The primary contribution of Al Gore's documentary, and the fanfare and awards that followed it, was the widespread social action it sparked nationwide. From the City of Austin's Plug-In Hybrid initiative to Wal-Mart's loud publicity of its sustainability initiatives, the documentary began public discussion of an issue that had, until that point, been dormant in corporate boardrooms and households alike. It's amazing that a movie is needed to grab the attention of the public on such an important issue and thus the attention of corporations but I'm glad something has. Now it's all the go to be "green" and cut back on carbon emissions/energy use to reduce global warming.
The documentary follows Gore to a conference in China, and the exchange that follows reminds us that decisions made here in the US have environmental impacts globally. The longterm impacts of American business to shift manufacturing operations to South Asia, and specifically China, have put a huge drain on that region's resources. Water is being re-routed from agriculture to city centers in order to produce more petroleum and plastic, thus straining China's water resources as well as increasing the price of grain, contributing more carbon emissions, and polluting the already strained water resource. A poster child for environmental intent clashing with commercial realities is the Three Gorges Dam Project, a skirmish in the broader water crisis in China.
Al Gore's Nobel Prize highlights global agreement on the potential impact of irresponsible environmental policy. We need to get beyond politics and semantics and focus on the fundamental issue of human sustainability that An Inconvenient Truth so eloquently framed.