Consider the following scenario: Al Gore, president. No, the Supreme Court said that wasn't right; try again. Al Gore, filmmaker. Al Gore a filmmaker? Yes! Gore's remarkable "An Inconvenient Truth" is the cinematic counterpart to his years of research and numerous speeches about dangers of global warming.
In just 80 minutes, the shocking film shows Arctic icecaps melting and Greenland sliding into the sea. The earth's atmosphere is poisoned by greenhouse gases. Photos from space illustrate how dramatically the icecaps change form. The oceans' rise is depicted by computer animation. Major cities such as Calcultta and Shanghai are engulfed by water. The water is projected to cover the state of Florida and even part of New York.
Gore's powerful arguments make compelling viewing. Not only does the film show that polar bears are drowning, unable to reach receding ice floes, it sounds a dire warning: Hurricane Katrina was just the beginning of a long line of (un)natural disasters headed our way. Katrina's victims included hundreds of thousands of people. If Calcutta flooded, millions of evacuees would be forced to seek shelter on higher ground. The film presents the stark reality that if we do not act to stop environmental damage, the future for our children and our children's children will be bleak indeed.
One cannot watch this provocative film without being reminded how George Bush has circumvented almost every environmental protection measure in favour of "protecting jobs." He has tried to derail the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement setting goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions thought linked to global warming. While the protocol was agreed in 1997 on principles established in 1992, Bush pulled the United States out of the treaty in 2001. The US is responsible for about 25 percent of the world's emissions, but Bush said implementing the Kyoto Protocol would damage the American economy. To date, US carbon dioxide emissions have increased more than 15 percent above 1990 levels.
Bush insists the Kyoto Protocol is "fatally flawed," as it does not require developing countries to reduce emissions. Despite their fast-growing economies, China and India still are considered developing countries. Both countries, with their huge populations, produce copious amounts of environmental pollutants.
Determinedly anti-science, Bush recently has relented to public pressure and talked in vague terms about new technologies working towards solutions for global warming. At the same time, his administration has backed numerous attempts -----which failed----- to secure permission to drill for oil in Alaskan nature preserves and in California national parks.
California’s beautiful natural coastline has been threatened further by provisions in the 2005 Energy Bill. The Republican-sponsored measures would allow preliminary steps to be taken for new oil drilling in the region. California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein and Congresswoman Lois Capps have introduced The California Ocean and Coastal Protection Act. The bill would protect California's coast from future drilling, as well as from efforts to assess and inventory oil and gas resources off the coastline.
Meanwhile, a report published this week by the United Kingdom government affirms Gore's view that the Greenland ice sheet will melt, causing rising sea levels of 23 feet over 1,000 years. High concentrations of greenhouse gases may have more serious impacts than previously believed, according to the report, Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change. Chances are slim for greenhouse gas emissions being cut below "dangerous" levels, the report warns.
The report includes evidence from scientists participating in a conference in February 2005 hosted by the UK Meteorological Office.
Under terms of the Kyoto Protocol, industrialised countries have agreed to cut their combined emissions to five percent below 1990 levels by 2008 - 2012. Each country signing the treaty agreed to a specific target. Fifteen European Union countries including France, Germany and the United Kingdom are expected to cut their present emissions by eight percent; Japan by five percent. France, the UK and Sweden have already met their collective target. Alas, Ireland, Portugal and Spain have failed to make any progress in reducing emissions.
United Nations statistics indicate that from 1990 to 2000 industrialised countries lowered overall emissions by about three percent. This resulted primarily when declining emissions of former Soviet countries veiled an eight per cent rise among wealthy nations. Industrialised countries are falling short of their mission for 2010, with emissions ten percent above 1990 levels expected, the UN suggests.
Targets set in the Kyoto Protocol barely begin to address global warming consequences, scientists say. Whilte the treaty aims to reduce gases from industrialised nations by five percent; emission cuts of sixty percent are needed to stem effects of global warming.
The Kyoto agreement lowers emissions from industrialised nations by around five percent. But across-the-board emissions cuts of 60 percent are needed to avoid global warming's worst effects, seems to be the consensus among many climate scientists.
In a speech to the United Nations today, British Chancellor Gordon Brown is expected to urge a global response to climate change issues. Protecting the environment can boost economic growth, rather than hinder it, Brown is expected to tell UN delegates. Will George Bush be listening?