Review: An Inconvenient Truth

Is global warming happening? If it is happening, is it part of a natural trend? Or is it being caused by human activity? If so, can we really do anything to stop it? Or should be just shrug it off and consider the upsides: more time in bathing suits and less time shoveling snow.

Those who keep up on my blog know I do not need convincing. Global warming is undoubtedly happening. Even our president admits it is happening. In addition, human activity is contributing to global warming. President Bush admits that too. He only disagrees on how much we humans contributing to the problem and the methods that should be employed to address it.

Al Gore begs to differ. You remember Al. In the film An Inconvenient Truth, he introduces himself as the man who used to be the next president of the United States. It gets a laugh at every seminar he gives on global warming. The documentary An Inconvenient Truth is largely a filmed version of Al’s global warming seminar. It is his traveling road show. Armed with a Macintosh computer with a very big screen, Al is now traveling the world doing his best to convince anyone who will listen that the global warming phenomenon is real and action must be taken now. His slide show is very impressive. It would take a very cynical person to come away from the movie not realizing that human activity is the major cause of global warming.

The film is marketed as the scariest movie you will ever see. What could be scarier than real life? In fact, I did not find the film that scary. I certainly learned some new things from the movie. However, I understood before coming into the theater that global warming was real and that its consequences were catastrophic. I do hope that the film will bring in average Americans who maybe are not totally convinced. I suspect though that the film will largely preach to the choir.

I hope that it will not dissuade you from seeing the movie, for even those who agree with Al should still see this film. Do the earth a favor though, and bring someone with you who are a skeptic or are still on the fence. Ideally take a whole bunch of friends. Not only will they be uncomfortably awake after the movie, but also by just attending, they will help address global warming. Five percent of the ticket price goes to support advocacy. I can write off 5% of the $19.50 I paid for two tickets on my income tax!

No question about it though. Al has a terrific yet sobering slide show. Whatever presentation software he is using, PowerPoint was not up to the job. The movie is 90% filmed lecture, and 10% background. We learn that Al was first exposed to global warming research in college. For whatever reason, it became a cause he passionately latched onto. As you may know, in 1992 he wrote a book on global warming, Earth in Balance. Here he is fourteen years later, the almost president of the United States, yet we see him going through metal detectors at airports just like the rest of us. He is now Citizen Gore. He seems to have put his defeat behind him and is doing the best he can to shake us up on this issue before it is too late. In the movie he says that he has given his lecture thousands of times. We even see him giving the lecture in China. Al really believes that if he works hard enough the message will get through and real policy change will happen.

Gone is Wooden Al. In the movie, we find the authentic Al Gore. While he may not be wooden, his passion is still somewhat restrained. We see a rather low-key Al Gore who is introspective, sobering and full of gravitas. No theatrics are necessary. This is one time when the facts speak far more convincingly. Instead, you are left wondering: are we doomed? Is there any hope left for our planet and our species?

Thankfully, the answer is yes. Stemming global warming is quite doable. It is not some sort of pie in the sky notion that must wreck world economies. All it takes is will. In fact, Al makes a convincing case that companies that work to stem global warming will be the economic winners. Perhaps that is why General Electric is working on products that will help stem global warming. Al shows us that it is possible because we have already demonstrated that will. International efforts have stemmed the manufacture of chlorofluorocarbons. That once gaping ozone hole in the Southern Hemisphere has closed up. It is one first and modest success in the climate change challenge for which humanity can take credit.

Usually when the movie credits start, you head for the exit. During the credits in this film, we also see suggestions on how each of us can help stem global warming. The Bethesda Row Cinema, where I saw the film with my father, also had a stack of flyers with suggestions on how to help stem global warming. I took one home. I was glad to see I am already doing certain things right (I own a hybrid and bike to work frequently). Others will take more convincing. I am not sure my wife will let me set up the thermostat two degrees during the summer.

In a world of self-serving politicians, it is such a pleasure to see an ex-politician not squander the rest of their life, but work to do something meaningful for humanity and the planet. Jimmy Carter works hard to bring democracy to the rest of the world. Al Gore is working hard to wake us up to the reality of climate change. It will be the rare person who comes away from this movie without a renewed respect for Al Gore. I for one wish he would run for president again.

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