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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Truth to power

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Eleven years ago, former United States Vice President Al Gore released An Inconvenient Truth, a film that warned the world about climate change and what the unabated emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere can do to humankind.

The documentary won an Academy Award and earned for Gore the Nobel Peace Prize. For the first time, climate change became a truly global issue. It painted the dire scenarios we all face and the helplessness of poor countries in adapting to extreme weather conditions. Despite the grim prospects, however, Gore brought a message of hope—that it was not too late and that the world can still do something to arrest the runaway warming of the planet.

This year, Gore releases An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. It premiered Monday and began showing in select cinemas Wednesday, Aug. 30.

While there have been significant gains in the past decades—greater awareness among more people, more initiatives toward renewable energy, the Paris Agreement where countries pledged to curb their greenhouse gas emissions to cap the warming—there remain challenges to the climate movement.

Foremost among the challenges is the decision of US President Donald Trump to pull out of the Paris Accord, which 195 countries signed in December 2015. Mr. Trump says the Agreement punishes the US; it is no more than a sinister plot concocted by other countries to prevent the US from reaching its full economic potential.

Sweeping words, but hardly surprising from such a character. After all, Mr. Trump never acknowledged that the climate crisis was an important issue. In fact he is on record as saying he did not understand all the attention people seemed to be giving to climate change.

The film includes images from Typhoon “Yolanda,” which bore down on central Philippines in November 2013. “Yolanda,” internationally known as Haiyan, is the strongest typhoon on record to make landfall. It also proves how warmer seas can breed stronger, more frequent and hence more destructive weather patterns. There are numerous other examples from other places in the world, showing the toll that such disasters take on lives, livelihoods and economies.

Here at home, it took a while before the President instructed the Senate to ratify the Paris Agreement. He was initially adamant that an “insignificant” emitter like the Philippines would be expected to cut back on coal power even as others have benefited from it for centuries. There is also a very real dilemma between addressing the energy crisis and shifting to renewable energy, which remains unfamiliar and pricey even as costs are said to be going down.

This year, however, our Senate did ratify the Agreement. The challenge now is in ensuring that decisions at the local level will be informed and guided by it.

An Inconvenient Sequel carries a grim and uncertain message. Still, despite Trump, denial, faux nationalism, short-term gains and short-sightedness, it does not end in desperation or resignation to a shared tragic fate. People just have to recognize that there are issues more profound than what they can see or contemplate, bigger than their egos and longer than their life spans.


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