An Inconvenient Truth Summary

Al Gore

An Inconvenient Truth

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An Inconvenient Truth Summary

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An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore complements the documentary of the same title by providing biographical anecdotes interspersed with information about global climate change. In the introduction, Gore lays the groundwork for the presentation that is the basis for the film, by summarizing his own involvement with environmental issues and describing how he came to create An Inconvenient Truth. He also sets out his goals, which include trying to improve the health of the environment; he hopes that in pursuit of this common goal, people can set aside their differences and come together.

Gore begins with an explanation of the effects of greenhouse emissions on the temperature of the planet, which takes place over about twenty-five pages. Then, Gore writes about Roger Revelle, a professor at Harvard with whom Gore studied. The next topic Gore discusses is the danger of receding glaciers, and global locations where this is occurring, including Mount Kilimanjaro and Glacier National Park.

Al Gore turns to personal stories as he relates how his son’s accident changed his focus. When he was only six years old, Gore’s son was hit by a car. This experience led Gore to shift his political priorities to issues of public service. Throughout the book, Gore moves from the scientific to the personal, and back, as evinced by the next section. For about fifty pages, Gore talks about how rising temperatures affect weather patterns on the planet. He discusses heatwaves and how they’re connected to increased ocean temperatures, which then influence the frequency and severity of hurricanes. Specifically, he writes about the consequences of Hurricane Katrina, focusing on the loss of human life and livelihood, as well as losses to the national economy. He moves on to point out that increased temperatures also lead to more flooding, and surprisingly, to droughts. The latter is caused by what Gore refers to as relocated precipitation.

Returning to personal anecdote, Gore discusses the dichotomy between city and farm life, and how his father instilled in him the importance of being the land’s caretaker. Then Gore focuses on the melting ice caps in the polar regions of the planet. Here, he covers both the receding and breaking ice shelves and the dangers of permafrost thaw. He includes anecdotes from his travels around the globe in an attempt to describe the effects of global climate change he has witnessed.

Gore goes on to talk about how the polar bear population is negatively affected by the melting ice caps, as well as how that melting influences global weather patterns. He continues to discuss how these changes negatively impact whole ecosystems, allowing invasive species to take over. Through stories of his own camping trips in forests and national parks across the country, he proposes that the reason humans treat nature as trivial is because we’ve lost touch with it. We’re not in nature enough, so we’ve stopped granting it priority.

Gore discusses other threats to species across the globe. He reviews everything from the direct threat of global warming (which affects the polar bear population), to how shifts in oceanic chemistry affect marine life, and the risk to humans, animals, and plants that new diseases can pose as they emerge in the shifting environment. Gore writes about how the rising sea levels resulting from polar ice melts affects species like the Emperor penguin.

Next, Gore talks not only about his own public service, but also his father’s. Specifically, he highlights how such service provides an individual with what he refers to as “the spirit of freedom,” which he believes is a defining feature of democracy in America. From there, he moves on to discuss what he considers to be the three factors that have influenced humanity’s relationship with the environment: increased population, the scientific/technological revolution, and an inability to understand the climate crisis. Gore points out that because climate change is often gradual, people don’t tend to notice it—but it’s his hope that this book and the accompanying documentary will wake people up to the dangers of global warming.

He relates the story of his sister’s battle with lung cancer, pointing out that people smoke because they don’t understand the link between smoking and deadly cancer—because the cancer can grow slowly over time. After this story, Gore returns to the problem of people’s refusal to accept the reality of climate change. He identifies disinformation as a prime culprit, as well as fear that positive environmental change will negatively impact the economy. He also states that humanity feels the climate crisis is simply too big a problem to fix. Another problem that Gore identifies is that many of those in power—individuals and companies that make a profit due to current environmental regulations and practices—refuse to acknowledge and address the impact of climate change because it would threaten their monetary wealth.

Finally, Gore calls on Americans to step up and remember that the nation is capable of accomplishing great things, even if those accomplishments are hard-won. He provides solutions for individuals who want to make a positive impact on the environment, such as using green power and conserving wherever possible—or taking part in politics to make an impact at the regulatory level.