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Al Gore passes on the inconvenient truth

Wednesday 15 Jul 2009 12:00a.m.

Al Gore passes on the inconvenient truth

By the time former US vice president Al Gore made the film An Inconvenient Truth, he had already given his climate change slideshow 2000 times.

Earlier this week he gave it again, but this time it wasn't so much to educate the audience but to train them, so that they would learn to present it too.

The trainee presenters came from across Asia-Pacific, and amongst them were 15 New Zealanders, including a farmer and an accountant.

How would these average Kiwis become climate change experts?

"It was kind of a spur of the moment thing really to stick my name forward," says farmer David Musgrave, "so I'm not entirely sure what I'm in for."

Ashburton accountant Leanne Blakelock says the slideshow "is literally my new bible".

Phil Tate, strategy manager for New Zealand Post, says: "I think at the end of the day, this is the biggest issue, this is the biggest issue facing our generation right now."

These are not scientists - they're not even environmentalists - but they were about to get a wake-up call from the most famous face in climate change – Gore.

When he wasn't elected to the White House in 2000, Gore took his campaign to the world instead, and wanting to multiply his message he began training others to deliver it.

Two-thousand lined up from around the Asia-Pacific, 15 Kiwis among the chosen few.

"I think I was chosen because more for the fact that they're not preaching to the converted with me," says Ms Blakecock. "I'm an average everyday person, and I have a lot of networks that I can talk to and get the word across."

They arrived in Melbourne and walked straight into a perfect storm of climate science study.

"I think its going to be three really intense days," says Rachel Brown, chief executive of the Sustainable Business Network.

A day and a half in, and Mr Musgrave is, "getting pretty exhausted. Had Al Gore for the last two hours, and that was fascinating because the science is absolutely unassailable, so if it's a rational decision we had to make, it would be easy - but its an emotional decision."

The timing of this training is critical in light of the UN climate change conference.

It will be a mammoth challenge to get world leaders to agree on a post-Kyoto framework in Copenhagen. Gore is optimistic that with growing public awareness, it can be done.

"The climate crisis has been picking up momentum, building towards a political tipping point," he says. "We're not there yet but we are closer than we have ever been."

After three days of training, Mr Musgrave says he knows what's needed.

"As a Western nation that helped cause this problem, New Zealand has to step up and show the leadership as we have in the past, and pitch for a 40 percent reduction in carbon emissions."

Our new presenters didn't pay for their training, but they'll earn it. They are returning to their day jobs with a new mission - presenting Gore's slideshow to their own communities.
If you would like to request one of the new climate change presenters to speak at your next meeting or function click here
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