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‘Truth’ enlightening, scary

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"AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH," by Al Gore, Rodale, 327 pages, $28.95. (softcover with photos, illustrations, graphs)

When a vice president of the United States fails to accede to the presidency, he usually fades in history, because we talk little about our vice presidents. But Al Gore did something more.

Gore won the popular vote for president in 2000 over George Bush, who was declared president after the Supreme Court ruled that the Florida recounts be stopped. Since the 2000 presidential election is bound to be studied and discussed prolifically by historians in the years ahead, Gore's name may be remembered more than most vice presidents.

But he may also be remembered for his great interest in and study of a major modern planetary problem — global warming. It is the subject of this large and richly illustrated volume. In fact, the book is a written version of "An Inconvenient Truth," the movie, which, although categorized as a documentary, has attracted a larger audience than most documentaries.

Gore provides a strong narrative voice for both the movie and the book as he considers the numerous ways our planet has changed and how much more it is likely to change in the coming months and years. Gore's research is strongly supported by an impressive array of scientists, most of whom believe global warming calls for political action.

Interspersed among the color illustrations and photographs of Antarctica, deserts, forests and cities are black-and-white photos of Al and Tipper Gore as they married and had children, and Gore when he first ran for political office, subsequently serving in the U.S. Congress.

The Gore photos are supported by a narrative telling the story of Gore and his family, one that is sentimental in its depiction of both the Gores as they go on camping trips in the wilderness — and of the Earth as it undergoes the destructive warming process.

Yet the use of the Gore photos could also be interpreted as a mini-campaign biography for a potential second run at the presidency in 2008. That is how some people will see it. But doing so may miss the point of this powerful book — that the scientific data supports a warming process that threatens the continued health of the .

Of course, Gore has denied any interest or intention in running for the presidency again, although most political observers tend to take such denials lightly — for everyone except Civil War Gen. William T. Sherman, who made the now famous "Sherman Statement," that "if nominated, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve."

Since Gore talked and wrote about global warming during the years of his active political life, the idea is not new. But the approach through the book and the movie is new.

Carefully packaged, it probably works better on the screen than it does in the pages of a book, because the people in a theater are a captive audience looking at a big screen, while those who see this book are more likely to browse than read it from cover to cover.

Rodale should have published it in hardback. Nevertheless, it is well-written and well-designed, the pictures and words both impressive and alarming.

E-mail: dennis@desnews.com