D: Bonni Cohen, Jon Shenk / 98m
With: Al Gore, John Kerry, Konrad Steffen, Philip Levine, Eric Schneiderman, Marco Krapels, Lyndon Rive, Piyush Goyal, Cristina Gonzales Romualdez, Alfred Romualdez, Christiana Figueres, Dale Ross
When Al Gore’s campaign to educate people about the dangers of climate change was adapted for the screen in 2006 as An Inconvenient Truth, few could have predicted the effect that a small-scale documentary would have around the globe. The movie won a Best Documentary Oscar at the 2007 awards, and has been used as an educational tool (with some clarifications) in various school systems the world over. It was the first movie to address the issue of climate change head on, and in a way that the average person could understand. And it made a number of predictions about the way that climate change would affect the world in the coming decades unless governments worked together to prevent the situation from worsening.
Eleven years on, and Gore is still out there, still attempting to educate as many people as he can about the continuing climate change issue, but with the aid of over three and a half thousand activists who use Gore’s presentation in their own communities to foster greater awareness. This is the Climate Reality Project, begun by Gore in 2006, and one of the elements of An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power that shows to what extent things have either moved on or changed, or even remained the same, since the release of its predecessor. What definitely hasn’t changed is Gore’s passion for the issue, and his seemingly tireless pursuit of getting the message across that traditional fuel methods such as coal and gas can no longer be allowed to be the first choice of countries looking to provide reliable energy sources for their populations. It’s a message he gets across, though, through Scotland being able to provide one hundred per cent of its electricity in August 2016 from wind power, to Chile’s solar market, which has grown from 402mw at the end of 2014 to 848mw at the end of 2015, and in 2016, was estimated to reach approximately 13.25gw.
Gore puts forward a strong case for renewable energies such as solar and wind power to take the place of fossil fuels, and he’s able to show that even in the US, where conservative attitudes might decry the message Gore is trying to get across, that some cities have already elected to provide one hundred per cent renewable energies for its citizens, and that as with An Inconvenient Truth, the need for change isn’t seen as a political one, but a moral one, an imperative that should be agreed across the political spectrum. That these cities have taken up the challenge and made it work is one area where Gore’s passion and commitment have been rewarded. But as with any crusade, it’s not all plain sailing, and even though Gore has continued to press for environmental change, it’s still an uphill battle against vested interests and political inertia, a fact that’s cruelly pointed out by a coda added to the movie after filming had been completed. Here, we see Gore’s dismay at hearing of President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change mitigation.
Alongside Gore’s promotion of renewable energies, the 2015 Paris Agreement is the movie’s secondary focus, showing how Gore helped to bring about India’s commitment to the agreement and the behind the scenes efforts that brought this about (though it does make it look as if Gore was the sole instigator, which isn’t entirely true). The movie also finds itself in the midst of an unfortunate event that occurred two weeks before the conference, where a live twenty-four broadcast featuring Gore and some of the conference’s key players had to be cut short in the wake of the November 2015 terror attacks, including the mass shooting at the Bataclan theatre. Gore makes an impromptu and heartfelt speech that is the movie’s most emotional moment, and it serves as an unexpectedly poignant reminder that climate change, important an issue as it is, isn’t the only global issue that needs addressing at this moment.
But where the movie really hits home, as with its predecessor, is in its presentation of the many increasing natural disasters that have occurred in the last ten years, and the reasons why they’ve happened. Gore visits a Swiss Camp Climate Station in Central Greenland where he has to climb a ladder to go inside the main hut, something he wouldn’t have had to do a few years before, but has to now because the surface mass of the area has dropped so much in such a short time. He talks with the mayor of Tacloban City in the Philippines which was devastated by Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013, and includes footage of the destruction, footage that in recent years we have become all too familiar with from other devastated cities around the world. But most telling of all is the footage relating to the flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy in parts of New York in October 2012. Gore predicted this could happen in An Inconvenient Truth, and that it would affect the site of the World Trade Centre memorial. He drew a lot of flak for suggesting this, but was proved absolutely right. This is the point in the movie where you have to ask yourself, what more does the man have to do to get our undivided attention?
When he’s on stage giving his presentation, Gore is energised and persuasive and committed and often angry. But privately, there are moments where he looks tired and a little despairing, as if doing all this for the best part of twenty years is beginning to take its toll. It’s a sobering thought, but Gore will be seventy years old next year, and though he doesn’t always look it, there are times when he does and it’s these times that give rise to the idea that this sequel is perhaps the best chance he’ll have to bring the issue of climate change back to the attention of a general public who may have forgotten the warnings he made over ten years ago. Gore has fought long and hard over this issue, and the movie does spend time exploring what continues to motivate him, and why the issue is still so important to him that he devotes so much of his time to it. It’s a key element, one that wasn’t there as much in the first movie, but it does go hand in hand with the still timely message that none of us, not even a “recovering politician” such as Al Gore, can afford to ignore.
Rating: 8/10 – not quite as powerful as its predecessor, but still a necessary reminder that there’s a long way to go before the issue of climate change can be seen to have been addressed effectively, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power is a salutary ode to the power of one man’s commitment to change; if it’s a more personal movie in that sense, that’s not a bad thing, as Gore continues to be the best guide a lay person can have in understanding why climate change is still so divisive, and why it still remains the most important issue facing future generations, generations who may not have a choice in the world they’ll inherit.