better. Enjoy.
    Winter is just a few months away.

  7. “Trying to put the square peg of global temperature into the round hole of rising CO2 is problematic. One is clearly linear. One is not.”

    Dead wrong. CO2 levels and temperatures go hand in hand. Throughout the Paleoclimatological record, when it’s warmer, CO2 is higher. When it’s cooler, it’s lower. Anyone denying the GHG effect and the reality of AGW has very limited understanding of climate science.

    1. I believe that you will find that GISP 2 Greenland Ice Core Data aa well as vostok ice core data from Antarctica have quite a different view. The lag is clearly and consistently evident. Google both.
      Older Pathological proxy data also is clear. CO2 is always the follower, not the leader. Always.
      Temperature determines what happens in that great oceanic sink.
      CO2 is just along for the ride.

  8. Why are the deniers so shill and wretched in their tone? Besides being complete ignoramuses, the one thing they all have in common is a rotten attitude. I’ve never seen a denier calmly state why they disagree with climate science, they never simply state “I disagree with A, B and C conclusions because of X, Y and Z.” It’s always a bitter diatribe, a childish rant about how “stupid” liberals are and how there is this great conspiracy to push climate change. I think this is very telling. Whenever a denier stars ranting I picture this fat, diabetic sloppy person with whacky hair sitting at their 12 year old Dell computer inhaling the fumes of cigarette smoke and cat piss that linger around their filthy home. I have not read a single denier comment where they came off as a sophisticated intellectual capable of debating the facts, just some bitter old uneducated crank who probably votes Tea Party. It’s really annoying because they seem to love congregating around climate change articles and trolling the comment section.

  9. Most of these comments pretty much prove an underlying point of the article – though the commenters likely don’t realize it. None of it new or much of a surprise. All of it appreciated.

  10. Like Thomas, I’m not at all ambivalent about the reality of Climate Change, but I do have some misgivings about Al Gore and his role in it.

    Mr Gore is partners with David Blood in a London-based investment firm that made a Billion dollar killing betting against companies based on their financial exposure to climate change. The fact that they were able to make so much money is pretty solid proof that something is up, and good on them for doing the hard analyst work to dig out the opportunities to take profits from the difference between the perception and the reality of something ignored, a classic Seeking Alpha investment strategy.

    But, his hands aren’t clean in this. Did “An Inconvenient Truth”, and the publicity associated with it amplify the stock market response to the underlying economic forces? And if it did, does that qualify as a kind of gray zone market manipulation?

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