University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Nature, by contrast, is slow-moving, undemanding, maybe underwhelming for many people. But if you never put yourself in the midst of nature–to understand that its essence is our essence–then you’re inclined to treat it as trivial. You become willing to abuse and destroy it through carelessness, not recognizing that to do so is wrong.
We’ve come to accept that if nature can yield something of value to the lucrative engines of commerce, then we should grab it and rip it out, never thinking twice about the wounds left behind. According to this way of thinking, if exploitation results in injury to the environment, so be it: nature will always heal itself. But the magnitude of environmental destruction is now on a scale few ever foresaw; the wounds no longer simply heal themselves. We have to act affirmatively to stop the harm. Source: An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore, p.161 May 26, 2006
An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore: on Energy & Oil
Skeptics point to historical warming–but today is hotter
The correlation between temperate and CO2 concentrations over the last 1,000 years–as measured in the ice core record by Thompson’s team–is striking.
Nevertheless, the so-called global warming skeptics often say that global warming is really an illusion reflecting nature’s cyclical fluctuations. To support their view, they frequently refer to the Medieval Warm Period. But as [the historical] thermometer shows, the vaunted Medieval Warm Period was tiny compared to the enormous increases in temperature of the last half-century.
In any given year, it might seem as if the average global temperature is going down, but the overall trend is very clear. And in recent years, the rate of increase has been accelerating. In fact, if you look at the 21 hottest years measured, 20 of the last 21 occurred within the last 25 years. The hottest year on record during this entire period was 2005. Source: An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore, p. 64&72-73 May 26, 2006
Ocean warming causes stronger hurricanes, like Katrina
Scientists have been using evermore accurate computer models that long ago predicted a much higher range of ocean temperatures as a result of man-made global warming. The actual ocean temperatures are completely consistent with what has been predicted, and they’re way above the range of natural variability.
As the oceans get warmer, storms get stronger. In 2004, Florida was hit by 4 unusually powerful hurricanes. That same year, Japan set an all-time record for typhoons. The previous record was 7. In 2004, 10 typhoons hit Japan.
The emerging consensus links global warming to increasingly destructive power of hurricanes, increasing the strength of the average hurricane a full half-step on the well-known 5-step scale. As water temperatures go up, wind velocity goes up. One major study came out less than a month before Hurricane Katrina hit.
When Katrina first hit, it was only a category 1 storm. Then, it passed over the unusually warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico [and became category 5]. Source: An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore, p. 78-94 May 26, 2006
Global warming causes more floods & also more droughts
There has been record flooding in China, which, as one of the planet’s oldest civilizations, keeps the best flood records of any nation in the world.
Recently, for example, there were huge floods in Sichuan and Shandong provinces. Paradoxically, however, global warming also causes not only more flooding, but also more drought. The nearby Anhui province was continuing to suffer a severe drought at the same time the neighboring areas were flooding.
One of the reasons for this paradox has to do with the fact that global warming not only increases precipitation worldwide but at the same time causes some of it to relocate.
A second reason for the paradoxical effect of global warming is that while it produces more evaporation from the oceans to fill the warmer atmosphere with increased moisture, it also sucks more moisture out of the soil. Partly as a consequence, desertification has been increasing in the world decade by decade. Source: An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore, p.112&118 May 26, 2006
Supported ethanol in 1970s & cellulosic ethanol now
When I was in Congress we used to wrangle about the value of making ethanol from corn. Despite the moonshine jokes, I supported ethanol. Even though some of its environmental consequences made me uncomfortable, I thought it was important for us to work on alternatives to fossil fuels to begin to break our dependence on foreign oil. Since then, newer innovations have [come along]: one company has figured out a way to make a new kind of ethanol out of plant fiber–cheaper & cleaner than regular ethanol. Source: An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore, p.137 May 26, 2006
Arctic ice is melting & may disrupt global weather patterns
Since the 1970s, the extent & thickness of the Artic ice cap has diminished precipitously. There are now studies showing that if we continue with business as usual, the Artic ice cap will completely disappear each year during summertime. At present, it plays a crucial role in cooling the Earth. Preventing its disappearance must be one of our priorities.
The melting of the ice cap represents bad news for creatures like polar bears. A new study shows that for the first time, polar bears have been drowning in significant numbers.
What does it mean to look at a vast expanse of water that used to be ice? We ought to care about this because it has serious planetary effects. An increase of 5 degrees actually means an increase of only 1 or 2 degrees at the Equator, but more than 12 degrees at the North Pole. And so all those wind and ocean patterns that formed during the last ice age, are now up in the air.
Our civilization has never experienced any environmental shift remotely similar to this. Source: An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore, p.143-149 May 26, 2006
Carbon exchange market can cap-and-trade CO2 like we did SO2 When acid rain was falling on parts of the US back in the 1980s, an innovative program helped to clean up the polluted precipitation. With bipartisan support, Congress put in place a system for buying and selling emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2), the main culprit behind acid rain. Called a cap-and-trade system, it used the power of market forces to help drastically reduce SO2 emissions, while allowing pioneering companies to profit from environmental stewardship.
