Around the Pier: Gore: Roger Revelle Was My Inspiration


Former Vice President Al Gore visited La Jolla May 21 to pay homage to the half-century of contributions Scripps Institution of Oceanography has made toward furthering the understanding of climate change for the world. Gore’s visit to Scripps and UC San Diego was especially significant because it connected his contemporary climate change platform to the original visionaries at Scripps who brought the issue to light more than 50 years ago.

The former vice president may be widely recognized as the spokesperson on this hot topic, but Gore credited Scripps repeatedly for its critical role in framing climate change as a modern societal issue. Gore made acknowledgement of his former teacher and legendary Scripps climate science leader Roger Revelle, whom he recognized as his inspiration for his global warming public awareness crusade.

While in town, Gore attended a special VIP reception at the Birch Aquarium at Scripps marking the opening of its new climate change exhibit, “Feeling the Heat: The Climate Challenge.”

“Vice President Al Gore has made a tremendous impact on the public’s perception of the climate crisis facing the planet,” said Tony Haymet, director of Scripps, who welcomed Gore to the Birch Aquarium.

Gore joined Haymet, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, UCSD Chancellor Marye Anne Fox, Birch Aquarium Executive Director Nigella Hillgarth, and Ellen Revelle, widow of Roger Revelle, to cut the “Keeling Curve” ribbon to celebrate the opening of the exhibit.

The “Keeling Curve,” a seminal data set established in 1958 by Scripps atmospheric chemist Charles David Keeling, documents the rise of carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. It was Revelle’s vision to capture these measurements, and he recruited Keeling to Scripps to collect the landmark data. An account appears in Gore’s Academy Award-winning, multimedia global warming film, “An Inconvenient Truth.”

“This is the image that first enlightened me on the subject of global warming,” said Gore.

After the aquarium reception, Gore presented at UCSD’s RIMAC arena his updated slideshow live to a capacity crowd of 4,000 energetic attendees. The audience cheered when Chancellor Fox announced a $2.5 million gift from the Revelle family to create an endowed chair at Scripps in Roger Revelle’s name. The new Roger Revelle Chair in Environmental Science will be used to recruit an outstanding climate scientist for Scripps.

Upon his entrance into the arena, Gore greeted Ellen Revelle with a kiss on the cheek, and affectionately thanked her and the Revelle family for their friendship and inspiration. “Thank you for the contributions your family has made for humankind,” he said. Also acknowledged for their presence and contributions were the daughters of Ellen and Roger Revelle: Carolyn Revelle, Anne Revelle Shumway, and Mary Ellen Paci; as well as Louise Keeling and Scripps climate scientist Ralph Keeling, widow and son of Charles David Keeling.

Gore delivered his 90-minute presentation to a receptive audience of UCSD students, faculty, staff, friends, and supporters. The talk was primarily based on Gore’s famed film, but included new data from recently released studies, as well as anecdotes with a San Diego and California focus.

Several times during his talk, Gore encouraged audience members to visit the Birch Aquarium’s new climate change exhibit, and see for themselves the science Scripps Oceanography has pioneered in the search for a better understanding of the issue.

Hillgarth, who has been formally trained to present Gore’s slideshow, was impressed by the intensity and emotion with which Gore approached his talk at RIMAC. “It was apparent that he was especially inspired by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography/UC San Diego connection as well as by the presence of Ellen Revelle, the widow of his inspiration, Roger Revelle.

-- Shannon Casey

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