Al Gore’s factually-packed, witty and relatable climate exposé is the subject of the next instalment of Movies That Matter. Where cold, hard statistics failed to inspire action, Laurie David and the ex-next POTUS had other ideas.
Charts. Graphs. Statistics. Dense, thickly detailed expositions charting the intricacies of CO2 emissions, glacier melting, droughts and floods. All important; all necessary. But to a non-scientific mind like mine, they confuse and exhaust. They even leave me, dare I say it, disinterested. Sometimes a simple illustration is more effective at showing that We Must Act Now To Save Our Planet, harking back to the Hemingwayan narrative technique of ‘Show, Don’t Tell.’
An Inconvenient Truth
An Inconvenient Truth does exactly this; it shows us just how disastrous our impact on the planet has been since the Industrial Revolution instead of telling us. It dispels the many myths surrounding climate change. It explains to us exactly what this term ‘global warming’ means and is mightily accessible for a 2006 audience who definitely aren’t as acclimatised (excuse the pun) to all this as we are in 2023.
‘My fellow americans, people all over the world, we need to solve the climate crisis. It’s not a political issue; it’s a moral issue. We have everything we need to get started, with the possible exception of the will to act. That’s a renewable resource. Let’s renew it.’– Al Gore, the ex-next president of the United States.
At the centre of this all is Al Gore, Bill Clinton’s Vice President, delivering a climate crisis presentation – one he estimates he must have given across the globe at least 1000 times. It just so turned out that one member of this audience was producer Laurie David, who was so moved he commissioned a documentary, featuring Gore’s presentation alongside personal anecdotes (Gore’s sister’s death to lung cancer; his son’s near death from a car crash; how he suffered after the controversial Florida vote-count which cost him the presidency).
An Inconvenient Truth is not a ‘documentary film’ in the conventional sense. It’s not that it breaks form or convention in a groundbreaking way. It’s just that, often, it simply plays as Al Gore, ex-Vice President, giving a slideshow – albeit a fairly impressive one – to a progressive, similar-thinking, degree-educated audience.
It’s adherence to movie format is not the point, however. The film is using the visual medium – the motion picture – in its most essential form to impart information – serious information – which contains the keys to our future survival as a species, as a planet, as a globe. Film is the perfect vehicle for this.
Of course, there was opposition. John Howard, PM of Australia at the time, said he would not change policy because of the movie, stating that he doesn’t “take policy advice from films.” It’s truly disheartening that a world leader like Howard is of such a small mind to regard films as so beneath him, so beneath the ability to change the world. Yet, despite this, Gore’s presentation has now reached millions (hopefully more after this review) and has engendered a shift in the way the public view the climate crisis.
For a politician, Al Gore is really funny, including a host of jokes to lighten the mood amidst his expositions on the oncoming global catastrophe: ‘Hey, I’m Al Gore. I used to be the next President of the United States,’ stayed with me, as did the one about an inept science teacher of his becoming Chief Scientific Advisor in Bush Jr’s government…
“A study showed that not one single scientist disputed global warming”
Gore was early to climate awareness (having studied it briefly in his Harvard days under the first scientist to measure CO2 levels, Roger Revelle) a luxury most other non-expert members of the public are not afforded. Within US politics – a system which thrives off misinformation, which allowed the rise of a climate denier to its most important position – Gore has always been leaps and bounds ahead of the rest on the issue of global warming, initiating debates and bills in Congress which have had a lasting impact. These include a Carbon Tax in the 90s, alongside brokering the Kyoto Protocol (a treaty aimed at curbing Greenhouse Gas emissions) which incidentally, and rather unsurprisingly, wasn’t adhered to within the US itself.
He explains how a study showed that not one single scientist disputed global warming. “There is no controversy about these facts. Out of 925 recent articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals about global warming, there was no disagreement. Zero.” And then he tells us how the same study found that 53% of the media expressed the view that climate change was potentially not real or at least exaggerated. Clearly, fake news is not just a recent phenomenon. We get our information from the media, not academic journals, and they are being dishonest. If this is the case, how on earth were the public meant to take the climate crisis seriously?
Luckily, since 2006, times have changed. We live in an era where the climate crisis is being taken seriously, partly due to the efforts of this phenomenal documentary, and a host of other activists.
Still, however, we are lacking – both as individuals and as communities. There is so much more we can do. But it’s not up to me to tell you what exactly this is. An Inconvenient Truth is short, clocking in at only 97 minutes. It’s fun, it’s funny, it’s scary, it’s eye-opening and importantly, it’s interesting. Make watching it one of the things you do, because even if it doesn’t change how you think, it will definitely change what you think.