Scene4 Magazine — International Magazine of Arts and Media
Scene4 Magazine-inSight

november 2007

Scene4 Magazine: Al Gore - Taking heat

by Arthur Kanegis

About a week before Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize and globally -warmed fires swept over Southern California, I invited a friend to come with me to hear him talk about Global Warming.

"No thank you," she replied, "I think Al Gore is a big phony."

"Why's that?" I asked, a bit taken aback.

"Oh, he goes around preaching about the environment, but he lives in a 20-room mansion that wastes huge amounts of electricity and he flies around in a corporate jet that burns tons of fuel."

"How do you know that?"

"It's in all the blogs.  Just Google in "I hate Al Gore" and you'll read all about it."

Have you ever noticed that whenever they can't argue the facts, they attack the messenger?  I heard the same thing in a press conference with Leonardo DiCaprio – 'You fly in a corporate jet, why should we listen to you?'  Here DiCaprio brings together 54 top experts to warn about the perilous state of our planet and all they can talk about is how he flies?   If someone yelled 'your house is on fire' would you give a darn about their fire-safety record?  Or would you run investigate?  Gore is warning our planet's in peril.  Shouldn't we at least investigate the facts?

"Well, all I can say is I'd respect Al Gore a lot more if he walked his talk."

"Okay, let me tell you about walking his talk.  For the past year Gore has been paying extra to buy his power from Nashville Electric Service's Green Power Switch program which obtains its renewable energy from wind, solar, and methane gas. Last summer, before all this criticism came out, Gore did apply for a permit to install solar panels on his roof in Tennessee.  But the zoning department turned him down flat.  It took him until last April to get new zoning laws passed and now he does have solar panels.  He's pushing for more changes to allow geothermal heat.  And, he's been buying "carbon offset credits."

"What is all this carbon offset stuff?"

"You compensate for your usage by paying to plant trees or to build wind power generators, for example.  As long as those absorb as much carbon out of the air as you use, then your net carbon footprint on the Earth is zero."

"Sounds a little like the Church.  Say three Hail Marys and your sins will be forgiven," she replied. "I just don't like the guy."

So I went alone.  I had seen An Inconvenient Truth and found it a surprising riveting – an up close and personal look at Al Gore and his mission.  Now I was looking forward to experiencing it for myself – so I could say "yes" when I have grandchildren and they ask: "Grandpa, were you really there when he sounded the alarm that helped save our future?"

The gymnasium was packed with students and a variety of people from all walks of life – with standing room only.  Gore showed dramatic scenes of devastating environmental impact and explained the warnings of scientists in a simple, direct and compelling manner that left the audience shaken.

CO2 in the atmosphere traps in heat just the way a greenhouse does, he explained.    As we take coal and oil from the ground and burn it, we release huge amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere trapping in more and more heat. 

The levels of CO2 have cycled up and down for the past 650,000 years.  But these days they're shooting way off the top of the chart.  The ten hottest years ever recorded have all been in the last fourteen years.

If the statistics were scary, the video images were downright gut wrenching.  Huge ice chunks breaking off glaciers and crashing into the sea with spectacular fury.  Not just here and there – but everywhere around the world.

One picture showed an Antarctic ice shelf, nine times larger than Singapore, which had been stable for at least 1,800 years, now breaking apart in less than a month.  Scientists were shocked – they never predicted it could happen this fast.

The ice cap on the North Pole — which helps the planet cool itself — is melting nearly three times faster than the most pessimistic computer models predicted.

Gore said that if the major ice sheet of Greenland broke up, it could raise sea levels by almost 20 feet (6m), flooding coastal areas and forcing perhaps a hundred million people out of their homes worldwide.

As the Greenland ice melts, it would dilute salt water, which could then halt the Gulf Stream current and quickly trigger dramatic freezing temperatures in Northern Europe.

"This is not a political issue," Gore said.  "This is a moral issue, one that affects the survival of human civilization. It is not a question of left versus right; it is a question of right versus wrong. Put simply, it is wrong to destroy the habitability of our planet and ruin the prospects of every generation that follows ours."

He ended with a message of hope: "Where there is no vision, the people perish.  Where there is vision, the people prosper and flourish, and the natural world recovers.  We know what to do. We have all the technologies to respond to the challenge, and more are being developed. We have every thing we need -- save perhaps, political will. And in a democracy, political will is a renewable resource."

His talk ended and the diverse audience gave him a standing ovation.  I went up, shook his hand, and congratulated him for standing up for the survival of humanity.  I also showed him my World Passport and told him that the very act of declaring one's self a world citizen creates a new way of thinking that opens the door to new solutions to save our planet.  Gore was intrigued and said he'd read my brochure.

As we filed out, I spoke with people around me – a student who was revved-up to form an environmental action club, a senior citizen who said she'd show a DVD of An Inconvenient Truth to all her friends, and a dentist who was prompted to worry that his mercury-laden wastewater was carrying deadly toxins out to the sea and to the fish we eat.