A similar approach can speed up the reduction of CO2 emissions. The European Union has adopted this US innovation and is making it work effectively. Here at home, while Congress has not yet passed a federal cap-and-trade system for CO2 emissions, there is an effective private-sector carbon market that is already up and running–the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX).
The CCX is leading the way toward a future in which reducing CO2 could bring not only environmental rewards, but financial ones too. Source: An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore, p.252 May 26, 2006
Consensus on global warming, but newspapers fabricate doubt
Politicians often confuse self-interested arguments paid for by lobbyists & planted in the popular press with legitimate peer-reviewed studies published in reputable scientific journals. For example, the global warming skeptics cite one article more than any other in arguing that global warming is just a myth: a statement of concern during the 1970s that the world might be in danger of entering a new ice age. But that article was published in Newsweek and never appeared in a peer-reviewed journal.
There is a misconception that the scientific community is in a state of disagreement about global warming. In fact, there is virtually no serious disagreement on the central points.
The misconception of disagreement is actually an illusion that has been deliberately fostered by oil & coal companies. These companies want to prevent any new policies that would interfere with their current business plans that rely on the massive unrestrained dumping of CO2 into the Earth atmosphere every day. Source: An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore, p.260-3 May 26, 2006
Current tech can reduce CO2 emissions to 1970 levels
Together, these changes, all of which are based on already-existing, affordable technologies, can bring emissions down to a point below 1970s levels.
Reduction from more efficient use of electricity in heating and cooling systems, lighting, appliances and electronic equipment. Reduction from end-use efficiency, meaning we design buildings and businesses to use far less energy. Reduction from increased vehicle efficiency by manufacturing cars that run on less gas and putting more hybrid and fuel-cell cars on the roads. Reduction from making other changes in transport efficiency, such as designing better mass transit systems. Reduction from increased reliance on renewable energy technologies that already exist. Reduction from the capture and storage of excess carbon from power plants and industrial activities.
Source: An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore, p.281 May 26, 2006
Dealing with global warming inconvenient for rich & powerful As for why so many people still resist what the facts clearly show, I think, in part, the reason is that the truth about the climate crisis is an inconvenient one that means we are going to have to change the way we live our lives.
The truth about global warming is especially inconvenient and unwelcome to some powerful people and companies making enormous sums of money from activities they know full well will have to change in order to ensure the planet’s livability.
These people–especially those at a few multinational companies with the most at stake–have been spending many millions of dollars every year in figuring out ways of sowing public confusion about global warming. Source: An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore, p.284 May 26, 2006
We solved ozone crisis; can solve CO2 crisis by same methods Once upon a time, your refrigerator could kill you. Early models used toxic and explosive gases top keep food cold. In 1927, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) replaced those gases. But in 1974, scientists theorized that as CFCs rose into the upper atmosphere, their molecules would be broken down by the sun, releasing chlorine into the ozone layer and setting in motion a dangerous chain reaction. Ozone protects us from the sun’s damaging rays. Chlorine would eat away at this fragile protective skin, allowing the sun’s ultraviolet rays to stream unimpeded through the atmosphere, thereby causing skin cancer and other problems.
In 1987, 27 nations signed the Montreal Protocol, the first global environmental agreement to regulate CFCs. At last count there were 183 signatories, and the levels of CFCs have stabilized or declined.
Today, as the CO2 crisis unites us, we must remember the lesson of the CFC battle: that cool heads can prevail and alter the course of environmental change for the better. Source: An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore, p.295 May 26, 2006
Steadily increase energy from clean, renewable sources
Governor Douglas and his team have been hard at work planning Vermonters’ energy future and steadily increasing the amount of power produced here in Vermont by clean, renewable sources. Governor Douglas is a leader in the effort to reduce greenhouse gases and halt global warning. He was the first governor to agree to a new Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cooperative effort by Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Source: Rutland Herald op-ed, “The real inconvenient truth” Jul 28, 2006
An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore: on Environment
Humans can impact earth’s ecology; especially the atmosphere Many people today assume mistakenly that the Earth is so big that we humans cannot possibly have any major impact on the way our planet’s ecological system operates. That may have been true at one time, but it is not the case any more. We have grown so numerous and our technologies have become so powerful that we are now capable of having a significant influence on many parts of the Earth’s environment. The must vulnerable part of the Earth’s ecological system is the atmosphere. It is vulnerable because it is so thin. Indeed, the Earth’s atmosphere is so think that we have the capacity to dramatically alter the concentration of some o fit basic molecular components. In particular, we have vastly increased the amount of carbon dioxide–the most important of the so-called greenhouse gases. Source: An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore, p. 22-25 May 26, 2006
To let earth continue warming would be deeply immoral
In Antarctica, measurements of CO2 concentrations and temperatures go back 650,000 years. At no point in the last 650,000 years before the pre-industrial era did the CO2 concentration go above 300 parts per million (ppm). Where CO2 is now–350 ppm–is way above anything measured in the prior 650,000-year record.
