This Day In History: October 12

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On October 12, 2007, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to increase public knowledge about man-made climate change. In 2006, Gore had starred in the Academy Award-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth, which was credited with raising international awareness about the global climate crisis.

Gore, a former senator from Tennessee who served as President Bill Clinton’s vice president from 1993 to 2001, is considered one of the first politicians to recognize the dangers of carbon dioxide emissions, a cause of human-induced global warming. Gore became interested in the topic of global warming during a college course he took at Harvard University. As a congressman, he held hearings on climate change in the late 1970s, a time when most Americans had little or no knowledge of the issue. After losing the 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush, Gore embarked on a new campaign—the fight against man-made climate change—and gave slide-show presentations around the world in an effort to educate the public. An Inconvenient Truth chronicled Gore’s efforts to educate audiences with his “traveling global warming road show.” In the film, he details the facts and falsehoods surrounding this “planetary emergency” and describes the events in his own life that led him to become an environmental crusader.

An Inconvenient Truth debuted at the Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2006, and opened in limited release across the United States in May of that same year. Directed by Davis Guggenheim, the film went on to win numerous awards, including an Oscar for Best Documentary at the Academy Awards on February 25, 2007. Melissa Etheridge also received an Oscar for Best Original Song, for “I Need to Wake Up.”

One of the highest-grossing documentaries in U.S. history, An Inconvenient Truth played in theaters around the planet. It was credited with helping to spur the “green movement” that spread across the United States in 2007, as the media focused more attention on the problems associated with climate change. In 2017, a follow-up documentary, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, was released.