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An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It (Anglais) Broché – 24 mai 2006

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Some experiences are so intense while Some experiences are so intense while they are happening that time seems to stop altogether. When it begins again and our lives resume their normal course, those intense experiences remain vivid, refusing to stay in the past, remaining always and forever with us.

Seventeen years ago my youngest child was badly--almost fatally--injured. This is a story I have told before, but its meaning for me continues to change and to deepen.

That is also true of the story I have tried to tell for many years about the global environment. It was during that interlude 17 years ago when I started writing my first book, Earth in the Balance. It was because of my son's accident and the way it abruptly interrupted the flow of my days and hours that I began to rethink everything, especially what my priorities had been. Thankfully, my son has long since recovered completely. But it was during that traumatic period that I made at least two enduring changes: I vowed always to put my family first, and I also vowed to make the climate crisis the top priority of my professional life.

Unfortunately, in the intervening years, time has not stood still for the global environment. The pace of destruction has worsened and the urgent need for a response has grown more acute.

The fundamental outline of the climate crisis story is much the same now as it was then. The relationship between human civilization and the Earth has been utterly transformed by a combination of factors, including the population explosion, the technological revolution, and a willingness to ignore the future consequences of our present actions. The underlying reality is that we are colliding with the planet's ecological system, and its most vulnerable components are crumbling as a result.

I have learned much more about this issue over the years. I have read and listened to the world's leading scientists, who have offered increasingly dire warnings. I have watched with growing concern as the crisis gathers strength even more rapidly than anyone expected.

In every corner of the globe--on land and in water, in melting ice and disappearing snow, during heat waves and droughts, in the eyes of hurricanes and in the tears of refugees--the world is witnessing mounting and undeniable evidence that nature's cycles are profoundly changing.

I have learned that, beyond death and taxes, there is at least one absolutely indisputable fact: Not only does human-caused global warming exist, but it is also growing more and more dangerous, and at a pace that has now made it a planetary emergency.

Part of what I have learned over the last 14 years has resulted from changes in my personal circumstances as well. Since 1992, our children have all grown up, and our two oldest daughters have married. Tipper and I now have two grandchildren. Both of my parents have died, as has Tipper's mother.

And less than a year after Earth in the Balance was published, I was elected vice president--ultimately serving for eight years. I had the opportunity, as a member of the Clinton-Gore administration, to pursue an ambitious agenda of new policies addressing the climate crisis.

At that time I discovered, firsthand, how fiercely Congress would resist the changes we were urging them to make, and I watched with growing dismay as the opposition got much, much worse after the takeover of Congress in 1994 by the Republican party and its newly aggressive conservative leaders.

I organized and held countless events to spread public awareness about the climate crisis, and to build more public support for congressional action. I also learned numerous lessons about the significant changes in recent decades in the nature and quality of America's "conversation of democracy." Specifically, that entertainment values have transformed what we used to call news, and individuals with independent voices are routinely shut out of the public discourse.

In 1997 I helped achieve a breakthrough at the negotiations in Kyoto, Japan, where the world drafted a groundbreaking treaty whose goal is to control global warming pollution. But then I came home and faced an uphill battle to gain support for the treaty in the U.S. Senate.

In 2000 I ran for president. It was a hard-fought campaign that was ended by a 5-4 decision in the Supreme Court to halt the counting of votes in the key state of Florida. This was a hard blow.

I then watched George W. Bush get sworn in as president. In his very first week in office, President Bush reversed a campaign pledge to regulate C02 emissions--a pledge that had helped persuade many voters that he was genuinely concerned about matters relating to the environment.

Soon after the election, it became clear that the Bush-Cheney administration was determined to block any policies designed to help limit global-warming pollution. They launched an all-out effort to roll back, weaken, and--wherever possible--completely eliminate existing laws and regulations. Indeed, they even abandoned Bush's pre-election rhetoric about global warming, announcing that, in the president's opinion, global warming wasn't a problem at all.

As the new administration was getting underway, I had to begin making decisions about what I would do in my own life. After all, I was now out of a job. This certainly wasn't an easy time, but it did offer me the chance to make a fresh start--to step back and think about where I should direct my energies.

I began teaching courses at two colleges in Tennessee, and, along with Tipper, published two books about the American family. We moved to Nashville and bought a house less than an hour's drive from our farm in Carthage. I entered the business world and eventually started two new companies. I became an adviser to two already established major high-tech businesses.

