Find the will to face up to an Inconvenient Truth

By Graham Brazier

Climate change is no longer a science story.

At the recent Academy Awards Hollywood stars publicly embraced environmentally-friendly limousines and plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars to alert their fans to alternatives for the fossil fuels that produce greenhouse gases.

It was a sign that something has shifted. Or as Al Gore said: “The Zeitgeist has begun to change. I think it reflects the increased popular will to confront and solve this crisis. It’s an extraordinary experience to see this issue – which the conventional wisdom used to say was politically marginal – become central for so many people. As it should.”

While Gore traveled around Europe and North America with his slide show on global warming under his arm – the one he’s presented more than 1,000 times – U.K. economist Sir Nicholas Stern worked on his own gloomy task, a report on climate change for the British government. Stern’s conclusions, released in October of 2006, were, from an economist’s point of view, dire indeed. The Guardian described them as ‘an apocalyptic picture’.

Gore’s message ‘that action couldn’t wait’ was confirmed and underscored by Stern. Nevertheless, his recommendations were directed at governments while Gore delivered his pitch to anyone who would listen, mostly it was to corporations and individuals. The result was the Academy Award Winning film An Inconvenient Truth which carried Gore’s point ever deeper into popular culture where, flawed or not, its message found wide-spread acceptance amongst large segments of a previously disinterested public.

In the film, Gore prompts the question: “What can I do about climate change?” and then provides twenty suggestions. Not surprisingly, six of them relate to reduction of the use and impact of the automobile.

Countless local governments contemplating transportation plans involving restrictions on private automobiles must have been thrilled to see their objectives reinforced in such a high profile film.

In a post-inconvenient-truth world, it’s hard to imagine transportation schemes that call for expanded facilities for private automobile use, including highway construction, will proceed unchallenged by a newly invigorated public.

Which brings me to Denman Island where, at a time when progressive communities around the globe seek to shrink automobile dependence and make a contribution to limiting greenhouse gas emissions, a proposal currently before this community to develop the North Denman Lands suggests that we expand our road network and provide accommodation for more automobiles. Rather than being part of the solution, we are asked how big our contribution to the problem should be. Should we provide sanctuary for 50 or 65 more cars?

I’ll give Al Gore the last word: “We need to solve the climate change crisis. It’s not a political issue, it’s a moral issue. We have everything we need to get started, with the possible exception of the will to act. That’s a renewable resource. Let’s renew it.”