At any point in a person's life, he or she may radically change the course of that life — oftentimes prompted by a major setback, such as a life-threatening illness, or a spiritual epiphany. In the case of former Senator Al Gore, his interest in environmental activism and policy has been a central theme of his political career, spanning many years. But it was his defeat as the Democratic contender in the 2000 U.S. Presidential election that apparently proved to be a clear turning point, prompting him to dedicate his time and energies to a subject that has strongly interested him since his days as an idealistic college student: saving the planet — and thus humanity — from ecological disaster.
Gore's studies and opinions in this area have now culminated in a book and a movie, both entitled "An Inconvenient Truth", and released in May of 2006. They together contend that mankind is sowing the seeds of its own destruction in the form of global warming, caused by our increasing levels of carbon dioxide emissions, which allegedly produce a greenhouse effect, trapping unnaturally high levels of heat within our atmosphere. In turn, these excessively high temperatures are expected to accelerate the melting of snow and ice worldwide, reduce the salinity of our oceans and waterways, and dramatically disrupt sensitive ecosystems on every continent. In addition, swelling oceans and seas would flood low-lying coastal cities, as well as destroying countless acres of wetlands and other ecological sanctuaries.
In fact, a large number of the world's climatologists and other researchers are warning that, if current trends continue, sometime within the next 10 years the planet will begin experiencing an environmental disaster, as the Earth's interrelated climatic systems are pushed past a key tipping point, beyond which global catastrophe is unavoidable and unstoppable. They point to the mounting number of anomalies in our weather systems, such as the recent spate of hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as bizarre changes in flora and fauna worldwide, such as flowers blooming much earlier than in the past. Supporters of the movie point to a study done by the Associated Press (AP) that indicates that America's leading climate scientists, even those opposed to the theory of global warming, applaud the documentary for its accuracy.
At the same time, dissenting voices assert that the current global warming trend began long before humans were generating atmospheric emissions of any significance, and is to be expected as the Earth transitions out of its last mini Ice Age. Detractors further argue that environmentalists are conveniently ignoring data that supposedly show how warmer spells — such as our current one — were much more extreme in the past, and to be expected in the future, despite any human industrial activity or curtailments thereof.
Yet regardless of which viewpoint is the most accurate, a growing number of Americans are reading Al Gore's book and attending screenings of his movie. Premiering at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, "An Inconvenient Truth" is expected to garner a tremendous amount of attention from the public and the media, and possibly prod U.S. politicians, at all levels of government, to take a closer look at the carbon dioxide levels allowed for American industry, and our possible participation in international agreements along those lines. If anything, Al Gore's efforts will bolster Americans' sagging interest in environmental stewardship and sustainable living on our only Mother Earth.