One simple statement: you MUST see this film. Don’t take my word for it. Take those of hundreds of critics and film reviewers who have praised the film and its moral imperative so far:
“In 39 years, I have never written these words in a movie review, but here they are: You owe it to yourself to see this film. If you do not, and you have grandchildren, you should explain to them why you decided not to.” [Roger Ebert, on the Chicago Sun Times]
“If you see only one movie this year, make it An Inconvenient Truth. It may not be the year’s best movie, or its most entertaining, but it’s certainly the most terrifyingly crucial.” [Jeffrey M. Anderson, on Combustible Celluloid]
“Every man, woman and child in the country should see this film, if necessary at the point of a gun.” [Philip French, on the Guardian Unlimited]
“There is no controversy about these facts – says a persuasive Al Gore, who dominates the exactly 100′ of film – out of 925 recent articles in peer-review scientific journals about global warming, there was no disagreement. Zero“. These figures are the result, he adds, of a disinformation campaign started in the 1990s by the energy industries to “reposition global warming as a debate“, the same strategy used for years by the defenders of the tobacco industry. Well, there is at least one “scientist” who raised his voice against what appeared to be this universal consent: Bjørn Lomborg in his now-famous The Skeptical Environmentalist (Cambridge University Press – 2001). Despite the attempt by Scientific American, back in January 2002, to bring to the public attention his dubious research methodologies, in Science Defends itself Against the Skeptical Environmentalist, and notwithstanding the case brought against him by the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty (DSCD), echoed by a petition signed by 308 Danish academics, Lomborg remains one of the most-frequently cited sources for any policy-maker unwilling to take action on global warming. And many are just ready to jump at this opportunity.
It it sad that such fools are still given the opportunity to address audiences in respected venues such as the RSA in London. In the light of the monolithic points made by An Inconvenient Truth, Lomborg’s suggestion to save the money we would spend on climate change and use it instead to provide clean drinking water, sanitation, basic healthcare and education to the world’s entire population – he’s now changed his mind and agrees global warming is actually happening and is caused by us – eerily reminds me of the Titanic’s orchestra still playing while the ship disappeared into the freezing waters of the North Atlantic. It is as miopic as it is useless, and clearly ignores the fact that on such issues donor countries have systematically failed to meet their pledged promises. In fact, we’d soon end up with a US president saying that it is his moral imperative to use that money to provide jobs to US citizens, while in the meantime millions of poeple worldwide are being displaced by the rising sea levels.
Which brings me to the topic of moral stances vs. global governance, something I am becoming more interested in since reading David Held’s collection of essays Debating Globalization, originally written for OpenDemocracy’s forum on this topic. Gore rightly points out that global warming is not a political issue: it’s a moral issue. He isn’t talking as a Democrat (although he doesn’t shy away from displaying his contempt for the current US administration), he’s talking as a human being, as a global citizen of the planet. The solutions he offers are super-partes, not to be taken as a manifesto, clearly addressed to the vastest possible audience, from big corporations to concerned individuals. So why is it taking so long to take collective action on global warming?
First of all, there is no effective global governance institution capable of raising to the challenge. The UN, delegitimized and disempowered by the recent post 9/11 events, will hardly survive the next few years even without picking a fight with some national government. And anyway, as pointed out previously, the UN isn’t greater than the sum of its parts, which are nation states defending their national interests. If it actually started defending the world’s interests, it would probably collapse on itself. We need to re-think the systems that define our global governance from scratch, and in particular we need to identify a global “policeman” who will enforce these collective decisions. Unfortunately, this means attacking the legitimacy of the nation state (although not the local or regional democratic structures, on the contrary), with the mass-hysterical consequences we have already witnessed, especially in the UK.
Secondly, we live in a world dominated by a political generation – and I mean this worldwide, with very few exceptions – unequipped to deal with this unprecedented challenge we are facing. In a poignant moment of the film, Gore explains how he tried for years to bring to the attention of the US Congress the issue of climate change. His hearings were met with short-sighted sneers: politicians chose to defend their constituencies’s interests (hence their own) despite the mountain of evidence brought to their attention. “I used to believe in our system“, he concludes laconically, implying that this is no longer the case. And if a former Vice-President of the biggest democracy in the world states this matter-of-factly in front of million of viewers, we are in real trouble.
The truth is that most of our political elites are incapable of rising to the challenge posed by global warming. With their obstinate indifference and pseudo-scientific approach – sadly famous the example of US Senator James M. Inhofe, who used Sci-fi novelist Michael Crichton of Jurassic Park memory rather than accredited academics to back his policy statements during a Senate hearing on climate change, which he described as “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people”) – they are threatening the very credibility and legitimacy of our democratic institutions. This leaves us with this difficult and frightening moral imperative: if we cannot save our planet through the democratic channels we have inerited from our fathers, we urgently have to find some new ones to supplant them before it’s too late.