I am tremendously excited about these ventures, and feel fortunate to have found ways to make a living while simultaneously moving the world--at least a little--in the right direction.

With my partner Joel Hyatt I started Current TV, a news and information cable and satellite network for young people in their twenties, based on an idea that is, in our present-day society, revolutionary: that viewers themselves can make the programs and in the process participate in the public forum of American democracy. With my partner David Blood I also started Generation Investment Management, a firm devoted to proving that the environment and other sustainability factors can be fully integrated into the mainstream investment process in a way that enhances profitability for our clients, while encouraging businesses to operate more sustainably.

At first, I thought I might run for president again, but over the last several years I have discovered that there are other ways to serve, and that I enjoy them. I have also continued to make speeches on public policy, and--as I have at almost every crossroads moment in my life--to make the global environment my central focus.

Since my childhood summers on our family's farm in Tennessee, when I first learned from my father about taking care of the land, I have been deeply interested in learning more about threats to the environment. I grew up half in the city and half in the country, and the half I loved most was on our farm. Since my mother read to my sister and me from Rachel Carson's classic book, Silent Spring, and especially since I was first introduced to the idea of global warming by my college professor Roger Revelle, I have always tried to deepen my own understanding of the human impact on nature, and in my public service I have tried to implement policies to ameliorate-- and eventually eliminate--that harmful impact.

During the Clinton-Gore years we accomplished a lot in terms of environmental issues, even though, with the hostile Republican Congress, we fell short of all that was needed. Since the change in administrations, I have watched with growing concern as our forward progress has been almost completely reversed.

After the 2000 election, one of the things I decided to do was to start giving my slide show on global warming again. I had first put it together at the same time I began writing Earth in the Balance, and over the years I have added to it and steadily improved it to the point where

I think it makes a compelling case that humans are the cause of most of the global warming that is taking place, and that unless we take quick action the consequences for our planetary home could become irreversible.

For the last six years, I have been traveling around the world, sharing the information I have compiled with anyone who would listen in colleges, small towns, and big cities. More and more, I have begun to feel that I am changing minds, but it is a slow process.

In the spring of 2005, I gave my slide show to a large gathering in Los Angeles organized and hosted by environmental activist (and film producer) Laurie David, without whom the movie never would have been made. Afterward, she and Lawrence Bender, a veteran film producer who was essential to the project's success, first suggested that I ought to consider making a movie out of my presentation. I was skeptical because I couldn't see how my slide show would translate to film. But they kept coming to other slide shows and brought Jeff Skoll, founder and CEO of Participant Productions, who expressed interest in backing the project. And then, Scott Burns brought his unique and crucially important skills to the production team. Lesley Chilcott became the coproducer and legendary "trail boss." Lawrence and Laurie also introduced me to the highly talented director, Davis Guggenheim.

This extraordinary group convinced me that the translation of the slide show into a film wouldn't need to sacrifice the central role of science for entertainment's sake. Davis Guggenheim's creative vision was extraordinary. Moreover, his skills as a documentarian included an ability to ask probing questions during our many lengthy recorded dialogues--questions that forced me to find new ways to articulate ideas and feelings that, in some cases, I had never put into words before. It was in response to one of his questions that I first used the phrase "An Inconvenient Truth," a phrase that Davis later suggested be the title of the movie.

I then chose that same title for this book, but the idea for a book on the climate crisis actually came first. It was Tipper who first suggested that I put together a new kind of book with pictures and graphics to make the whole message easier to follow, combining many elements from my slide show with all of the new original material I have compiled over the last few years.

Tipper and I are, by the way, giving 100% of whatever profits come to us from the book--and from the movie--to a non-profit, bipartisan effort to move public opinion in the United States to support bold action to confront global warming.

After more than thirty years as a student of the climate crisis, I have a lot to share. I have tried to tell this story in a way that will interest all kinds of readers. My hope is that those who read the book and see the film will begin to feel, as I have for a long time, that global warming is not just about science and that it is not just a political issue. It is really a moral issue.

Although it is true that politics at times must play a crucial role in solving this problem, this is the kind of challenge that ought to completely transcend partisanship. So whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, whether you voted for me or not, I very much hope that you will sense that my goal is to share with you both my passion for the Earth and my deep sense of concern for its fate. It is impossible to feel one without the other when you know all the facts.

