Quantcast

Al Gore's Groundbreaking Film ... 10 Years Later

Climate

If you saw An Inconvenient Truth featuring former Vice President Al Gore back in 2006, chances are you left the theater a little stunned and asking a whole lot of questions. Questions like, “What can we do?" “What can I do?"


If so, you weren't the only one. Fortunately.

This month marks the 10th anniversary of the groundbreaking film that prompted millions to start asking questions about climate change and doing something about it, helping shape the modern climate movement we know today. And in the decade since, a lot has changed as a result.

Climate science has made major advances, helping us better understand the challenge we face. Renewable energy, such as solar and wind, is cheaper than fossil fuel-based electricity in many parts of the world. Electric cars are even becoming mainstream (well, for some).

But as much progress as we've seen over the past decade, there's still a lot of work to do to build the sustainable future our planet needs. Let's take a look at what's changed—for better or for worse—in the fight against climate change over the past 10 years.

Solar Power is Booming

One of the biggest success stories in climate solutions is the growth of solar power. In 2015, the U.S. installed 7,260 megawatts direct current (MWdc) of photovoltaic solar which was the largest annual total in history and a giant leap from the 105 MWdc installed in 2006. That's more than a 6,800 percent increase.

It gets better. Solar reached a new record in early 2016 when the one-millionth solar installation came online in the U.S. And according to a report by GTM Research, the U.S. solar market is projected to to grow 119 percent in 2016 alone—adding more than double the amount of capacity installed last year. We could go on (and on) about the rapid growth and benefits of solar energy, but you get the idea: solar is here to stay.

Carbon Emissions are Rising

Carbon emissions account for between 65-76 percent of the greenhouse gases from human activity, causing the Earth's temperature to rise at its fastest rate in millions of years. While natural variance in the Earth's carbon cycle leads to some fluctuations in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, overall, we can see a clear connection between fossil fuels and these levels, which have increased about 40 percent since pre-industrial times. But what's scary is that in the last 10 years alone, CO2 levels have increased 5.5 percent, jumping from 382 parts-per-million (PPM) in July 2006 to 404 PPM in April 2016. Which means more heat trapped in our atmosphere.

Electric Cars have Taken the World by Storm

You might have started spotting electric cars on the road more and more in recent years as both major manufacturers like Chevrolet and Nissan and boutique firms like Tesla Motors have seen their real market potential. But while electric cars have gained exceptional notoriety in the past decade, they're actually a novelty of the past.

British engineer, Thomas Parker, invented the first electric car in 1884, which used rechargeable batteries. Gasoline-powered cars hadn't gained much traction yet, but by the 1930s, engine improvements and the invention of the electric starter made gasoline-fueled cars a better, cheaper option. You know what happens after that.

Fast forward to 2003 when Tesla Motors launched, a company that set out to prove electric cars could be a more efficient and environmentally-friendly option than gasoline-powered cars. Tesla's first electric car, the Tesla Roadster, launched to the public in 2008 and dramatically shifted how consumers views these vehicles. Since then, more and more manufacturers from BMW to Kia to Mercedes Benz have launched their own electric vehicles, taking the technology mainstream and reaching 1 million sales globally in September 2015.

Global Surface Temperatures Are Increasing

It's no secret that 14 of the 15 hottest years ever recorded have occurred since 2001. Last year was the hottest year on record and 2016 is on pace to be even warmer.

These record-breaking temperatures become crystal clear when they're displayed visually. The chart below shows how global surface temperatures have varied from the long-term averages since 1880. Look at the trend beginning around 1950 and you'll see temperature changes steadily increasing throughout the second half of the twentieth century. And within the past decade alone, global temperatures have deviated from the long-term average by 0.63 degrees Celsius (33.14 degrees Fahrenheit) in 2006 to 0.87 degrees Celsius (33.57 degrees Fahrenheit) in 2015. All of this to say our planet is warming like never before in recent history—and it's only getting hotter.

Sea Levels Are Rising

Sea levels have been rising for the past century—and the pace has only increased in the past decade as glaciers melt faster and water temperatures increase, causing oceans to expand. The chart below shows sea-level changes from 1993–2006 where, from June 2006 to January 2016, sea levels increased about 41.24 millimeters (1.62 inches).

You can imagine how this change would affect the half of the global population that lives in towns and cities within 60 kilometers (37 miles) of the coast, including eight of the world's 10 largest cities. These rising sea levels puts millions of people at risk worldwide as storms intensify and more extreme flooding occurs.

