Al Gore: optimism in the face of climate catastrophe

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power
Opens August 4
3 out of 5

Eleven years ago, armed with little more than a PowerPoint presentation, former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore made climate change a household concept. The importance of the Oscar winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth cannot be understated: it informed countless conversations on how to curb global warming. Even climate denialists would agree Truth fundamentally changed the global warming discourse.

The follow-up finds us in a strange situation: The reality of human-caused Climate Change is widely accepted except for a shrinking number of alt-right knuckleheads, people profiting from fossil fuels and possibly John Gormley. Nearly every head of state is willingly  tackling the problem… with the exception of the leader of the most powerful country in the world (and it’s second largest polluter).

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power is different from the doc that preceded it. There’s a fair amount of graphs and presentations, but this one also features Gore in action, visiting crumbling ice sheets in Greenland and floods in the Philippines. The many climate-related catastrophes in the last decade back up every warning, down to the once-laughable idea the water could reach midtown Manhattan if a storm is severe enough.

The film’s centerpiece is the Paris Accord, a framing agreement establishing that each participant must determine, plan and report its own contribution to mitigate greenhouse emissions (there’s no enforcement mechanisms, but each target must be more ambitious than previously established ones). The document was signed by 195 parties.

As per An Inconvenient Sequel, India was Paris’ most likely holdout (fossil fuels are widely thought key to the country’s development). Enter Al Gore, whose close relationship with a solar panel firm are depicted as decisive in pushing the Modi administration towards signing.

An Inconvenient Sequel had a ready-made happy ending until Donald Trump decided to pull out from the aforementioned accord, with the vague promise of returning under better terms (it’s not going to happen). Since the film premiered at Sundance in January, a tag had to be added: it features Gore looking defeated for a second and ready to keep fighting at the next.

More cinematic but less urgent than the original, An Inconvenient Sequel gets some important points across: renewable energy can — right now — power the entire world, and we may have underestimated corporate capital’s capacity to block green legislation. The documentary is often scattershot, but given the scope of the subject, it’s a forgivable offense: the crises are so numerous it’s hard to keep up with them. From massive fires, to hurricanes, from inundations to mudslides, our planet’s climate has destabilized.

The biggest problem with the film — directed by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk (The Island President) — is the man behind it all. Even though we see Al Gore training surrogates around the world, it often feels like this is one man’s crusade. It’s more passion than ego: 2017 Al Gore is more frustrated than his 2006 self, and his anger is directed to both the speed of change and himself for not achieving more in his decades-long crusade. But it’s still a lot of Gore for one movie.

I had the chance to watch the film with Gore in attendance. The former VP is optimistic despite the ever-rising sea levels and record-high average temperatures. He gives the Trump administration six to eight more months, and believes we have the numbers to turn it around. In his words, “suffering brings us together”. Here’s hoping. ❧