An Inconvenient Truth, the documentary on global warming starring Al Gore, opened this week in New York and California. I saw it last night and, though I've attended several academic conferences related to global warming and its effects this year, this film presents the scientific consensus on the real and significant effects of climate change in the most straightforward and compelling way I've seen yet.
Of course, there are still some people who don't think there's a problem—for instance, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a think tank funded in part by the oil industry. It's commissioned a couple 60-second advertising spots that are now airing in 14 U.S. cities and on its Web site. The tagline of the ads: "Carbon dioxide: They call it a pollutant. We call it Life." Huh?
Anyway, if you're the type who values science over spin, you might want to calculate your own contribution to the problem at climatecrisis.org (click on "Take Action," then "Your Impact). There are quite a few of these carbon calculators available on the Web, although this one ups accuracy by adding in your airline miles—which may make some of us holier-than-thou, public-transportation-loving urbanites feel a little less smug.
The hope is that we start thinking about our own CO2 emissions the way we think about our calorie intake (not that we Americans have such a great track record in that area either). You know, like realizing that huge hunk of chocolate cake is a full 600 calories and deciding to split it with your date. It's the same thing for your drive from Boston to Burlington. Ride with someone else, and your impact is half as much.
OK, OK, so carpooling alone won't solve global warming. But getting people to consider their own emissions on a daily basis would be a decent start to building up the political will to take on the problem for real. Need more motivation? Check out these simulated Google maps of the warmer, flooded future.—Kalee Thompson