The next time I saw my friend in La Mision, I said: "So, did you hear that Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize?"

"The idea!  Giving the prize for a marketing ploy for his movie and book!  I find that offensive," she replied.  "What does Global Warming have to do with peace anyway?.

"The Nobel Committee said that if rising seas force millions of environmental refugees to crowd in on areas where resources are already scarce, that could cause major conflicts.  Remember New Orleans?  When residents fleeing the flood waters were forced at gun point not to escape into Jefferson Parish?  Imagine hundreds of Katrinas hitting coastal cities around the world. What kind of crises would that cause?  We're already seeing genocide erupt from the environmental chaos in Darfur. Peace demands a healthy planet and a healthy planet is a prerequisite for peace."

"I don't know; you might have a point.  But I read that global warming was happening in the Jurassic era, long before the industrial revolution."

"Sure a meteor could hit the earth and throw so much dust in the environment that it would trap in the sun's heat and cause global warming.  But do we want to do to ourselves what that meteor did to the dinosaurs?"

"But are we doing it?  Many scientists don't even think it's caused by human activity."

"Not scientist whose work and methodologies have been reviewed by their fellow scientists.  The journal Science, according to Gore, reported that of the 928 peer-reviewed scientific articles on global climate change published between 1993 and 2003, not a single one disputed the scientific consensus that humans are contributing to global warming."

"That's not what I hear on TV or read in the papers."

"You've got a good point.  Gore mentioned a survey of 636 articles in the popular press.  53% presented it as a debatable issue.  Zero % of the peer-reviewed scientific articles but 53% of the popular press.  Why?"

"Maybe they don't like some non-scientist corrupting their precise technical language into popular slogans."

"I don't doubt some scientist feel that way.  But most of the "debate" is actually engineered by corporate lobbyists who set up front groups and hire scientists to create the illusion of a scientific controversy.  But in reality the debate is over.  It's a scientific fact that global warming is real and we're contributing to it.

"I can believe that about the corporate lobbyists.  I remember in high school the Camel jingle: "not a cough in the carload."  Years later I realized the scientists were right; cigarettes do cause cancer   I tried to quit, but by then it was too late; I'm addicted.  Lately I've got this cough that won't go away.  I wouldn't be surprised if I have lung cancer."

"I sure hope you don't.  My aunt got hooked on cigarettes when she was young and believed the lies.  Then she died of emphysema.  I remember every New Years Eve she'd flush her cigarettes down the toilet and make a resolution to quit.  Then New Years day she'd rush out desperately trying to find an open store or vending machine to buy more. She couldn't help herself.

"That's too bad. A lot of people died so they could make a lot of money."

"So think about it.  The threat we face today is far worse than lung cancer.  Al Gore showed pictures of Earth and Venus side by side.  About the same size -- yet Venus has an average temperature of 867 degrees Fahrenheit.  Do you know why?

"Because Venus is closer to the Sun?"

"Venus is three times hotter than Mercury which is right next to the sun. 

"Really?  So why's it so hot?"

"Because Venus is surrounded by so much CO2 that the sunlight enters and can't escape.  It's like a solar oven.  Venus and Earth have the same amount of CO2.  But we're lucky.  Ours is locked in the Earth and in the Ocean.  But if we were stupid enough to release it into the air, we'd all be cooked!"

"Wow.  That is pretty scary."

"You buy fire insurance even though you're not sure you'll ever have a fire.  Do we wait until we're sure our planet will be destroyed before we do something about it?"

"I have to admit, that would be pretty dumb. So what can we do about it?"

"Gore said that we humans have accomplished miraculous things in the past – we even reversed our use of fluorocarbons and helped heal the hole in the ozone.  We can do it again, all we need is the vision, the moral conviction and the political will to do it."

My friend paused for a moment, thinking. Finally she said.  "Well, I'm not sure why we need rich guys and movie stars to tell us to live green, but  I guess if Al Gore can get people's attention and put his message across for a better environment, then I'm all for it."

"Great!  So what are you willing to do to prevent global warming?"

"Actually, I already conserve. I was always a Frugal McDougal.  I was brought up to economize.  So I always turn off lights, grow tomatoes, save gas. But I do want to do something more.   I tell you what, if there's ever a big march on Washington to save the environment, I'll scrape together my money to buy a ticket and go protest."

"Good for you!  But you better not let the bloggers hear you say that! 

"Why not?"

"You might find yourself on their 'I hate' list," I said with a twinkle in my eye.  "According to Terrapass, taking a cross-country airline trip puts almost a ton of CO2 into the atmosphere. So you might find yourself accused of not walking your talk."

"Then I guess I better walk to Washington," she chuckled."

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About This Article


©2007 Arthur Kanegis
©2007 Publication Scene4 Magazine


Arthur Kanegis is a screenwriter, producer and president of One Films, LLC.
He can be reached at
For more of his commentary and articles, check the Archives


Scene4 Magazine-International Magazine of Arts and Media

november 2007

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