An Inconvenient Truth sent shockwaves through the world when it was released in 2006. For many people, it was an alarming wake up call as to the extent of the damage that had been caused over decades of industrialisation which was sending us hurtling towards a global catastrophe. 11 years on and the effects of climate change are starting to be seen and felt around the world. The timing is perfect for Al Gore to re-enter the scene, thermometer on hand, ready to take our ailing planet’s temperature and prescribe the next course of action. He does just that with his new documentary An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.
The original documentary focused heavily on data aimed to convince the public of the validity of climate change. Coming at a time when the media’s diverse viewpoints contrasted heavily with the scientific consensus in support of man-made climate change, the documentary was able to sway public opinion with its stark facts and compelling graphics. An Inconvenient Sequel spends much less time focusing on the data, seemingly knowing its audience is more likely to be aware of the science this time around. It does however show examples of the already devastating effects of climate change happening all over the world. From the heat waves in India resulting in thousands of deaths, to the flooding in South Florida which is forcing officials to raise the street level in an attempt to keep rising sea levels at bay, it is clear that the world is already feeling the effects of the extreme weather brought about by rising temperatures.
The documentary shows some scenes of destruction which weighed heavily on my heart. It was particularly harrowing to see video of the extreme droughts in Syria which resulted in millions of starving families flocking to urban areas, and eventually contributed to the civil unrest which ignited the current, horrific conflict. The message is clear and achingly salient – many people around the world are already suffering and dying with climate change as the chief culprit.
But there is a message of hope and optimism. The documentary soon begins to focus its gaze on the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, where representatives from 196 countries met to negotiate an agreement for managing temperature rise and global emissions. I found it fascinating to see the perspectives of different nations on climate change. We see less developed nations bemoan missing the boat on the industrial revolution and question how they’ll provide energy for their citizens without cheap fossil fuels. In the United States, we see that Al Gore’s role as a champion on climate change has unwittingly turned it into a partisan issue, a tool for rallying opposing sides of the political spectrum instead of a matter of science.
Struggling to unite ring wing politicians in the US, Gore uses his diplomatic influence to strike deals with renewable energy technology manufacturers and financial lenders which appears to aid in allowing India to commit to sustainability goals. There’s some debate about whether the documentary overstates Gore’s involvement in India’s signing of the Paris Climate Accord, but it does make for powerful and compelling viewing and Gore’s earnest passion for and dedication to the cause is undeniable.
An Inconvenient Sequel also spends some time selling Gore himself. He’s a charismatic leader with two terms as Vice President of the United States and an attempt at the presidency that was controversially snatched from him in 2000. I found it hard not to feel warm towards the man as he traversed his family ranch, stopping to read an adorable and sentimental letter from his daughter about his previous run for the presidency. Later, as we’re presented with scenes of him rubbing shoulders with world leaders such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and making deals with corporate CEOs, I couldn’t help but feel like I was watching an elaborate campaign ad. Could this be an indication that he plans to run for the US presidency again in 2020? Time will tell, but if so, I called it here!
An Inconvenient Sequel is an enjoyable watch, educational on the impact that climate change is currently having on the greater world, and carrying a message of hope and optimism for the future as leaders from around the world unite (one exception will remain unmentioned). I did walk out of the documentary with a feeling of being very small and insignificant, sadly aware that one government could easily undo anything I could achieve on a personal level. With elections in New Zealand looming, this documentary is an important reminder that electing officials that are committed to meeting our climate change goals and holding them accountable is as important as the changes we can enact at a more localised level to reduce our carbon footprint. Watch it if you want to feel empowered to make a difference or for a much needed update on the state of the world.