Al Gore, a longtime advocate for the environment and former vice president of the United States, developed a slide show about the threat posed by global warming. Over the last six years, he has presented the show more than 1,000 times around the world. In hopes of reaching a wider audience, Gore joined filmmakers and turned the lecture into a documentary film. The movie, called "An Inconvenient Truth” opens June 2 in movie theaters around America.
"If you look at the 10 hottest years ever measured," says Mr. Gore, "they've all have occurred in the last 14 years. And the hottest of all was 2005. I am Al Gore. I used to be the next president of the United States of America…."
In the documentary called An Inconvenient Truth, the former vice president takes center stage and he comes right to his point: he believes the environment is in grave danger.
"This is Patagonia 75 years ago and the same glacier today.
This is Mt. Kilimanjaro 30 years ago and last year. Within the decade there will be no more snows of Kilimanjaro. The scientific consensus is that we are causing global warming."
And many scientists say this means not just higher temperatures, but stronger storms, deadlier floods, and higher sea levels.
"This is what would happen in Florida. [This is what would happen] around Shanghai, home to 40 million people …the area around Calcutta - 60 million," he illustrates. "Here's Manhattan. The World Trade Center Memorial would be under water. Think of the impact of a couple hundred thousand refugees and then imagine 100 million."
Al Gore knows his stuff. Using computer simulations, graphics, charts, facts and predictions, he and filmmaker Davis Guggenheim tell what some would consider a most inconvenient truth.
"It's like where we were with civil rights," he said. "You know, a lot of decent people didn't pay attention to the fact that this was a country that was segregated and had unfair laws and suddenly the point of consciousness shifted and people said, 'Wow, we have to deal with it and we have to get involved."
The movie makes a case for reducing heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions that have been linked to severe storms, melting ice caps, rising sea levels and the spread of infectious disease.
"We have quadrupled the population of the planet in less than a century, " says Mr. Gore. "Our technologies are a thousand times more powerful. And, now all of a sudden, we are capable of doing damage to our only home, that we never could do in the past, and we have to quickly grasp the danger that this creates."
But not everyone buys that message. Fred Smith heads the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a policy forum that opposes mandatory curbs on CO2 emissions, and favors a free market approach to environmental issues. Smith says Gore's views -- and the movie that represents them -- are alarmist.
"It's a sales attempt," he says. "It is not an attempt to be an objective science, [explaining] on the one hand [this] and on the other hand [that]. [Gore is saying] that everything is going to hell in a handbasket. Listen to me or else the world you live in will cease to exist. Is it effective? I know this issue very well, to me it wasn't effective. Is it a fear-mongering lecture? It is."
So, in response, the Competitive Enterprise Institute broadcast a TV advertisement, timed to coincide with the release of An Inconvenient Truth.
"You've seen those headlines about global warming: 'The glaciers are melting. We're doomed.' That's what several studies supposedly found. But other scientific studies found exactly the opposite: Greenland's glaciers are growing, not melting. The Antarctic ice sheet is getting thicker, not thinner. Did you see any big headlines about that? Why are they trying to scare us?"
But Gore says his campaign, and the film, are not about fear-mongering, or political agendas. “This is the most crucial challenge that any of us have ever faced, and it's happening in our lifetimes," he says.
Getting that message out is why Davis Guggenheim signed on to direct the film, which he hopes will become a catalyst for change. In An Inconvenient Truth, he says, Al Gore is not asking for a vote for political office, he is asking for a vote for the planet.