I also want to convey my strong feeling that what we are facing is not just a cause for alarm, it is paradoxically also a cause for hope. As many know, the Chinese expression for "crisis" consists of two characters side by side . The first is the symbol for "danger," the second the symbol for "opportunity."

The climate crisis is, indeed, extremely dangerous. In fact it is a true planetary emergency. Two thousand scientists, in a hundred countries, working for more than 20 years in the most elaborate and well-organized scientific collaboration in the history of humankind, have forged an exceptionally strong consensus that all the nations on Earth must work together to solve the crisis of global warming.

The voluminous evidence now strongly suggests that unless we act boldly and quickly to deal with the underlying causes of global warming, our world will undergo a string of terrible catastrophes, including more and stronger storms like Hurricane Katrina, in both the Atlantic and the Pacific.

We are melting the North Polar ice cap and virtually all of the mountain glaciers in the world. We are destabilizing the massive mound of ice on Greenland and the equally enormous mass of ice propped up on top of islands in West Antarctica, threatening a worldwide increase in sea levels of as much as 20 feet.

The list of what is now endangered due to global warming also includes the continued stable configuration of ocean and wind currents that has been in place since before the first cities were built almost 10,000 years ago.

We are dumping so much carbon dioxide into the Earth's environment that we have literally changed the relationship between the Earth and the Sun. So much of that CO2 is being absorbed into the oceans that if we continue at the current rate we will increase the saturation of calcium carbonate to levels that will prevent formation of corals and interfere with the making of shells by any sea creature.

Global warming, along with the cutting and burning of forests and other critical habitats, is causing the loss of living species at a level comparable to the extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. That event was believed to have been caused by a giant asteroid. This time it is not an asteroid colliding with the Earth and wreaking havoc; it is us.

Last year, the national academies of science in the 11 most influential nations came together to jointly call on every nation to "acknowledge that the threat of climate change is clear and increasing" and declare that the "scientific understanding of climate changes is now sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action."

So the message is unmistakably clear. This crisis means "danger!"

Why do our leaders seem not to hear such a clear warning? Is it simply that it is inconvenient for them to hear the truth?

If the truth is unwelcome, it may seem easier just to ignore it.

But we know from bitter experience that the consequences of doing so can be dire.

Revue de presse

“New York Times - May 23, 2006
Books of The Times | 'An Inconvenient Truth'
Al Gore Revisits Global Warming, With Passionate Warnings and Pictures
Lately, global warming seems to be tiptoeing toward a tipping point in the public consciousness. There has been broad agreement over the fundamentals of global warming in mainstream scientific circles for some time now. And despite efforts by the Bush administration to shrug it off as an incremental threat best dealt with through voluntary emissions controls and technological innovation, the issue has been making inroads in the collective imagination, spurred by new scientific reports pointing to rising temperatures around the world and melting ice fields in Greenland and Antarctica. A year ago, the National Academy of Sciences joined similar groups from other countries in calling for prompt action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A Time magazine cover story in April declared that "the climate is crashing and global warming is to blame," noting that a new Time/ABC News/Stanford University poll showed that 87 percent of respondents believe the government should encourage or require a lowering of power-plant emissions. That same month, a U.S. News & World Report article noted that dozens of evangelical leaders had called for federal legislation to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and that "a growing number of investors are pushing for change from the business community" as well. And even Hollywood movies like the kiddie cartoon "Ice Age: The Meltdown" and the much sillier disaster epic "The Day After Tomorrow" take climate change as a narrative premise.

Enter "or rather, re-enter" Al Gore, former vice president, former Democratic candidate for president and longtime champion of the environment, who helped to organize the first Congressional hearings on global warming several decades ago.

Fourteen years ago, during the 1992 campaign, the current president's father, George Herbert Walker Bush, dismissed Mr. Gore as "Ozone Man" -- if the Clinton-Gore ticket were elected, he suggested, "we'll be up to our neck in owls and out of work for every American" -- but with the emerging consensus on global warming today, Mr. Gore's passionate warnings about climate change seem increasingly prescient. He has revived the slide presentation about global warming that he first began giving in 1990 and taken that slide show on the road, and he has now turned that presentation into a book and a documentary film, both called "An Inconvenient Truth." The movie (which opens in New York and Los Angeles on Wednesday) shows a focused and accessible Gore "a funnier, more relaxed and sympathetic character" than he was as a candidate, said The Observer, the British newspaper " and has revived talk in some circles of another possible Gore run for the White House.

