Gore Moves the Needle in the Global Warming Debate

When An Inconvenient Truth first came out, I saw it and (like most who have seen it) really liked it, and talked about it with my friend Nomi Morris.

Nomi, being a long-term reporter, asked exactly the right question: Do you think it will move the debate?

Well, that it has. Here’s the evidence.

For one, the movie has greatly exceeded expectations. A couple of months ago, for example, sharp-witted box office maven David Poland, who runs a site called Movie City News, called Al Gore’s feature "boring" and estimated it would gross about 6-7 million. But the documentary has already grossed close to $10 million, according to Variety [$], and will surpass "Supersize Me," which grossed $11.5 million. Variety projects that:

Assuming "Truth" continues to play at least in major markets throughout the summer, as Paramount Vantage is hoping, it seems to be on track to end up close to the tally of "Bowling for Columbine," which cumed $21.6 million.

The paper goes on to predict that it will play even better overseas, as is usually the case with movies these days, which would put in the $40 million ballpark…a monster hit for a documentary.

But it’s not just the box office numbers. As Martin Peretz, publisher of The New Republic, points out, the paperback version of "An Inconvenient Truth," which some critics consider even better than the movie, will be number one on the major bestseller lists this Sunday. And the success of the book shows that the message is getting through.

It’s no longer a question of: Is Global Warming Happening?

The question now is: What Will Global Warming Mean?



Or, as Matthew Nisbet of Framing Science puts it:

Yet Gore in his media blitz is successfully re-framing global warming away from a debate over scientific uncertainty or negative economic impacts, and in the direction of moral consequences and economic innovation.

Numerous attempts to discredit the documentary by sceptics have been batted down, most recently by an AP poll of 100 top climate researchers, including skeptics. (As FOX News headlined the story: "Gore’s Global Warming Film Gets Rave Review From Climate Scientists.")

Some of these attempts to discredit the movie became downright embarrassing. The National Review attempted to poo-pooh the documentary in a cover story called Scare of the Century, but relied on a study by a scientist named Curt Davis of the University of Missouri, who immediately called the National Review cite a "misrepresentation" when contacted by Think Progress.

Richard Lindzen of MIT claimed in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that there was no consensus on climate change and that scientists who didn’t believe in climate change couldn’t get funding, a claim that sounded more like a whine than an argument to the scientific debaters in an unnamed Google climate change discussion group.

Tim Lambert then pointed out that Lindzen claimed that "satellite data showed no warming in the atmosphere since l979," which was flatly contradicted by a National Academy of Sciences report issued in response to a 2001 request by the Bush administration. Lindzen actually served on the panel. Lindzen has an artful way with a phrase, but his claims are as dubious as any other denier’s.

The two sentences of the NAS report read:

Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth’s atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise. Temperatures are, in fact, rising.

Ask Google today to search for"deniers" and you will get back a search rich in references to the Holocaust, but also, increasingly, a search salted with references to the deniers of today; the apologists for global warming.

And in the future, as James Hansen noted in a stunning review in New York Review of Books, Americans today could end up as hated and despised as a generation of Germans once were:

The US has heavy legal and moral responsibilities for what is now happening. Of all the CO2 emissions produced from fossil fuels so far, we are responsible for almost 30 percent, an amount much larger than that of the next-closest countries, China and Russia, each less than 8 percent. Yet our responsibility and liability may run higher than those numbers suggest. The US cannot validly claim to be ignorant of the consequences. When nations must abandon large parts of their land because of rising seas, what will our liability be? And will our children, as adults in the world, carry a burden of guilt, as Germans carried after World War II, however unfair inherited blame may be?

Few Americans want to think about that. But the very fact that the most farsighted of us are thinking about it shows that Gore has "moved the needle."

We can no longer claim, whatever our politics, that we haven’t been warned.

Heck, according to Andy Borowitz (for June 27th), even global warming doubter Dick Cheney was moved to respond, starring in a movie of his own to be released in time for the fall elections, called "A Really Convenient Truth."

“I saw the Al Gore movie, and quite frankly, the whole thing was a downer from the word go,” Mr. Cheney said at a White House press briefing. “I thought it was time to tell the American people the good news about global warming.”

“The truth is, as the entire world turns into a red-hot tropical zone, it will be possible to go on vacation wherever you are,” Mr. Cheney added. “When was the last time you wanted to take a vacation on a glacier?”

Update:    In an interview with Rolling Stone, Gore predicts that before Bush and Cheney leave  office, they will do a U-turn on global warming, "a dramatic change."

GORE:    I will make a prediction that within two years, Bush and Cheney themselves will change their position.

RS:        In two years they’ll be gone!

GORE:    Before they leave office. Unfortunately, they’ve got two and a half years left.

Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

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