Al Gore: Impact of An Inconvenient Truth amazed me

An Interview with Al Gore

On the impact the first film had

I was frankly amazed by how many people saw the first movie and by the impact that people told me it had on them all over the world.

I can't go anywhere without people coming up to me and telling me very moving personal stories about the changes they made in their lives, their businesses, the organizations they are part of.

Some people just completely change the trajectory of their lives so it was a very happy surprise to me that, according to what people told me, it really did have an impact.

On how movies can communicate ideas to a large audience

I'm not sure I know all the answers to why movies have become such an important medium for informing people, moving people and bringing about change but they certainly have.

It may be that the complexity and clutter in the online news universe, fake news, all of that controversy, the incredible changes underway and the way people now receive their news kind of opens up a space for a 90-minute or 2-hour experience that is really well-crafted to communicate directly in depth to the viewer, just has more of an impact now than it did in the past.

Before the first movie came out a decade ago, I was really happy to be able to spread the word about the crisis and the solutions to it to hundred people at a time.

And if there were five hundred people; that was an amazing success, so I actually did not have a good sense for whatever reason of how many millions of people could be reached with a movie.

It was inspiring to me to be able to reach that many more people with a message I believe in with all my heart, a message that I think is by far the number one challenge that humanity is facing now.

To be able to get that word out much more effectively to so many more people was really gratifying.

On the changes that have to be made due to climate change

For a long time, the central fact about the climate crisis has been that the maximum that seems politically feasible was still less than what the laws of physics require and what the scientists tell us we've got to do - it's a big challenge.

So, we have made a lot of progress in the last decade but we are still falling short of the huge changes that have to be made.

Showing the evidence of why these changes are good for us in so many ways, in addition to solving the climate crisis - creating tens of millions of new jobs, reducing the conventional air pollution that make so many people sick, renewing communities and giving families a better quality of life - that is work that still needs to be done.

In spite of the fact that the first movie had a really positive impact, more is needed.

It seem to me that the ten year mark was a good time to say, "Okay, let's take stock. A lot of good changes but the crisis is still getting worst.

We are gaining on it but we've got to pass it and start putting the solutions in place more quickly."

On how social media is helping people react to climate change

There had been incredible changes in the way people connect with one another on social media.

On the good side, people are sharing information about the climate crisis, about how to solve it and make their lives better at the same time in ways that were never possible before.

Take for example the nation of India - air pollution has been a problem there for a long time, it's one of the worst places in the world for air pollution.

But since people have lived with it for so long, there has not been the kind of unrest that was, for example, in some cities in China.

But now with social media, people can measure the amount of air pollution on any given day, spread the word to others and all of a sudden people are saying, "Hey, we need to change this. And, by the way, electricity from solar panels is getting to be cheaper than electricity from burning coal. So, hey, let's get moving on this."

And now the government of India is really providing leadership in speeding up that transition away from the burning of coal and toward using of clean renewable low-cost solar electricity.

On the meaning of the title "Truth to Power"

The title "Truth to Power" has kind of a double meaning - one which we are all familiar with and then a deeper meaning that I really think is important.

The first meaning is what everybody has used or heard of, "speak truth to power", using the facts according to the best available evidence you can find to confront those who wield political power or running businesses that you patronize and just speak truth to power - that was a catch phrase in the civil rights movement, for example.

But the deeper meaning of the phrase really comes from Mahatma Gandhi, who transformed India and said many things that have become teachings for all of us - "be the change you wish to see in the world", for example.

But he used a word in Sanskrit - "satyagraha", it really translates as "truth force".

Gandhi explained that truth can be a force in and of itself - we are drawn to it, we have the ability to feel what's more likely to be true or not.

If we see that being ignored, disregarded or disrespected, then that's the basis for wielding political power based on what we know to be true.

On pollution in the atmosphere and the effect on the climate

For one thing, the truth is that the sky is not a limitless expanse that extends forever.

It's a very thin shell of atmosphere surrounding the planet.

We see that in the picture of the astronauts have brought back from going to the moon and from the space shuttle.

And the truth is, we should not be using that thin layer of atmosphere as an open sewer with more than a hundred million tons of manmade global warming pollution being spewed into it every single day.

Already, the truth is, the accumulated amount of that manmade global warming pollution captures as much extra heat energy in the earth's system every day than would be released if 400,000 Hiroshima-class atomic bombs exploded every 24 hours.

It's a big planet but that's a lot of heat energy. That's transforming the climate conditions and the ecological relationships that have given rise to the flourishing of human civilization.

It's disrupting the waters cycle and making these downpours record-breaking on a regular basis, causing flooding. It sucks the moisture out of the soil and makes the droughts deeper and longer.

It's melting the ice and rising sea level - particularly dangerous in low-lying coastal cities like Miami Beach and Mumbai... You can go around the world - New York and New Jersey, for example.

It's spreading tropical diseases into latitudes where people never seen these kind of diseases like Zika before.

These and other impacts represent truths as the scientists can best find the evidence, review it with their peers, double check it. We need to pay attention to that.

On the falling costs of solutions

The cost of the solutions like solar electricity, wind power and all kinds of efficiency improvements - those costs are coming down so rapidly now.

It's almost like the computer chip revolution that completely transformed our lives with little super computers in the form of a mobile phone, for example.

And the good news, the truth there, is that these stuff are getting so cheap, so quickly that we have everything we need to solve this crisis.

On the directors of the film

One of the lessons I learned in being a part of this production was that the talent of the directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk is just incredibly awesome in my view.

When I first saw the rough cuts of what they did, I actually had forgotten that they were there filming some of the scenes that they have in the movie.

That may be hard to believe but anybody who has ever had a kid, they turn their tape recorder on or had a video camera on - it's just human nature that you can't constantly be aware of it.

You forget it's there, so I found myself having really powerful emotional reactions to some of the scenes that they captured, that I didn't even realize they were capturing at the time.

There's a lot of humour, there are some sad things in it, there's a lot of feeling of joy when you look at how the solutions really are there.

Ultimately, I hope it also creates a feeling inside those who watch it - a determination to be a part of this solution.

It's going to take all of us.

On the misinformation campaign about climate change

There has been a really well-financed and determined misinformation campaign that's gone on for quite a while now - more than 25 years - where some of the largest carbon polluters with their ideological allies that don't want government to do anything and they've intentionally spread misinformation.

In my home state of Tennessee, there is an old saying that if you see a turtle on top of a fence post, you can be pretty sure it didn't get there by itself.

In our country, when we see these very high levels of climate denial and the repeating of obviously wrong information about it, we can be pretty sure that didn't happen by itself either.

There had been billions of dollars spent to plan that false information.

I'll tell you what it's like - it's exactly like what the big tobacco companies did half century ago, when the medical and scientific community first came out and said, "Hey, pay attention, we have found chilling evidence that the smoking of cigarettes causes lung cancer and other diseases of the heart and lungs. It's really dangerous and killing a lot of people."

So, the tobacco companies hired actors and dressed them up as doctors.

They put them in front of cameras to talk as if they were doctors, about how there were no health problems at all related to cigarettes.

They put so much more money into that than the scientists and doctors were able to communicate the health dangers that we went for 40 years without the appropriate response to get kids not to start smoking and to help people stop smoking cigarettes.

A hundred million people died around the world unnecessarily.

The large carbon polluters, not all but some of them have spent a lot of money doing the same thing to try to fool people into ignoring what the scientists have told us is the truth and what mother nature is now telling us is the truth.