After the pre-screening of An Inconvenient Truth last night in Washington, Al Gore told a crowd of think-tank denizens, activists, and media types that change in American history moves at two speeds: “slow and lightning.” Recalling the Civil Rights era, he added, “When we see something as a moral issue, a lot of change can happen quickly.”

Grappling with the implications of climate change as a moral issue is becoming more common. Earlier this year, the Evangelical Climate Initative issued their call to action, proclaiming, “Millions of people could die in this century because of climate change, most of them our poorest global neighbors.” More recently, in March, John Podesta struck a similar note in a speech at Harvard on clean energy and global warming(PDF): “Beyond the price and the politics that are necessitating change, we, in the United States, have a moral obligation to change.”

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On different paradigm question, Gore made a key distinction after the film: The movie’s animated clip of greenhouse-gas thugs pounding Mr. Sunbeam originated with Futurama, not the Simpsons.

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