On May 24th, 2006, Filmmaker Davis Guggenheim released his simple but powerful film, following Al Gore as he traveled around the country seeking to raise public awareness of the dangers of global warming. And raise awareness he did! According to Google Trends, searches for the term "global warming" spiked sharply in the months after the film was released:
How did we fail to seize this moment? There are a lot of reasons, no doubt. But I have a professional opinion about one of those reasons:
We abandoned the concrete-and-alarming term "global warming" for its aloof-and-abstract synonym, "climate change." The chart above shows the arc of these two terms through America's consciousness. As "Inconvenient Truth" inevitably faded from the public consciousness, Google recorded steadily fewer searches for "global warming."
Searches for "global warming" faded away, but searches for "climate change" did not rise to take their place. And an endless parade of scientific reports about "climate change" ever since have all failed to spark anything close to the same levels of concern.