Archive for the ‘08. An Inconvenient Truth – Part 3’ Category

PLEASE NOTE: This transcript is being provided for educational purposes only to be used in conjunction with a university course designed to raise awareness of the serious environmental issues that the documentary film An Inconvenient Truth addresses. The kind understanding of the filmmakers will be appreciated with respect to any copyright issues which may arise, and it is hoped that permission to use this material will be granted so that the message Mr. Al Gore puts forth may be disseminated among the students participating in this course.

Students are encouraged to purchase their own copies of this important documentary on DVD.

Thank you.

Tony Del Vecchio, M.Ed.



Part III


Civilization and Earth

1.3 billion people. An economy that’s surging. More and more energy needs.  Massive coal reserves.

(Gore and Chinese scientists discussing coal reserves in China.)

Every time I’ve visited China, I’ve learned from their scientists. They’re right on the cutting edge.

This issue is really the same for China as it is for the US. We are both using old technologies that are dirty and polluting.

Gore speaking on global warming at a seminar in China: Separating the truth from the fiction and the accurate connection from the misunderstandings is part of what you learn here. When the warnings are accurate and based on sound science, then we as human beings, whatever country we live in, have to find a way to make sure that the warnings are heard and responded to.

We both have a hard time shaking loose the familiar patterns that we relied on in the past. We both face completely unacceptable consequences.

We are witnessing a collision between our civilization and the Earth. There are three factors that are causing this collision.

1) Population – When my generation, the baby boom generation, was born after WW II, the population had just crossed the 2 billion mark. I’m in my 50s and it’s already gone to almost 6 and a half billion. If I reach the demographic expectation for the baby boomers, it will go over 9 billion. If it takes 10,000 generations to reach 2 billion and then, in one human lifetime, ours, it goes from 2 billion to 9 billion, something profoundly different is going on right now. We’re putting more pressure on the Earth. Most of it’s in the poorer nations of the world. It puts pressure on food demand. It puts pressure on water demand. It puts pressure on vulnerable natural resources, and this pressure is one of the reasons we have seen such devastation of the forest, not only tropical but elsewhere. It is a political issue. This is the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. One set of policies here. Another set of policies here. Much of it comes not only from cutting, but also burning. Almost 30% of the CO2 that goes up into the atmosphere each year is from forest burning. This is a time-lapse picture of the Earth at night over a six month period showing the lights of the cities in white and the burning forests and brush fires in red. The yellow areas are the gas flares like these in Siberia.

2) Science – The scientific and technological revolution is a great blessing in that it has given us tremendous benefits in areas like medicine and communication. But this new power that we have also brings a responsibility to think about its consequences. Here’s a formula to think about. Old habits plus old technology have predictable consequences. Old habits plus new technology can have dramatically altered consequences. Warfare with spears and bows and arrows and rifles and machine guns, that’s one thing. But then a new technology came. (Atomic bomb blast.) We have to think differently about war because the new technologies so completely transformed the consequences of that old habit that we can’t just mindlessly continue the patterns of the past. In the same way we have always exploited the Earth for sustenance. For most of our existence we used relatively simple tools: the plow, the tractor. But even tools like shovels are different now. A shovel used to be like this. Shovels have gotten bigger and every year they get more powerful. Our ability to have an effect on the surface of the Earth is utterly transformed. You can say the same thing about irrigation, which is a great thing, but when we divert rivers without considering the consequences, sometimes the rivers no longer reach the sea. There were two rivers in central Asia that were used by the former Soviet Union that were used for irrigating cotton fields unwisely. The Aral Sea was fed by them. It used to be the fourth largest inland sea in the world. When I went there I saw this strange sight of an enormous fishing fleet resting in the sand. This is the canal that the fishing industry desperately tried to build to get to the receding shoreline. Making mistakes in our dealings with nature can have bigger consequences now because our technologies are often bigger than the human scale. When you put them all together they made us a force of nature. This is also a political issue.

This is a computer map of the world that purports to show the relative contribution to global warming. In our country we are responsible for more than all of South America, all of Africa, all of the Middle East, all of Asia all combined. The per capita average in Africa, India, China, Japan, EU, Russia, here’s where we are way, way above everyone else. If you take population into account, it’s a little bit different. China’s playing a bigger role, so is Europe, but we are still, by all odds, the largest contributor. And so it is up to us to look at how we think about.

3) Way of Thinking – The way we think about it is the third and final factor that transforms our relationship to the Earth. If a frog jumps into a pot of boiling water, it jumps right out again, because it senses the danger. But the very same frog, if it jumps into a pot of lukewarm water that is slowly brought to a boil, will just sit there and it won’t move. It will just sit there even as the temperature continues to go up and up. It will stay there until.. until.. it is rescued. It is important to rescue the frog. The point is this: Our collective nervous system is like that frog’s nervous system. It takes a sudden jolt sometimes before we become aware of a danger. If it seems gradual, even it really is happening quickly, we are capable of just sitting there and not responding and not reacting.

The Tobacco Industry

I don’t remember a time when I was a kid when summertime didn’t mean working with tobacco. I used to love it. It was during that period when working with the guys on the farm seemed like fun to me.