As for the book, its roots as a slide show are very much in evidence. It does not pretend to grapple with climate change with the sort of minute detail and analysis displayed by three books on the subject that came out earlier this spring ("The Winds of Change" by Eugene Linden, "The Weather Makers" by Tim Flannery and "Field Notes From a Catastrophe" by Elizabeth Kolbert), and yet as a user-friendly introduction to global warming and a succinct summary of many of the central arguments laid out in those other volumes, "An Inconvenient Truth" is lucid, harrowing and bluntly effective.

Like Mr. Gore's 1992 book "Earth in the Balance," this volume displays an earnest, teacherly tone, but it's largely free of the New Age psychobabble and A-student grandiosity that rumbled through that earlier book. The author's wonky fascination with policy minutiae has been tamed in these pages, and his love of charts and graphs has been put to good use. Whereas the charts in "Earth in the Balance" tended to make the reader's eyes glaze over, the ones here clearly illustrate the human-caused rise in carbon dioxide levels in recent years, the simultaneous rise in Northern Hemisphere temperatures and the correlation between the two. Mr. Gore points out that 20 of the 21 hottest years measured "have occurred within the last 25 years," adding that the hottest year yet was 2005" a year in which "more than 200 cities and towns" in the Western United States set all-time heat records.

As for the volume's copious photos, they too serve to underscore important points. We see Mount Kilimanjaro in the process of losing its famous snows over three and a half decades, and Glacier National Park its glaciers in a similar period of time. There are satellite images of an ice shelf in Antarctica (previously thought to be stable for another 100 years) breaking up within the astonishing period of 35 days, and photos that show a healthy, Kodachrome-bright coral reef, juxtaposed with photos of a dying coral reef that has been bleached by hotter ocean waters.

Pausing now and then to offer personal asides, Mr. Gore methodically lays out the probable consequences of rising temperatures: powerful and more destructive hurricanes fueled by warmer ocean waters (2005, the year of Katrina, was not just a record year for hurricanes but also saw unusual flooding in places like Europe and China); increased soil moisture evaporation, which means drier land, less productive agriculture and more fires; and melting ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland, which would lead to rising ocean levels, which in turn would endanger low-lying regions of the world from southern Florida to large portions of the Netherlands.

Mr. Gore does a cogent job of explaining how global warming can disrupt delicate ecological balances, resulting in the spread of pests (like the pine beetle, whose migration used to be slowed by colder winters), increases in the range of disease vectors (including mosquitoes, ticks and fleas), and the extinction of a growing number of species.

Already, he claims, a study shows that "polar bears have been drowning in significant numbers" as melting Arctic ice forces them to swim longer and longer distances, while other studies indicate that the population of Emperor penguins "has declined by an estimated 70 percent over the past 50 years."

The book contains some oversimplifications. While Mr. Gore observes that the United States is currently responsible for more greenhouse gas pollution than South America, Africa, the Middle East, Australia, Japan and Asia combined, he underplays the daunting increase in emissions that a rapidly growing China will produce in the next several decades. And in an effort to communicate the message that something can still be done about global warming, he resorts, in the book's closing pages, to some corny invocations of America's can-do, put-a-man-on-the-moon spirit.

For the most part, however, Mr. Gore's stripped-down narrative emphasizes facts over emotion, common sense over portentous predictions" an approach that proves considerably more persuasive than the more alarmist one assumed, say, by Tim Flannery in "The Weather Makers." Mr. Gore shows why environmental health and a healthy economy do not constitute mutually exclusive choices, and he enumerates practical steps that can be taken to reduce carbon emissions to a point below 1970's levels.

Mr. Gore, who once wrote an introduction to an edition of Rachel Carson's classic "Silent Spring" (the 1962 book that not only alerted readers to the dangers of pesticides, but is also credited with spurring the modern environmental movement), isn't a scientist like Carson and doesn't possess her literary gifts; he writes, rather, as a popularizer of other people's research and ideas. But in this multimedia day of shorter attention spans and high-profile authors, "An Inconvenient Truth" (the book and the movie) could play a similar role in galvanizing public opinion about a real and present danger. It could goad the public into reading more scholarly books on the subject, and it might even push awareness of global warming to a real tipping point-and beyond.” —MICHIKO KAKUTANI, New York Times

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