With the great success of An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore has attained saint-like status usually reserved for the likes of Gandhi. He has been crowned the ultimate eco-warrior of our time. Why then would I then say something as inflammatory as “I hate Al Gore?”
The answer: Al Gore is doing more damage to the environment than George W. Bush.
Al Gore comes to us from a long line of good people with good intentions who inadvertently do great harm. Do you remember the quaint tradition of “Earth Day?” It was an opportunity for well-intentioned people to drive their SUVs from the suburbs to the downtown core and celebrate their participation in municipal recycling programs. Al Gore is this kind of guy, and here’s why.
You may recall that before Kyoto there was the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio. Yet over the last 20 years, carbon emissions have not decreased globally. In fact they have, unsurprisingly, increased at roughly the same pace as that of global economic growth. The pace of carbon emissions will continue to quicken, regardless of proclamations, accords or agreements. The Chinese and the Indians and the Brazilians and everyone else want a share of the wealth we enjoy in the West. They, too, want to live in air-conditioned houses, drive luxury cars, and eat exotic foods. Who among us is willing to give up these luxuries? We in the capitalist West have always been too willing to sacrifice the environment for ever greater acquisition of wealth.
Global warming has happened, and is happening, almost entirely because of our emissions in the West. If we were to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to Kyoto standards, global warming would likely continue at a dangerous pace because of the excess carbon dioxide remaining in the atmosphere, continuing to trap the sun’s rays. The increased carbon emissions from growing economies such as China’s will only increase the rate at which global warming is already happening. And as the Artic tundra’s permafrost melts and releases its sequestered methane, the pace of global warming will increase again, far beyond what we humans could achieve with cars and trucks.
We are well-intentioned, but we never seem to get it right. It is far too late for meagre efforts like the Kyoto Protocol. It is time to accept that global warming is irreversible and start to come up with a plan to cope. Discussions about curbing global warming, as found in Gore’s documentary, misdirect the discourse to useless efforts that take precious time and resources away from determining what we must do to adapt to a hotter globe. If we follow his lead, this well-intentioned man will help cause the death of billions of people.
George Bush, who, unlike Al Gore, has a pathological lack of good intentions, is actually doing something effective about global warming: he is fortifying America with great big fences and open-concept prisons. Don’t be shocked at the suggestion that homeland security is about more than just terrorism. The proposed walls along the Mexican and Canadian borders and the increased scrutiny of travelers and cargo at airports and seaports is as much about controlling human movement as it is about keeping terrorists out.
Consider the effects of global warming on the world and people within it. Sea levels will rise, submersing costal cities around the world, and huge portions of the world’s population will be forced to migrate to cities that are not submersed. The rising sea levels will result in a marked decline in coastal fish stocks, leading untold millions of people to migrate to where food is available. Precipitation patterns will change, cutting off fresh water to large sections of our planet. And the frequency and intensity of extreme weather will increase, with much of the population being left ineligible for insurance.
Who will be most adversely affected by global warming-Bangladeshis or Americans? Where will global warming refugees seek refuge, Sri Lanka or the European Union? How many billion people are we willing to sacrifice to maintain our comfortable Western lifestyles? The discussion we need to engage in now is how Canada can accommodate a population of one billion. We must determine how we can address the challenge of global warming in spite of the dual banes of nationalism and racism that exist in our world.
Why, then, is the discourse limited to exhortations to use florescent light bulbs? Will our well-intentioned efforts to reverse global warming ease our conscience as billions die at our gates? Will we shrug our shoulders and say, “I tried. I did my part?”
Al Gore, please make a movie about how America intends to deal with global warming refugees, and how it should be dealing with them. This is a moral and an ethical issue that truly deserves our attention.