An Inconvenient Sequel, directed by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, of- fers a snapshot of the superstorms, global summits, and political shake- ups that have occurred in the decade since the premiere of the ground-breaking climate change documentary An
Inconvenient Truth. Widely credited with
having helped to bring global warming to the
fore in public policy discussions, the original
film focused on former U.S. Vice President Al
Gore’s environmental activism.
Gore is back in An Inconvenient Sequel,
but this time the focus is more personal, revealing his day-to-day efforts to recruit new
climate defenders and advocate for policies
that will mitigate global warming. In this,
it is reminiscent of Shenk’s 2012 film, The
Island President (on which Cohen served
as a producer), which framed the imminent
threat of sea-level rise through the story of
Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed’s
Whereas Nasheed is candid and brash,
however, Gore is more inscrutable. Asked
whether he would consider rejoining the
political fray in the future, he demurs, calling himself a “recovering politician” and explaining that the longer he goes without a
Al Gore’s inconvenient update
The former vice president’s climate activism takes
center stage once again
“relapse,” the less likely it becomes that he
will run for office again.
Yet, throughout the film, Gore remains
the consummate statesman: relentlessly on
message and diplomatic to a fault. Having
learned that newly elected U.S. President
Donald Trump intends to pull out of the
Paris Accord, for example, Gore—whom the
film depicts as having played a crucial role
in the behind-the-scenes negotiations of the
historic agreement—only goes so far as to
concede that climate advocacy
is filled with ups and downs.
In the decade since An Inconvenient Truth, Gore’s outreach
has taken him to the far corners of the planet that he has
committed himself to defend.
Throughout An Inconvenient
Sequel, he is shown trekking across glaciers
with scientists, standing in a flooded Miami
street with city officials, lecturing aspiring climate activists in the Philippines, and
meeting with world leaders in Paris.
At one point, Gore quite literally bumps
into Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
at the COP21 summit—a scene that caused
the D.C. audience watching the film on 16
June to break out into spontaneous applause.
Derisive laughter rang out during another
scene, in which a mash-up of conservative
pundits mock the original film. Such reactions are indicative of the type of crowd with
whom this new film will resonate.
Gore’s signature slides remain the centerpiece of his advocacy efforts. His presentation, however, is ever-evolving, with
new data and visuals being added all the
time—sometimes on the fly—for maximum
effect. Drawing connections between warming temperatures and the Zika outbreak,
climate change–induced drought and the
Syrian civil war, and changing weather
patterns and superstorms like Hurricane
Sandy, he passionately underlines the urgency of our current situation.
On 13 July 2007, Rush Holt, the current
CEO of AAAS and executive publisher of
Science, who was then serving as a member of
the U.S. House of Representatives, praised
Al Gore and An Inconvenient Truth for helping to bring about a sea change in the public
perception of global warming. In the past,
he noted, “Politicians, presented with noisy
statistics, shrugged, said there is too much
doubt among scientists, and did nothing”
(1). Thankfully, he wrote, there was growing
pressure to act from the general public, who
“now widely believes that climate change is
under way and that it is induced by humans.”
During the intervening 10 years, Holt’s confident pronouncement began to feel less and
less like a foregone conclusion.
Yet, for all the setbacks and challenges of
the past decade, Gore remains optimistic
about our ability to innovate our way to a
more sustainable future. Mirroring the visual effect of a graph in An Inconvenient
Truth that showed the alarming rise of at-
mospheric carbon dioxide levels, these days
he includes a slide that shows the rapid
growth of the solar energy industry. Without
an accompanying reduction in
fossil fuel use, climate change
will continue; nevertheless, the
growth in solar power points to
potential paths forward.
Toward the end of An In-
convenient Sequel, Gore chats
with Dale Ross, the Republican
mayor of Georgetown, Texas, about the city’s
plan to transition to 100% renewable energy
sources—a goal that it achieved in March of
this year. “We have a moral and ethical ob-
ligation to leave the planet better than we
found it,” Ross states at one point. He deftly
sidesteps the issue of global warming, how-
ever, citing the potential for economic devel-
opment inherent in such a strategy. Still, in
the current political climate, it is hard not to
view this as progress. j
1. R. Holt,Science 317, 198 (2007).
Gore delivers a presentation on climate
change in Houston, Texas.
The reviewer is on staff at Science magazine.
By Valerie Thompson
An Inconvenient Sequel
Truth to Power
Bonni Cohen and
Jon Shenk, directors
Actual Films and
Participant Media, 2017.
In theaters 4 August 2017.
BOOKS et al.