Starting in 1964 with the Surgeon General’s report, the evidence was laid out on the connection between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer. We kept growing tobacco.

Nancy was almost 10 years older than me, and there were only two of us. She was my protector and my friend at the same time. She started smoking when she was a teenager and never stopped. She died of lung cancer. That’s one of the ways you don’t want to die. The idea that we had been part of that economic pattern that produced the cigarettes that produced the cancer, it was so painful at so many levels. My father, he had grown tobacco all his life. He stopped it. Whatever explanation that seemed to make sense in the past, just didn’t cut it anymore. He stopped it. It’s just human nature to take time to connect the dots. I know that. But I also know that there can be a day of reckoning when you wished you had connected the dots more quickly.

Three Misconceptions

There are three misconceptions that bedevil our thinking.

1)    First, isn’t there a disagreement among scientists about whether the problem is real or not? Actually, not really. There was a massive study of every scientific article in a peer-reviewed article written on global warming for the last ten years. They took a big sample of 10 percent, 928 articles. And you know the number of those that disagreed with the scientific consensus that we’re causing global warming and that is a serious problem out of the 928: Zero. The misconception that there is disagreement about the science has been deliberately created by a relatively small group of people. One of their internal memos leaked and here is what it said according to the press. Their objective is to reposition global warming as a theory rather than fact. This has happened before. After the Surgeon General’s report. One of their memos, leaked 40 years ago. They said, “Doubt is our product, since it is the best means of creating a controversy in the public’s mind.” But have they succeeded? You’ll remember that there were 928 peer-reviewed articles. Zero percent disagreed with the consensus. There was another study of all the articles in the popular press. Over the last fourteen years they looked at a sample of 636. More than half of them said, “Well, we are not sure. It could be a problem, may not be a problem.” So no wonder people are confused. Scientists have an independent obligation to respect and present the truth as they see it. I’ve seen scientists who were persecuted, ridiculed, deprived of jobs, income simply because the facts they discovered led them to an inconvenient truth that they insisted on telling.. You know more than a hundred years ago, Upton Sinclair wrote this: “It’s difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends upon him not understanding it.”

2)    The second misconception: Do we have to choose between the economy and the environment? This is a big one. A lot of people say we do. I was trying to convince the first Bush administration to go to the Earth Summit. They organized a big White House conference to say, “We’re on top of this.” One of these viewgraphs caught my attention and I want to talk about it for a minute. Here is the choice we have to make according to this group. We have here a scale that balances two different things. On one side, we have gold bars. Mmmmm. Don’t they look good! I’d just like to have some of those gold bars. On the other side of the scale we have. The Entire Planet! Hmm? I think this is a false choice for two reasons. Number one, if we don’t have a planet. The other reason is that if we do the right thing, then we are going to create a lot of wealth and we are going to create a lot of jobs, because doing the right thing moves us forward. I’ve probably given this slide show a thousand times. I’ve tried to identify all those things in people’s minds that serve as obstacles to them understanding this. Whenever I feel like I’ve identified an obstacle, I try to take it apart, roll it away, remove it, blow it up. I set myself a goal: communicate this real clearly. The only way I know to do it is city by city, person by person, family by family. And I have faith that pretty soon enough minds are changed that we cross a threshold. Let me give you an example of the wrong way to balance the economy and the environment. One part of this issue involves automobiles. Japan has mileage standards up here. Europe plans to pass Japan. Our allies in Australia and Canada are leaving us behind. Here’s where we are. There is a reason for it. They say that we can’t protect the environment too much without threatening the economy and threatening the automakers, because automakers in China might come in and just steal all our markets. Well, here is where China’s auto mileage standards are now. We can’t sell our cars in China today because we don’t meet China’s environmental standards. California has taken an initiative to have higher mileage cars sold in California. The auto companies have sued California to prevent this law from taking effect because, as they point out, eleven years from now this would mean California would have to have cars for sale that are as efficient eleven years from now as China’s are today: clearly too onerous a provision to comply with. Is this helping our companies to succeed? Actually, if you look at who’s doing well in the world it’s the companies that are building more efficient cars. Our companies are in deep trouble.

3)    Final misconception: If we accept that this problem is real, maybe it is just too big to do anything about. There are a lot of people who go straight from denial to despair without pausing on the intermediate step of actually doing something about the problem. That’s what I would like to finish with: the fact that we already know everything we need to know to effectively address this problem. We’ve got to do a lot of things, not just one. Increasing end use efficiency we can remove global warming pollution that would other wise be put into the atmosphere.

*    More efficient electrical appliances

*    Higher mileage cars

*    Other transport efficiency

*    Renewable technology

*    Carbon capture sequestration

They all add up and pretty soon we are below our 1970 emissions. We have everything we need, save perhaps political will. In America, political will is a renewable resource. We have the ability to do this. Each one of us is a cause of global warming, but each of us can make choices to change that with the things we buy, with the electricity we use, the cars we drive. We can make choices to bring our individual carbon emissions to zero. The solutions are in our hands. We just have to have the determination to make them happen.

