10 Years on, ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ is Becoming More Convenient

Do you remember the release of Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ in 2006? A lot has changed since the iconic film helped spark a global debate on climate action.

Yesterday (24 May), former US vice president Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project celebrated the tenth anniversary of the ground-breaking documentary that prompted millions to start asking questions about climate change.

According to a 2007 global internet survey by The Nielsen Company and Oxford University, 89 per cent of respondents said the movie had made them “more aware of the problem.”

In stark contrast to the notoriously ‘doom and gloom’ tone of the marketing campaign around the 2006 film, Al Gore has recently said climate change is the “biggest new business opportunity in the history of the world.”

Ten years ago the Hollywood-style movie trailer warned: “Nothing is scarier than the truth,” followed by Gore saying “our ability to live is at stake.”

Born-Again Climate Warrior

In November 2006, the Financial Times called the then president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, a “born-again climate warrior.”

Although Barroso had barely mentioned climate change “as recently as May 2006”, the FT reported, the former Portuguese prime minister had “undergone a remarkable conversion and emerged as a champion of the environmental cause.”

British academic Nicholas Stern – who had made a compelling economic case for climate action in October of that year – was seen as a major factor in Barroso’s change of heart, according to the FT, but “Al Gore’s film on climate change, An Inconvenient Truth, also changed attitudes.”

Barroso went on to become the driving force behind the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), and its climate change innovation partnership Climate-KIC, launched in 2010.

A New Industrial Revolution

In 2006, film makers used “the art of storytelling to catapult an urgent but misunderstood social issue into the middle of global consciousness,” explains Jeff Skoll, an executive producer of An Inconvenient Truth.

Ten years later, storytelling is still helping to bring climate change to the forefront. But it is increasingly focused on the opportunities of what is now seen as a new industrial revolution.

In a blog post, the Climate Reality Project outlines some of the biggest changes since 2006.

In 2015, the amount of solar energy equipment that was installed in the United States had increased by more than 6800 per cent compared to 2006, according to the post.

The one-millionth US solar installation came online in 2016, which is expected to see a more than doubling of the installation of new solar capacity in the United States compared to 2015.

Electric cars were still a niche market in 2006, the Climate Reality Project says. But by September 2015, electric car sales reached one million globally. The post highlights how US start-up Tesla’s first electric car was only launched in 2008, but has already dramatically shifted how consumers view these vehicles.

In 2016, car makers from BMW to Kia to Mercedes Benz have launched their own electric vehicles, taking the technology mainstream.

Historic Paris Agreement

The 2015 Paris Agreement, meanwhile, represents “a real turning point,” the post says. By setting global targets for reducing carbon emissions for major emitters like the US, China, and India it represents a shift from talk to action.

By contrast, international action on climate change was “still just sputtering along” in 2006, according to the post.

“I’m proud of the progress we’ve made over the last ten years, and that solutions to climate change are now within our reach. Now is the moment for more concerted action,” Skoll said.

Barroso’s EIT was set up to do just that. It spearheads Europe’s approach of using innovation as a means to tackle the continent’s “grand challenges.” The institute now has a budget of almost €3 billion and includes partnerships on climate change, raw materials, energy, health and digital technologies.

But despite all the positive news, a lot of work remains to be done according to the Climate Reality Project.

It is not only the carbon levels in Earth’s atmosphere that have further increased by 5.5 per cent since 2016. The planet has also been warming at a speed never seen before (global temperatures have deviated from the long-term average by 0.63 degrees Celsius in 2006 to 0.87 degrees Celsius in 2015) and sea levels have jumped by over four centimetres. Nothing is scarier than the truth!

Would you like to be part of the greatest new business opportunity in the history of the world? Find out how Climate-KIC can help you start a company.

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