An Inconvenient Truth

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Eric Lee/Paramount Classics
Davis Guggenheim/United States 2006

Is An Inconvenient Truth controversial? Not in the least – unless you are among the sliver of people who feel that global warming is one of the biggest hoaxes perpetrated on mankind. Following this film’s debut, The Associated Press contacted more than 100 top climate researchers – including vocal skeptics of climate-change theory – for their opinion on the film’s facts. Those who had seen the film came away with an overwhelming impression: Former Vice President Al Gore got the science right. The scientific community generally agrees the planet is heating up, that we are primarily responsible, that the effects are catastrophic and that we have only a tiny fraction of time to reverse the coming cataclysm.

Whatever your party affiliation, it is impossible to not walk out of the theater profoundly affected. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is a partisan issue. It’s not. It is, as Gore calls it, a moral issue.

An Inconvenient Truth is essentially a fascinating and relentless cinematic version of a scientific slide show lecture Gore has been presenting and refining for nearly 30 years, concisely laying out the case that our own carbon-dioxide emissions are becoming increasingly trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere and are systematically destroying this planet. Casual in both dress and demeanor, this is the ex-Vice-President as you’ve never seen him before – and perhaps wish he could have been six years ago. There is a passion here few have ever seen.

Gore has enough graphs, charts, time-lapsed photographs and scientific studies to convince even the most ardent skeptic. Calmly and with humor, Gore shows us evidence that the ice caps are melting, the ocean levels are rising, the weather has gone mad, temperatures are skyrocketing (since humans have kept records, the 10 hottest years on record have occurred in the last 14 years and of those, 2005 was the hottest ever recorded) and if we don’t act soon – probably within the next decade – we face a apocalyptic future. Once the tipping point has passed, we will begin the slide towards the destruction of most life on this planet.

The most shocking thing of all is the photographic evidence. Gore doesn’t need to hype the doom and gloom. The before and after pictures he shows are more than sufficiently horrifying. There’s no spinning the pictures. Where there were once monolithic, thriving glaciers, vast fields of rock remain. Where massive polar icecaps sat, indestructible and immovable, the arctic shorelines have begun to experience rapid erosion. Perhaps most alarming of all are the images dealing with the Antarctic ice shelf and the glaciers of Greenland. These titanic structures are melting, breaking up and tumbling into the sea. If only one of them, or large enough sections of both were to melt completely, sea water levels would rise to the point that every coastal city in the world – including New York, Shanghai, San Francisco, Calcutta, Miami and thousands of others – would be underwater.

Gore treats his audience like adults, laying out a detailed, lucid and cogent explanation of what is perhaps the most pressing issue of our collective history. Gore doesn’t waste his time preaching to the choir. On the contrary, this film directly and respectfully addresses the queries and concerns of skeptics, methodically piling evidence on top of evidence, until the truth is obvious and unmistakable. If things are even half as bad as Gore says they are in An Inconvenient Truth, we are very likely looking at the end of all humankind.

“It sometimes takes time to connect all the dots when accepted habits and behaviors are first found to be harmful. [But] a day of reckoning might come when you very much wish that you had connected the dots more quickly,” Gore says.

Gore compares our complacency to act with civilized Europe’s reluctance to confront Nazism in the previous century. Invoking Winston Churchill, he says we are entering a “period of consequences” in which we must decide – and we must decide before it is too late.

If this sounds alarmist, it is. And yet you won’t see Gore running around like a man with his hair on fire. In fact, “An Inconvenient Truth” is not a pessimistic film. The truth may be inconvenient – dire, even – but it is not hopeless.

There are no action stars or superheroes here to save the day. In fact, in an odd twist, this is a film in which we all star as both villain and victim. And as agents of change. We mustn’t give into despair, Gore warns. This nation ended slavery, gave women the right to vote and put a man on the moon. It can accomplish nearly anything. It can certainly lead the rest of the world in stopping global warming. And it even tells us how. Unlike many of the energy assets mentioned in An Inconvenient Truth, “political will is a renewable resource.”

Virtually everyone who sees this movie will be galvanized to do something about global warming. And everyone should see this movie.

© 2007 Brandon Fibbs. All rights reserved.

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