Inconvenient Truths (for Al Gore and the Rest of the Planet) ; the Truth Behind Gore's Extraordinary Documentary about the Perils of Global Warming Is That He Might Have Become President Had He Campaigned in Office. Geoffrey Lean Traces the Conversion of One Man, His Country and a Reluctant World

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Suddenly global warming has come in from the cold. A potent combination of starling natural events, growing public pressure, and pioneering political commitments has brought it storming up the agenda.

Even many of the previously sceptical are now convinced. For example, who would have thought the leader of the Conservative Party would become Britain's most potent champion of radical action to com- batclimate change, or that he would share platforms with the leader of Friends of the Earth?

And who would have imagined Arnold Schwarzenegger - famous as for his devotion to the Humvee, the greatest of the gas guzzlers - would defy his party, as Governor of California, to drive through the world's most ambitious programme for cutting the pollution that causes global warming?

And as we report (right), even the "Toxic Texan" himself- President George W Bush, who set out to kill the Kyoto Protocol and all international attempts to tackle the problem - is laying the ground for a U-turn.

These dramatic changes of heart are not happening among scientists. There has long been more unanimity in the scientific community about the reality of global warming than over any other environmental issue I have known' a recent survey of 928 scientific papers found not a single one that dissented.

Nor are they occurring in public opinion, which has becoming steadily more convinced, and alarmed - even in the United States. A recent CBS/New York Times poll shows that four in every five Americans (including three out of every five Republicans) believe it is a serious, or very serious, threat - and that three-quarters of Americans (and more than half of Republicans) insist that action must be taken to counter it "right away."

No, it has been the political and media establishments that have lagged behind, both here and in the United States. A survey of US media articles, in contrast with the one on scientific papers, found a majority cast doubt on the reality of global warming. Even here, climate change sceptics are two a penny in Islington, if almost impossible to find in the laboratory.

Though Tony Blair has made much of his praiseworthy achievement in putting the issue at the top of the agenda of last year's G8 summit, emissions of carbon dioxide have actually risen since Labour came to power. But now the born-again conversions are coming faster than at are vivalist rally.

Last week The Economist - bible of businessmen and right-of- centre politicians on both sides of the Atlantic - abandoned years of lordly scepticism to call on President Bush to lead the way in taking action.

And on Friday, Gerard Baker - a columnist on The Times much admired by Rupert Murdoch - confessing his own scepticism, concluded, "the only prudent course is to act now to reduce emissions..." The old man's youngest son, James, chief executive of BskyB, is already on board, pressing for change like an old green campaigner.

And talking of conversions, how about this? An alliance of US Envagelical Christians - God gave humanity dominion to exploit nature as it wished - is calling for action in climate change as "a moral and spiritual issue". The catalyst for much of this is an unlikely box-office success, with an even less likely star. An Inconvenient Truth, fronted by former Vice President Al Gore, which was released in Britain on Friday, has already become the third most seen documentary in US film history' it has even overtaken Truth or Dare (aka In Bed With Madonna).

So far, some 2.3 million Americans have gone to see a two-hour illustrated lecture by a man with a reputation as one of the most wooden politicians ever to run for public office.

Most have been blown away. Partly by Gore, who is warm, human, witty, at times moving, and who gives the best explanation of the issue I have seen. Partly by some spectacular photography and some stunning graphics. …