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ACT 1: Conservation

Act 1


ACT 2: Pollution

Act 2


ACT 3: Radical Ecology

Act 3


ACT 4: Going Global

Act 4


ACT 5: Climate Change

Act 5


Act 5: Climate Change

Act 5 relates the story of climate change and the search for sustainable balance between humanity and nature.



Global warming emerges as an environmental issue only about twenty years ago. Before that it is the province of scientists, who see that increasing concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide will trap more heat, like a greenhouse. In 1987, Al Gore holds the first hearings in Congress. James Hansen, who has devised the preeminent climate change model, testifies, “The greenhouse effect has been detected and it is changing our climate now.” In 1988 the IPCC is formed: 2,500 scientists from around the world. Their first report predicts rises of 3º by 2000 and 8º by 2100. Scenarios start to circulate about ice caps melting and oceans rising, violent storms and droughts, threats to agriculture and wildlife, disease and social dislocation - a roll of the dice like no other. The environmental movement is waking up to the biggest problem it has ever faced.  Yet there is nothing much it can do, except for vague calls to “do something!” In the meanwhile, critics deny the science and politicians say it needs more study. Al Gore is elected Vice-President; and with him come hopes of dealing with global warming. but nothing happens. Higher fuel standards get run over by an SUV. Negotiations for the Kyoto Protocol, which set mandatory targets for reducing greenhouses gases, are on the brink of collapse. Al Gore is dispatched to broker a last-minute compromise.  However, Kyoto is pronounced dead on arrival in the U.S. Senate. Blame it on the Republicans, or a broader failure of public will. By 1997 it’s apparent that global warming is so huge and so fundamental an issue that it has become impossible to deal with. It looks like environmental suicide is coming.

More and more, dealing with climate change has become about the way we live: the car we drive; how our houses are built; reducing our carbon footprint.  Green tech and design are blossoming. Getting off the carbon kick is key, so renewable energy becomes a major focus. The environmental movement has become the stop-climate-change movement. Yet it is clearly not enough. We need national and international action. We need cap-and-trade regimes for carbon emissions. And here’s where Al Gore hooks back in. It takes winning the election of 2000 and then losing the presidency to free Al Gore to fulfill his calling as the clarion of global warming. He begins to give his slide show; and it grows into An Inconvenient Truth. Whether it is the film, or a thousand other calls to action, or the sheer inevitability and importance of the issue that forces it back onto the agenda... at last the tide is finally starting to turn. Events like Hurricane Katrina and unprecedented melting in the Arctic bring home the impact of global warming. This is the beginning of the collapse – and the beginning of saving ourselves.


Interviewees ACT 5

Bill McKibben

Author whose End of Nature was the first call to halt climate change.

More in this category: « Act 4: Going Global


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