62 pages 2 hours read

Al Gore

An Inconvenient Truth

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2006

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Summary and Study Guide


An Inconvenient Truth is a 2006 nonfiction book released in conjunction with the documentary film of the same name. This book, by former vice-president Al Gore, presents scientific information about global climate change. He intersperses this information with personal anecdotes that outline the more human and social dimensions of the issue.

An Inconvenient Truth begins with an introduction to the basic science of global warming and the greenhouse gases that cause it. The first forty pages of the book also discuss the scientist and professor who introduced Gore to the idea of climate change.

Following this, the book goes into one effect of global warming: receding glaciers. This portion looks at dramatic changes at different locations around the world through comparison photos and charts that show an increase in temperature and carbon dioxide levels.

The next section details how Gore’s 6-year-old son had a life-threatening accident. This event redirected Gore’s focus to what was really important about Earth and its livability for future generations.

Gore then covers rising temperature and how it affects the Earth’s weather patterns. Over roughly fifty pages, he looks at heat waves, hurricanes and other storms, desertification, and how weather events have increased in intensity and duration. In stressing their severity, he looks at the human-scale effects of such disasters, including losses to the economy and human livelihood.

Another personal anecdote details Gore’s experience dividing his time between city life and farm life, helping him better appreciate nature.

Gore returns to global issues by focusing on the Arctic and the Antarctic, which are particularly sensitive to changes in weather patterns. He inserts an anecdote about how his personal travels allowed him to understand better the climate issues the world is facing. He details the environmental shifts that may be coming, and how they might change the balance of nature. The next individual reflection looks at how people have lost touch with nature.

Species around the globe are being threatened by climate change, Gore says. He here discusses coral reefs, ocean acidification, the proliferation of algae, and disease vectors. He explores Antarctica, with its breaking ice shelfs, then moves on to show how low-lying areas may completely disappear as a result of rising ocean levels.

Gore next moves to a more human scale, starting with a personal anecdote that explains his commitment to public service. He says he finds American democracy thrilling because freedom awaits for a spark to ignite it.

In the following section, he looks at the collision between human civilization and nature. Tackling urbanization, deforestation, and wildfires, Gore explains that humans now have a moral obligation to use technology wisely. Additionally, people must think about the climate crisis differently; just because climate change happens gradually doesn’t mean it isn’t a serious problem. He relates the story of his sister’s battle with cancer to illustrate how insidious a gradual decline can be, and also how corporate institutions often have a stake in hiding the truth.

To continue the theme, Gore impresses upon his audience that climate change is, in fact, a reality agreed upon by scientists. From here, he delves into current actions and future possibilities. His last personal anecdote explores how global warming is an “inconvenient truth” that requires humans to change the way they live; because of this, it has become politically expedient to discredit and deny.

Gore finishes the book on an optimistic note. He reminds readers how Americans have overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles in the past, and that people are capable of securing their futures.

The final twenty pages of the book offer ways people can make a difference through saving energy, consuming less, being mindful of transportation issues, and becoming a catalyst for change. These tips are presented in parallel with a list of misconceptions about climate change, as sound bite reminders of the “inconvenient truth” that Gore wants everyone to understand.