There is not a single part of this 650,000-year record–no fact, date, or number–that is controversial in any way or in dispute by anybody. To the extent that there is a controversy at all, it is that a few people in some of the less responsible coal, oil, and utility companies say, “So what? That’s not going to cause any problem.”
[Does temperature follow CO2 levels?] It’s a complicated relationship, but when there is more CO2 in the atmosphere, the temperature increases because
more heat from the Sun is trapped.
But if we allow this to happen, it would be deeply and unforgivably immoral. it would condemn coming generations to a catastrophically diminished future. Source: An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore, p. 67 May 26, 2006
Use market capitalism as ally of environmentalism
One of the keys to solving the climate crisis involves finding ways to use the powerful force of market capitalism as an ally. And more than anything else, that requires accurate measurements of the real consequences–positive and negative–of all the important economic choices we make.
The environmental impact of our economic choices has often been ignored because traditional business accounting has allowed these factors to be labeled “externalities” and routinely excluded from the balance sheet.
Source: An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore, p.270 May 26, 2006
An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore: on Foreign Policy
Drought from global warming set stage for Darfur genocide
Unbelievable tragedies have been unfolding in the part of Africa near Lake Chad, where genocidal murders have become commonplace in the region of Darfur. The region-wide drought has contributed to the famine conditions that put millions at risk. A little discussed contributing factor to the famine and genocide is the disappearance of Lake Chad.
Just 40 years ago Lake Chad was as large as Lake Erie–formerly the 6th largest lake in the world. But now due to declining rainfall and ever-intensifying human use, it has shrunk to 1/20th of its original size. The lake’s dissipation has led to collapsing fisheries and crops.
While Lake Chad withered, intense drought set the stage for the violence that erupted in neighboring Darfur, a war-torn region of Sudan.
The more we understand about climate change, the more it looks as if we may be the real culprit–the US emits 1/4 of the world’s greenhouse gases. We helped manufacture the suffering in Africa, and we have a moral obligation to try to fix it. Source: An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore, p.116-7 May 26, 2006
An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore: on Homeland Security
Real danger to WTC is not terrorism, but rising sea levels
In Manhattan, the World Trade Center Memorial is intended to be, among other things, an expression of the determination of the United States never to allow such harm to befall our country again.
But if sea levels rose 20 feet worldwide, the site of the World Trade Center Memorial would be underwater.
Is it possible that we should prepare for other serious threats in addition to terrorism? Maybe it is time to focus on other dangers as well. Source: An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore, p.208-209 May 26, 2006
An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore: on Principles & Values
Son’s serious accident spurred interest in environment
My son had suffered a concussion, a broken collarbone, broken ribs, a compound fracture of the thigh bone, and massive internal injuries as well as a bruised lung & pancreas & a fractured kidney.
I tell this story because it was a turning point that changed me in ways I could not have imagined. I asked myself how did I really want to spend my time on Earth? The environment had for years been at the forefront of my policy concerns, but it had been competing for attention with a lot of issues. Now, in this comprehensive and soul-searching rethinking of how I would spend my time, the global environment trumped other concerns. I realized that this was the crisis that should occupy the bulk of my efforts.
I believe I was handed not just a 2nd chance, but an obligation to do whatever I can at this moment of danger to try and make sure that what is most precious about God’s beautiful Earth–its livability for us, our children, future generations–does not slip out of our hands. Source: An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore, p. 69-71 May 26, 2006
An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore: on Technology
Tech makes us a force of nature; obligation to use wisely
Mistakes in our dealings with Mother Nature can now have much larger, unintended consequences, because many of our new technologies confer upon us new power without automatically giving us new wisdom. Some of our new technologies overwhelm the human scale.
Our new technologies, combined with our numbers, have made us, collectively, a force of nature. And those with the most technology have the greatest moral obligation to use it wisely. And this too, is a political issue. Policy matters. The US is responsible for more greenhouse gas pollution than South America, Africa, the Middle East, Australia, Japan, and Asia–all put together. Source: An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore, p.247-251 May 26, 2006
Internet restores press integrity lost by 1-way TV dominance Part of the problem with climate change has to do with a long-term structural change in the way America’s marketplace of ideas now operates. The one-way nature of our dominant communications medium, television, has combined with the increasing concentration of ownership–the vast majority of media outlets are owned by a smaller and smaller number of large conglomerates that mix entertainment values with journalism–to seriously damage the role of objectivity in America’s public forum. The propaganda techniques that emerged with the new mass media of the 20th century prefigured the widespread use of related techniques for mass advertising & for political persuasion. Today there are fewer independent journalists with the freedom & stature to blow the whistle when important facts are consistently being distorted in order to deceive the public. The Internet offers the most hopeful opportunity to restore integrity to the public dialogue, but TV is still dominant in shaping that dialogue. Source: An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore, p.286-7 May 26, 2006