World Leaders Signed the Paris Agreement

In 2006, concerted international action on climate change was still just sputtering along. The Kyoto Protocol—the first serious attempt at setting international targets for reducing emissions—had gone into effect the year before, but the U.S. never ratified the agreement and splits between developed and developing nations meant it never worked quite as well as had been hoped. But what these failings did was kickstart a search for a better model of international cooperation on climate action. It wasn't smooth sailing all the way, as the heartbreak of Copenhagen showed in 2009, when negotiators simply walked out and talks on a new climate treaty dissolved. But in the years that followed, countries kept talking and kept working on a new kind of framework that could bring nations at every stage of development together to solve our common challenge, leading to the landmark Paris Agreement last December.

It wasn't easy getting there, but the Paris agreement represents a real turning point. Formally signed this Earth Day, the deal is the first of its kind to set global targets for reducing carbon emissions and includes commitments from major carbon emitters like the U.S., China and India.

Our Future is Bright

Yes, we have a lot of work ahead to stop climate change. But in the past 10 years, the world has made incredible progress in areas like advancing climate science, rapidly growing renewable energy technologies and international cooperation. And while we're not going to claim An Inconvenient Truth was solely responsible for all these developments, what the film did was bring the challenge of climate change out into the open and into mainstream culture like never before. The result was people in every time zone started asking themselves what they could do—and got working on the answers.

Thanks to their answers and all the breakthroughs above, today we know we can solve it, if we stay committed to this path—and if our world leaders follow through with their commitments to reducing emissions in the Paris agreement. And that's a truth worth sharing.

Ready to take action for the future of our planet? Sign up with Climate Reality and recommit to climate action on the 10th anniversary of An Inconvenient Truth.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Ocean Heroes Bootcamp

By Coda Christopherson (11) and Lea Eiders (15)

Growing up in a plastic-free home, I was sheltered from the plastic waste crisis. I (Coda) went to a very progressive school that had vegan lunch items, farm animals and ran on solar power. My mom produces zero-waste events and my dad is a sailor, so we're very passionate about the ocean. When I was nine years old, we moved back to Manhattan Beach, California and I started 3rd grade in a public school. This was the first time I really understood that plastic-free living is not the norm; single-use plastics were everywhere, especially in the cafeteria. Once I recognized this problem, I knew I had to make a difference.

Read More Show Less

A major California avocado producer issued a voluntary recall of the popular fruit over concerns they could be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, USA Today reported.

Henry Avocado issued the recall Saturday after a routine government inspection at its California packing facility turned up positive test results for the bacteria on "environmental samples," the company said in a statement. No illnesses have been reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Acting Secretary David Bernhardt visited Watson Hopper Inc., a manufacturer of rigs and oil drilling equipment in Hobbs, New Mexico on Feb. 6, 2019. Tami A. Heilemann / DOI

Oil executives gathered for a conference laughed about their "unprecedented" access to Trump administration officials, according to a recording obtained by Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting.

In the recording, taken at a June 2017 meeting of the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) at a Ritz-Carlton in Southern California, members expressed excitement about one official in particular: David Bernhardt, who had been nominated that April to be deputy secretary at the Department of Interior (DOI). Bernhardt would be confirmed the following month.

"We know him very well, and we have direct access to him, have conversations with him about issues ranging from federal land access to endangered species, to a lot of issues," IPAA political director Dan Naatz said in the recording.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

By Rachael Link, MS, RD

Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) is a type of palm native to the southeastern U.S.

Read More Show Less
Jeff K / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

By Elizabeth Henderson

The certified organic label has helped save many generational farms and enabled people like me, who do not come from agricultural backgrounds, to become successful farmers. Organic farming has brought environmental benefits—healthier soils, freedom from toxic pesticides and herbicides—to 6.5 million acres in the U.S.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
PhotoAlto / Laurence Mouton / Getty Images

By Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD

You've probably heard the buzz around collagen supplements and your skin by now. But is the hype really that promising? After all, research has pointed to both the benefits and downsides of collagen supplements — and for many beauty-conscious folk, collagen isn't vegan.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

By Marlene Cimons

Neil Pederson's introduction to tree rings came from a "sweet and kindly" college instructor, who nevertheless was "one of the most boring professors I'd ever experienced," Pederson said. "I swore tree rings off then and there." But they kept coming back to haunt him.

Read More Show Less
Aerial view of the explosion site of a chemical factory on March 22 in Yancheng, Jiangsu Province of China. Caixin Media / VCG / Getty Images)

At least 47 people have died in an explosion at a plant in Yancheng, China Thursday run by a chemical company with a history of environmental violations, Sky News reported.

Read More Show Less