States and Cities

Are we going to be left behind as the rest of the world moves forward? All of these nations have ratified Kyoto. There are only two advanced nations in the world that have not ratified Kyoto, and we are one of them. The other is Australia. Luckily several states are taking the initiative. The nine northeastern states have banded together on reducing CO2. California and Oregon are taking the initiative. Pennsylvania is exercising leadership on solar power and wind power. US cities are stepping up to the plate. One after the other, we have seen all these cities pledge to take on global warming.

Rising to the Occasion

What about the rest of us? Ultimately this question comes down to this: Are we, as Americans, capable of doing great things even though they are difficult? Are we capable of rising above ourselves and above history? The record indicates that we do have that capacity. We formed a nation. We fought a revolution and brought something new to this Earth, a free nation guaranteeing individual liberty. America made a moral decision that slavery was wrong and that we could not be half free and half slave. We as Americans decided that of course women should have the right vote. We defeated totalitarianism and won a war in the Pacific and the Atlantic simultaneously. We desegregated our schools and cured fearsome diseases like polio. We landed on the moon, the very example of what’s possible when we are at our best. We worked together in a completely bipartisan way to bring down communism. We have even solved a global environmental crisis before, the hole in the stratospheric ozone layer. This was said to be an impossible problem to solve because it’s a global environmental challenge requiring cooperation from every nation in the world. But we took it on, and the United States took the lead in phasing out the chemicals that caused that problem. So now we have to use our political processes in our democracy and then decide to act together to solve those problems. But we have to have a different perspective on this one. It is different than any problem we have ever faced before.

Our Only Home

You remember that home movie of the Earth spinning in space. One of those spacecraft continuing on out into the universe, when it got 4 billion miles out in space, Carl Sagan said, “Let’s take another picture of the Earth.” See that pale blue dot. That’s us. Everything that has ever happened in all of human history has happened on that pixel. All the triumphs and all the tragedies, all the wars, all the famines, all the major advances: it’s our only home. And that is what is at stake: our ability to live on planet Earth, to have a future as a civilization.

I believe this is a moral issue. It is your time to seize this issue. It is our time to rise again to secure our future.

There’s nothing that unusual about what I’m doing. What is unusual is that I had the privilege to be shown it as a young man. It is almost as if a window was opened through which the future was very clearly visible. “See that”, he said. “That is the future in which you are going to live your life.”

Future generations may well have occasion to ask themselves. “What were our parents thinking? Why didn’t they wake up when they had a chance?”

We have to hear that question from them, now.


End Credits

Are you ready to change the way you live?


The climate crisis can be solved.


Here’s how to start: go to www.climatecrisis.net.


You can reduce your carbon emissions. In fact, you can reduce your carbon emissions to zero.


• Buy energy efficient appliances and light bulbs.

• Change your thermostat (and use clock thermostats) to reduce energy for heating and cooling.

• Weatherize your house, increase insulation, get an energy audit.

• Recycle.

• If you can, buy a hybrid car.

• When you can, walk or ride a bicycle.

• When you can, use light rail and mass transit.

• Tell your parents not to ruin the world that you will live in.

• If you are a parent, join with your children to save the world they will live in.

• Switch to renewable sources of energy.

• Call your power company to see if they offer green energy. If they don’t, ask why not?

• Vote for leaders who pledge to solve the crisis.

• Write to Congress. If they don’t listen, run for Congress.

• Plant trees. Lots of trees.

• Speak up in your community.

• Call radio shows and write newspapers.

• Insist that America freeze CO2 emissions and join international efforts to stop global warming.

• Reduce our dependence on foreign oil; help farmers grow alcohol fuels.

• Raise fuel economy standards; require lower emissions from automobiles.

• If you believe in prayer, pray that people will find the strength to change. In the words of the African proverb, “When you pray, move your feet.”

• Encourage everyone you know to see this movie.

• Learn as much as you can about the climate crisis. Then put your knowledge into action.


Song: I Need to Wake Up

Recorded by: Melissa Etheridge

Album: Greatest Hits: The Road Less Traveled (2005)

Academy Award Winning Song for film: “An Inconvenient Truth” (2006)

Have I been sleeping?

I’ve been so still

Afraid of crumbling

Have I been careless?

Dismissing all the distant rumblings

Take me where I am supposed to be

To comprehend the things that I can’t see


Cause I need to move

I need to wake up

I need to change

I need to shake up

I need to speak out

Something’s got to break up

I’ve been asleep

And I need to wake up



And as a child

I danced like it was 1999

My dreams were wild

The promise of this new world

Would be mine

Now I am throwing off the carelessness of youth

To listen to an inconvenient truth


That I need to move

I need to wake up

I need to change

I need to shake up

I need to speak out

Something’s got to break up

I’ve been asleep

And I need to wake up



I am not an island

I am not alone

I am my intentions

Trapped here in this flesh and bone


And I need to move

I need to wake up

I need to change

I need to shake up

I need to speak out

Something’s got to break up

I’ve been asleep

And I need to wake up



I want to change

I need to shake up

I need to speak out

Oh, Something’s got to break up

I’ve been asleep

And I need to wake up






 An Inconvenient Truth Transcript


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