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An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It

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Essay title: An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It

Book Review

An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It

By Al Gore

Rodale Press, 2006. 328 pp.

ISBN: 1-59486-567-1, $28.95

While the issue of climate change has been given worldwide attention since the signing of the Kyoto Protocol, it has never been profoundly realized as impending or of great concern until publication of the book An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore, former vice president and former Democratic candidate for president of the United States. Beyond his prominent political identity, Al Gore is a longtime advocate of environmental protection who organized the first Congressional hearings on global warming in the late 1970s. In his first book, Earth in the Balance, he started to spell out potential climate change issues. In An Inconvenient Truth, which was released as a movie as well, Gore shows the impacts of climate change resulting from human activities, and the ignorance of human beings regarding this change, in simple, clear language. The purpose of this book is to present the challenges facing humanity today and to call on the public to take imperative action to save our planet.

Gore preludes the theme of planetary emergency with fancy images of the earth. He asserts that we are on the brink of planetary crisis resulting from climate change, and uses scientific facts as proof. He presents the significant changes occurring on earth and caused by global warming by presenting dramatic facts and before-and-after pictures. Mount Kilimanjaro, for example, was “covered with its fabled snows and glaciers” in 1970, but it was covered “with far less ice and snow” 30 years later, and this is happening “everywhere in the world.” Moreover, major storms such as hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones in the Atlantic and Pacific areas have gone up by about 50% in both duration and intensity since the 1970s, and these storms have become “more powerful and more destructive,” according to a study conducted by MIT scientists in 2005. Gore advances his idea by describing the consequences from carbon dioxide emissions resulting from the collective power of human activities. His argument, based on scientific research of the last four decades, depicts the devastated ecosystem of our planet. Gore documents how species around the world are facing an extinction rate “1,000 times higher than the normal background rate.” Another case in point is that coral reefs, an important habitat for ocean species, are being besieged by warming-induced bleaching. All these effects, Gore emphasizes, are being caused by inappropriate human behaviors such as forest destruction and overuse of water. We human beings are destroying the planet we depend on for existence.

Gore then decries the public’s ignorance and indifference regarding global warming, and points out that the environmental crisis goes beyond the environmental domain to become a moral issue. He states that human beings are under the illusion that we are “so special and unique that nature isn’t connected to us.” This delusion has led to the exploitation and resulting environmental degradation we have today. He tries to make the public aware by quoting Sir Winston Churchill: “The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences.” Gore calls on the public to realize that “what we do to nature we do to ourselves.”

Using a straightforward approach, Gore exposes how industrial and political allies deceive the public and conceal the truth of scientific facts. Using the front groups that have created controversial theories of global warming as an example, Gore exposes the inconvenient truth that these groups are secretly funded by big corporations who obtain benefits from maintaining the status quo. With humor, he compares their behavior to tobacco companies that have used propaganda techniques to deny the adverse effects of smoking. He quotes Upton Sinclair to satirize the behavior of the front groups and their sponsors: “It’s very hard to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it.” In his book, Gore unreservedly denounces the Bush administration. He argues that, with “100 percent agreement” among scientists, 57% of newspaper and magazine articles still question the fact of global warming. This figure, he explains, is the result of disinformation supplied by the Bush government, aiming to ignore environmental issues in order to obtain more economic profit.

Gore is an effective lecturer who succeeds in arousing the readers’ fear

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