Sun, Oct 22, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Nation must heed Gore's message

By Liu Chung-ming and Liu Ming-lung 柳中明、劉銘龍

The recent film An Inconvenient Truth caused quite a splash at its world premier. The movie is a recording of a 100-minute lecture given by former US vice president Al Gore on climate change and his personal feelings about it. It's not surprising that the film tries to convince viewers of the reality of climate change and its consequences. What is shocking is that a politician has finally become a true believer. Gore traveled the world getting first-hand proof from scientists and has made it his life's work to spread the message.

Gore explains the scientific evidence to a broad audience through impressive visual displays and concise narration. His audience includes students at Beijing University, business tycoons in Chicago, stock traders in New York and famous academics in London. But his appeal is still mainly to US citizens.

What this film seeks to show is that scientific research has discovered that human activities have a definite impact on the global climate, and that politicians and film makers can use their influence to change people's thinking and prevent this truth from being buried.

The most shocking part of the film comes when Gore proposes that Greenland's glaciers could melt within the current century. This could mean that in addition to many island and coastal countries, most of the US state of Florida and major cities like New York and Shanghai could all be submerged by the rising tide of flood water.

At the same time, vast quantities of fresh water would flow into the North Atlantic, interfering with the thermohaline circulation -- the global circulation of the oceans which is driven by the ocean water's density, which in turn is determined by temperature and salinity.

After a period of rapidly rising temperatures, the world could therefore be plunged into a minor ice age. The content of Gore's lecture is drawn from various influential scientific publications from around the world published in recent years. It is also the conclusion of the fourth report on climate change to be released by the United Nations Climate Change Task Force next year, and the most troubling prediction about the consequences of continued global warming.

For example, the task force's third report in 2001 estimated that the sea level will rise 0.18m to 0.66m by the end of the 21st century, leading to land subsidence among poorer communities in Taiwan's costal areas. However, those predictions have already been revised to at least a 6m rise in sea level by the end of the century, which could possibly even reach as high as 35m. If the sea rises by 6m, the Taipei basin would be half-submerged, and the Chianan plain and Ilan county's Lotung plain would be totally under water.

If the sea level rises by 35m in combination with powerful winds, frequent flooding from storms and landslides would drastically shrink Taiwan's inhabitable areas. Food shortages and unstable agricultural production would rise as arable land dwindled. Taiwan could be forced to buy all its food on the world market, and many Taiwanese could be forced to seek aid from China after being forced into exile as environmental refugees.

Perhaps we are entertaining groundless fears, but Gore believes that if our generation isn't willing to face this reality, future generations will have to pay for our failure. In the film, Gore accuses those who ignore the truth of being immoral. This is very unusual. When considered from an Eastern perspective, Gore is talking about the "hidden moral conduct" that has so much emphasis placed on it.

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