Blog #104 – An Incomplete but Useful Inconvenient Sequel
Al Gore’s continuation of his An Inconvenient Truth is an important contribution to the effort to combat global warming and pay attention to what is and what is not being done to the natural environment by largely unregulated economic development. It is a bit too long, a bit too much Al Gore, but on the whole a striking antidote to climate change denial.
But it has unfortunate weaknesses.
It stresses the human contribution to climate change, but leaves it simply at showing there is such a contribution, and lamenting it. Yet this is perhaps the strongest argument that the deniers raise: admitting there is climate change, but arguing that the human contribution is a minor factor in producing it. Yet at the end there is the admission that, even in the best realistically possible set of public policies, there will be climate change, it can be slowed down but not stopped. That cries out for some facts and figures on the proportional contribution possible from better public and private policies, and leaves open what can be done about the residue that is apparently admitted to be inevitable, regardless of human counter-measures. Even if exactitude is not within reach, at least some orders of magnitude, some reasonable estimates with their biases, would be very helpful.
Even more important, it is woefully inadequate on the political and economic forces that affect public action on that human input. The implicit if hidden analysis is that what is needed is greater understanding of cause and effect, more public education, evidence more convincingly presented of the evils of present policies, and then state actions, appropriate public policies, will follow as the day follows the night. It is, in this way strangely non-political, no doubt to avoid being accused of being “politically motivated.”
But there is a difference between partisan party politics and fundamental recognition of the political/public policy determinants of public decisions. Trump is barely mentioned at the very end, and then simply by showing his name and citing briefly his skepticism. There is little discussion of who benefits and who suffers from the reluctance to confront climate change: only passing reference to oil company profit and power, to the role of lobbying in making the relevant decisions, to the Koch brothers or Citizens United or official scare-mongering about government take-over of private personal choices. It’s not that Gore is ignorant of or unconcerned about all this; it’s that the overwhelming weight of his argument is on understanding, convincing, educating.
The implication is there, if not intended, but insidious: reason will prevail when it is clearly presented. And the clear presentation of reason is surely an important contribution to putting its results into effect. And even the mas protest that Gore properly sees as necessary for change need to be informed by reason in what they do, what they demand, what the protest, what they see as required for change. But, when all I said and done, there are major forces, both economic and political, that are threatened by climate control measures and that profit from activities resulting in climate -changing consequences, that oppose change for very concrete, profit-connected and power-connected reasons. They need to be called out more sharply.
Gore recognizes this, but touches on it only gingerly. We need to confront the realities of power in public decision-making, and the importance of ideologies in undergirding inequalities. If we have to wait till Al Gore convinces Donald Trump “to come to his senses,” we face a bleak future.
The Sequel is sub-titled “Truth to Power.” It needs a second Sequel: “The Truth OF Power.”
Al Gore on paths to climate change.
“…the pathway to solving the climate crisis is through the building of a massive grassroots army of men and women who will go out there and win the conversation on climate, and persuade businesses, and universities, and towns to switch to renewable energy and to reduce emissions. We’re gonna win this regardless.”
LEE COWAN: When you met with the president-elect at Trump Tower — and I know you don’t want to go into the specifics of the meeting — did you find him receptive, Mr. Trump, to your argument?
AL GORE: I found him attentive, and you can misinterpret that for being receptive. And I think he’s probably pretty good at that as a businessman. But yes, I did think that there was a real chance that he would come to his senses on this.