How has the world changed since 'An Inconvenient Truth' premiered?

In the past decade, a lot has changed in our fight against climate change.

In a recent Q&A with Sen. Bernie Sanders published in The Guardian, former Vice President Al Gore pinpointed "two big things" that have changed since his groundbreaking documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" hit theaters in 2006.

Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for The New York Times.


One is rather promising. The other? Not so much.

1. First, the bad news: There's been a jaw-dropping increase in extreme weather that was considered relatively rare in 2006.

"The climate-related extreme weather events are way more common now, and way more destructive," Gore told Sanders. "Here in the U.S., in the last seven years, we’ve had 11 so-called 'once-in-a-1,000 year' downpours."

"1,000-year" is an official term used by organizations like the NOAA National Center for Environmental Information to describe the probability that such an event will happen in a given year. South Carolina's record-breaking October 2015 flooding — which The Weather Channel deemed "catastrophic" — was one of those events.

A man in Columbia, South Carolina, cleans up his home after much of it was destroyed in the floods that ravished the region in October 2015. Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images.

Upward of 2 feet of rain blanketed many regions of the state in under 24 hours, causing massive (and expensive) damages and taking over a dozen lives.

These events have become disturbingly normal, Gore said. On the other hand, we've also normalized many of the innovative solutions that help drastically cut back greenhouse gas emissions.

Which brings us to...

2. The thing that'll make you feel optimistic: When "An Inconvenient Truth" released in theaters over a decade ago, many solutions to reduce carbon emissions were still out of reach.

Not anymore.

"In a growing number of cities and regions, electricity from solar and wind is cheaper than electricity from burning fossil fuels," the former vice president said. "Electric cars are becoming more commonplace. Efficiency technologies are coming down in cost."

In other words, going green has become good business.

Workers install solar panels in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 2016. Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images.

After President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the historic Paris climate agreement to dramatically lower the world's carbon emissions, many have argued the country will reach its targets anyway as sustainable technologies continue to boom.

An analysis by Morgan Stanley found that the economic benefits to switching to renewable energies is outweighing the pros to keeping up the status quo:

"By our forecasts, in most cases favorable renewables economics rather than government policy will be the primary driver of changes to utilities’ carbon emissions levels. For example, notwithstanding president Trump’s stated intention to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord, we expect the US to exceed the Paris commitment of a 26-28% reduction in its 2005-level carbon emissions by 2020."

As Gore put it, "The problems are worse, but the solutions are here."

We can't assume progress will happen, though; we have to work for it.

"All over the country activists are being energized," Gore said. And it's those activists — not just politicians in Washington — who will make the difference. "We are counting on people at the grassroots level."

Gore sat down to chat with Sanders to promote his new film on climate change, "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power," which opens in theaters on July 28, 2017. Watch a trailer below:

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less