The Gore Factor: Reviewing the Impact of an Inconvenient Truth

By Smith, Mike; Hargoves, Charlie | Ecos, December 2006 | Go to article overview
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The Gore Factor: Reviewing the Impact of an Inconvenient Truth


Smith, Mike, Hargoves, Charlie, Ecos


An Inconvenient Truth, featuring former US Vice President Al Gore's presentation on climate change, was released in cinemas across Australia on 14 September 2006. By 3 October, a Lowy Institute poll found that the issue of global warming had become a major concern for most Australians, who saw it as a bigger priority for the country than terrorism. The poll found that an overwhelming majority of Australians wanted action on climate change, even if it harmed the economy.

Alongside Al Gore's film, however, a number of other factors appear to have shifted community, business and political attitudes to the serious risks of human-induced climate change. These include the worsening drought, crop failures and the early start to the 2006-2007 bushfire season.

The United Kingdom's Stern Review, (1) which outlined the overwhelming economic case for early action on climate change, also had a profound impact, particularly on the Australian business community.

While these influences help explain the noticeable shift in attitude to climate change in Australia, it is hard to imagine it happening so rapidly without the impact of the film An Inconvenient Truth, Gore's book of the same title, and his tours and television appearances in Australia.

The movie is already now the fourth highest earning documentary in Australia's history, earning $3.9 million at box offices so far.

In addition, a significant Australian audience also watched Al Gore's widely publicised appearances on the ABC's 7:30 Report and Andrew Denton's Enough Rope, during his tour in late 2006.

But Gore's recent high profile in Australia is not a one-off. His commitment goes back to 2003 when he was brought over for the first time by EcoFutures to keynote the National Business Leaders Forum on Sustainable Development. It was at this event that he gave the travelling presentation to political and business leaders on climate change that is essentially the foundation for his 2006 documentary.

In the two months after its release, different members of the Federal Cabinet, such as Alexander Downer, were reported as now accepting the scientific reality of human-induced climate change. On ABC's Lateline program on 12 November, Federal Treasurer Peter Costello said, 'I think the ground is changing. I think it is important that we bring new countries into this discussion. And I think, from Australia's point of view, if the world starts moving towards a carbon trading system, we can't be left out of that, that Australia has a role'. (2)

The Federal Government has now initiated a landmark inquiry into emissions trading. And at the state government level, the South Australian and Victorian Governments have recently committed to 60% reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, a significant undertaking.

Unions too have changed their tune. A new policy announced by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) in November includes support for the Kyoto Treaty, increased renewable energy targets and support for an emissions trading scheme.

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