There are two scenes in An Inconvenient Sequel that define Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk’s follow up to 2006’s An Inconvenient Truth. The first concerns Al Gore’s prediction, made in that previous film, that the World Trade Centre Memorial could be flooded due to rising sea levels. Climate change deniers vehemently criticised this, calling it preposterous. Then, during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, what do you know? The World Trade Centre Memorial was flooded.
Of course, that was a hurricane, not strictly rising sea levels, but the point is clear. Gore’s new slideshow, which he has been touring the past few years and which provides much of An Inconvenient Sequel’s content, claims that weather-based disasters are becoming more severe and more frequent, all because of climate change. It’s easy to believe, too; you just have to switch on the news or pick up a newspaper.
When he’s not touring his slideshow, Gore is touring the world, visiting flooded streets and melting glaciers, or (on a more upbeat note – the film does end with a feeling of tentative hope) the largest city in America to move to one hundred percent renewable energy. Much of the focus is on the Paris Climate Accord, and Gore’s involvement in securing India’s cooperation. Some hasty editing was performed after Donald Trump announced the US’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement; Trump now hangs over the film like an orange-haired antagonist.
The second defining scene comes during the Paris terror attacks of November 2016. Gore, who was in Paris at the time, cut short his “24 Hours of Reality” broadcast; sombre and sincere, we see him offer his condolences to the French broadcast crew. An Inconvenient Sequel is as much about Al Gore himself as it is about climate change. Affable and avuncular, the film nevertheless portrays Gore as passionate and tireless in his decades long environmental campaign. It’s hard not to get swept along by his determination; after riling himself up during one segment of his slideshow, the audience applauds his righteous anger.
Of course, your mileage will vary depending on your opinion of Gore, and your opinion of climate change. Detractors and deniers will undoubtedly find plenty of ammunition here (can the severity of storms actually be traced back to global warming?). Personally, I like Gore; there is charisma in his passion. More importantly, I go where the research and the facts take me, and they lead inexorably to manmade climate change. (It should be noted that, as with An Inconvenient Truth, further research is required. Facts are condensed or skimmed over in favour of dramatic delivery.)
Perhaps the most inspiring and relevant aspect of An Inconvenient Sequel is how it presents the efforts to deal with climate change as moving away from the political arena into that of the personal and private. There is relatively little screen time given over to world leaders and senate subcommittees. Instead, Cohen, Shenk, and Gore are eager to highlight the efforts of scientists, local politicians and everyday citizens. The subtitle Truth to Power is a call to arms, a rallying cry for us to show the powers that be the truth of what they’re doing to our planet.