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Inconvenient questions

Al Gore warms to his subject
By PETER KEOUGH  |  May 31, 2006


DRIVER: the Cadillac was leased, but Tipper’s keeping the Mustang.

Even those who hate him will admit that Al Gore is a man with the facts at his fingertips, so I was surprised when he fumbled my first question. His film An Inconvenient Truth poses many apocalyptic images, one of them being an aerial view of what a waterlogged Manhattan would look like if the polar ice caps kept melting. What would things look like from here on the third floor of the Charles Hotel under the same circumstances?

“You know, I haven’t done the analysis,” he admitted. “I have a company that I consult with. Let me rephrase that. There is a sophisticated satellite photography company that does global images, that I regularly work with and asked to give me projections based on six to seven meter sea level increases city by city. When I go around the world giving this slide show I will frequently get a new update city by city. I haven’t done this for Boston. Probably this area would not be anywhere close to . . . I just don’t know.”

What he does know is that he’s about 200 yards away from where his mission to save the world from global warming started. As a Harvard student in the late ’60s he took a with climatologist Roger Revelle, who first sounded the alarm on the effect of fossil fuels on the atmosphere and environment. “The movie, the story that I have tried to tell for 30 years, really began here 41 years ago,” Gore said.

I pointed out to him that a National Review pan of his 1992 book Earth in the Balance stated that before he died Revelle wrote an article debunking global warming. It’s a charge recently repeated by Dr. Robert C. Balling Jr, professor of climatology at Arizona State University, in an article on the “TCS Daily” website.

“You should talk to [Revelle’s] family about it,” Gore says, gravely. “He has two grown daughters, who I think both live in the Boston area. I saw them not long ago. They wrote a letter triggered by a similar statement, where the family said that they felt concerned that while Professor Revelle was dying one of the so-called skeptics went to see him and he, the skeptic, really wrote the article, and asked him to sign it. And the family felt that the circumstances were ones in which it was not a proper thing for the man to have done that. I wasn’t there. But the family has quite strong feelings about that.”

No doubt Gore expects such attacks to continue. But he’s optimistic. The number of skeptics, he says, “are diminishing almost as rapidly as the mountain glaciers.” He adds, “The political system is like the environment in that it’s non-linear. The potential for change can build up without much evidence on the surface. Until it reaches a point when suddenly there’s a burst of change. There’s been many times in our history where things seem to be impervious to change and then all of a sudden the country shifts into high gear and makes big changes. I think we’re actually close to that on global warming. Now I have felt that before, and I’ve been wrong. But I do feel this time is different.”

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  Topics: Features , Science and Technology, Harvard University, Al Gore,  More more >
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