Friday, 25 August 2017


In 2006 Al Gore released a documentary entitled An Inconvenient Truth, in an attempt to shock the world into doing something about Climate Change. I recall going to my local cinema during the Edinburgh International Film Festival to watch it, where it was introduced by the man himself. At the time it was not long after the farce of the US election, and he introduced himself thus; "Hi, my name's Al Gore, I used to be the next President of the United States".

A more forthright and genuine person I have never listened to, and this came across in the film. The now famous "hockey-stick" graph of the rise in CO2 in the atmosphere in the last 100 years, shocked everyone in their seats.

But globally all that seemed to happen was yet more talking and very little was achieved, most especially by our politicians that are meant to be serving us.

Last week a sequel was released in theatres, An Incovenient Sequel, and it was no less shocking. Production values were higher, utilising modern film techniques and equipment, which enabled the film makers to show the beauty of the glaciers of Antarctica and Greenland. But behind the beauty lay an ominous message of disaster. Footage obtained by pilots from a helicopter flying over Greenland's ice sheet then shocked to the core. Recently, on the hottest day ever recorded, an enormous area of the Greenland ice sheet was literally exploding before their eyes, collapsing in great swathes. If you had just entered the cinema at this point you could be forgiven for thinking that you were watching a CGi special effect. But this was a disaster movie was real and far more disturbing.

In the 2006 An Inconvenient Truth, one particular scene came under heavy criticism for exaggeration and sensationalism. A computer graphics simulation showed an aerial view of Manhatten Island with sea water flooding the streets and pouring into the construction site of the world trade centre. People were outraged, saying it was pulling on raw emotional nerves, and was a poor sensationalist publicity stunt.

Just six years later, on 22 October 2012 during hurricane Sandy, exactly that happened.

As the new film says, yes we still have normal days, yes we still have cold days, but the number of above average hot days has now increased in number beyond those two put together in many critical parts of the world!  Hotter temperatures globally mean more evaporation from the oceans, which means more rainfall and more violent storms driven by the warmer oceans. It also means more moisture dragged out of the ground, increasing drought and thus lowering food production, and so on and so on.

Though the film was hard hitting, the biggest shock for me was not from the screen, but from the cinema itself. In 2006 there was not a seat to be had. Today there were only four people in the cinema! The movie was released by Paramount Pictures and they had spent virtually nothing on publicity resulting in very poor box office results, fueling climate change sceptics opinions.

In late November 2015 in Paris, just two weeks after the terrorist attacks, a major climate change summit was held, to try a broker a unanimous global deal to do something. There was a major obstacle in the way toward the end: India was proposing opening 400 new, coal-fired power stations. Their argument was simple; the West had enjoyed an abundance of energy production for the last 150 years and been solely responsible for the current damage. But India needs to give it's 1.25billion population access to energy, and they felt it grossly unfair that the west should hold them back because of their mistakes. You could understand where they were coming from, but if they went ahead it would cancel out all the effort to reduce emissions over the past few decades. This was critical at so many levels.

Solar energy was a big player during the talks, and seems a no-brainer, especially when you consider that more solar energy falls on the surface of the earth in just one hour than the entire globe uses in a whole year!

There is a company in California called SolarCity, which is at the forefront globally of solar technology.

In just 24 hours Al Gore brokered a deal with them and the Indian government, including negotiating better interest rates with the World Bank for India, to enable them to buy-in to solar, and so reduce the number of coal-fired power stations proposed by half.

It was a tempting offer.

Right at this point the Indian Prime Minister was called away home. Why? Major floods had devastated parts of his country.

This event, together with Al Gore's tireless negotiating, and possibly high emotions with the recent terrorist attacks, ratified the Paris agreement globally.

Then came Trump of course, with his brainless attitudes, and pulled the US out. But as Al Gore points out, there will always be obstacles that need fighting.

Which made me think that, sadly, the majority of people in my generation are set in their ways, and reluctant to make change, having worked hard for their consumerist lifestyle, and feel a sense of entitlement to carry on as usual. So for me it is the young people of today that are the planets greatest hope. The majority are passionate about this subject, for it is their future we're screwing up.

How ashamed will we be when they turn round in the not too distant future and say, "what were you thinking!"

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