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Sometimes when people are under stress, they hate to think, and it’s the time when they most need to think. – Bill Clinton
In 2006 An Inconvenient Truth won two Oscars, became the 11th highest grossing documentary of all time, and set the national talking points on climate change for a decade. It changed the world, kick starting the climate change conversation in a big way.
It had detractors. There were predictions that turned out to be untrue. It was one sided. Al Gore wasn’t a scientist, and so on. Tucker Carlson said watching an Al Gore movie for climate information is like watching Goebbels films for information on Nazi Germany.
And most recently we’ve heard about the electricity use at his home.
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power is an effective follow up. It picks up in 2015 and focuses on Al Gore propagating his climate change message via training seminars, a jazzed up key-note presentation and breath-taking footage.
Footage like melting pavement in India, time-lapse footage of ‘rain-bombs’ dropping on cities, close-ups on disintegrating glaciers, once-in-a-millennia floods in Texas, people punching holes in the roof of a hotel to escape the rising tide of a deadly storm in the Philippines, plus two dead bodies, a terrorist attack, a rebel uprising, and a single paper mache boob.
The Directors – Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk should be proud of their work here. This evidence and footage is intensely compelling and will humble you before the awesome power of Mother Nature, regardless of your politics.
These terrifying images were far more effective then the stats and graphs about how pollution in China has lowered life expectancy, or how many more ‘warm’ days there were in 2015 than in 1980.
The visuals, not the data, make the strongest case – and that’s a problem with both this film and the human condition. This film is ultimately an emotional appeal regarding a science problem. When Al Gore uses climate change to explain the conflict in Syria, or makes allusions that climate change is the new civil rights – for a certain kind of viewer, it’s powerful stuff.
But there’s very little hard science – no effort is made to present a counterpoint or to challenge Gore’s beliefs in any real way. Even ‘Get Me Roger Stone’ was gracious enough to interview people who hated him.
This movie could have given voice to the climate change denying founder of the Weather Channel or the ‘skeptical environmentalist’ Bjorn Lomborg, or presented some hard-science from people other than Vice President Gore. It would have gone a long way to giving the movie a more approachable and balanced quality.
Instead, An Inconvenient Sequel – likely to be the most heavily promoted documentary of the year – gives ‘deniers’ lip service while Mr. Gore soldiers on against the ‘enemy’ of the film: The economics of developing nations.
Specifically the economics of power in a smoggy, hazy, arid, India that relies so much on fossil fuel you can’t see the sun, and doesn’t have the money, time, or inclination to ‘modernize’ to renewable energy.
This Gore vs. India problem comes to a head in Paris during an admittedly engaging sequence where Gore works with private businesses to give India a line of credit at a decent rate, so India can build solar panels that will generate the same amount of power as the fossil fuel plants already in development. Why you’re installing Solar Panels after alleging you can’t see the sun there, I don’t know.
And it is here An Inconvenient Sequel makes a point that should have been honed to a razor sharp point.
That point? The economy, stupid. Mr. Gore talks about Chile upping it’s solar energy output because it’s cheaper. He talks about the multiple towns in our country that are 100 percent renewable.
Mr. Gore meets with a conservative Republican Mayor in Georgetown, Texas. The town is 100 percent powered by renewable energy. Gore takes a picture with him under the Republican headquarters of the town. They shake hands and joke they better not get caught acting like this or they’d get in trouble.
These men probably agree on nothing – except for clean energy. The Republican because it saves him money. Al Gore because he thinks it’s saving the planet.
If only all issues intersected so nicely.
Perhaps they can. If renewable and ‘clean’ energy is cheaper than coal and oil, of *course* most everyone would be on board, there’d be less junk in the air, folks in China would live longer, we’d be able to put this all behind us.
So it’s a shame that economics aren’t more of a focus. It’s about a 1/3rd evidence, 1/3rd look into Al Gore’s life, 1/6th roadblocks to clean energy (Big Oil Lobbying) and 1/6th economics – which means the most appealing part of the movie to skeptics – money – is low on the totem pole.
In the same way An Inconvenient Truth existed to convince the world there’s a problem, I hoped An Inconvenient Sequel would exist to change minds and provide an action plan for all; to make a case to climate change deniers and skeptics that clean energy is the way to go regardless.
Instea the movie is a call to action. You need to take action because your world literally depends on it. But what action? What does Al Gore want? Federal investment in Clean Energy? Cap & Trade? Taxing polluting companies to hell? I don’t know.
What I do know is you can see the sun in India – I know the location of the massive heatwave that caused the streets to melt is between two deserts. I know getting government to take any sort of action is a gordian knot of ineptitude and bickering.
I know Al Gore is a well intentioned man without a science degree.
I know this movie will speak to its target audience and be ignored by most everyone else.
The subtitle for An Inconvenient Sequel is Truth to Power. In reality, it’s truth to choir; encouraging climate change activists to continue fighting the good fight, to get trained, to preach the message, to download an interactive and customizable presentation you can use to convince your friends.
Ultimately this movie told me some things I didn’t know, and everything I expected to hear.
But as a talented and dedicated soon-to-be-Senator once told me – you write to your audience. This movie’s audience are angry, galvanized and seeking validation in a post-Trump world. An Inconvenient Sequel provides exactly that – and you really can’t blame it. There’s good information here, a lot of it skewed – and very little in terms of a counter point, but that’s par for the course these days.
Very rarely are documentaries, especially political documentaries, designed to take an even-keel approach to their subject matter. Heck, the number one grossing documentary of all time is Fahrenheit 9/11, so take that as you will.
At my screening I was in an audience with conservation groups and environmental organizations – in super liberal Chicago. So basically a home game for this movie and enemy territory for me.
Donald Trump’s sporadic appearances were met with noticeable grumbles, insults, outright boos, and impressions of the man. Justin Treadeau’s totally spontaneous cameo was met with glee. As was footage of former President Barack Obama.
The first question asked in the Q&A wasn’t about the film, but about the ‘backlash’ that hadn’t happened yet.
When I asked the directors about the lack of conservatives in the movie, the person next to me audibly and violently mumbled “idiots!” upon my utterance of the word conservative. She assumed I must have think conservatives were idiots too – who wouldn’t!?
And to an extent I do think quite a few are idiots on this subject. I think the planet is getting warmer and it is partially the fault of good ole human ingenuity.
I don’t think it’s as bad this movie postulates. I don’t think governmental action is the best solution. But people who deny it outright without hard data or expertise are as idiotic as the people who accept it wholesale without scrutiny.
All that said, this movie, and it’s prequel, are essential viewing for the politically active. Climate change activist or skeptic, if you want to know where the movement stands, you need to see this movie in context before diving into the numerous debunking and de-crediting videos that will surely arise.
Learn what the ‘other’ side thinks – pay attention. Keep your beliefs at the forefront of your mind, but let those opposed to them have their time. An Inconvenient Truth was a seminal film – and this is its follow up. Watch them, then hate on them if you must.
Otherwise you’re just gonna blow a lot of hot air. And you know what fans of this movie are gonna blame that on.