Live Acts are Always Better than the DVD

Last week, just before the snow confined me to quarters, I was lucky enough to see Al Gore’s climate change presentation – live. The meeting, hosted by global law firm DLA Piper, Yorkshire Forward, Renaissance South Yorkshire and the University of Sheffield was held in Sheffield’s Octagon Centre on March 7th. The event, which filled the 1000 seat venue, was packed with businessmen, scientists and not a few politicians, including David Blunkett, Yvette Cooper and John Prescott. Although the “support acts” tried hard to keep us attuned to their message, the truth was that everyone was here to see the presentation that might gain Gore an Oscar and a Nobel Prize. At one level, Gore did not disappoint. He warmed us up with 10 minutes of good-natured banter before settling down into what is now a well-rehearsed presentation. As a presentation, it really is text-book stuff. It tells a story, the data is presented in graphs that he explains well, and it is interspersed with stories about how he has been to the places shown. I realise that he had a lot of help - he even admitted at one point that Apple added features to Keynote (it is not a Powerpoint presentation but is done on Apple Keynote) that he wanted to use! Nevertheless, it is a compelling and well-made case. Gore knew what he wanted to say, built his case painstakingly and coherently, and appeared to understand the nuances of the data and theses he was presenting. Perhaps most compellingly, he managed to convey an emotional commitment to the area as he described the challenges and the opportunities our current situation presents. I am sure he also did wonders for sales of his DVD.

The same week saw the initial publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007 report on the Physical Science Basis for Climate Change. This has now moved the likelihood that human action is responsible for climate change from 60% to over 90%. There were usual media calls for governments and industry to respond. Yet, for the last few years I have seen a number of presentations by representatives of large global corporations on their performance at reducing carbon emissions. Their data stretched back a further 4 or 5 years – meaning that they grasped the business case for action anything up to a decade ago. And the investment community has not been blind either – only last month Citigroup published their Climatic Consequences report that notes the short-term business opportunities as well as the longer-term consequences of climate change. On top of last year’s Stern Report it feels like everyone now understands the consequences of inaction and the potential upside of a fast response. In the Materials Innovation and Growth Team Report the contribution of the materials industries to development in the Energy industry was well documented. The point seems to be that, although we as a society are moving, we are not yet moving fast enough. We all need to change, and if seeing a man who narrowly lost the chance to be the most important individual on the planet can make that change happen a little quicker, maybe we should all go and buy the DVD!!

Materials UK Sustainability
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