Book Review

Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, 2016 

Vegan, committed leader, campaigner and influencer, Nobel Laureate and antidote to climate change denial; Al Gore personally presented An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power to a 300-cinema-strong audience in Britain on 11 August 2017.

From at least 2006, the man has occupied a strong position for climate change leadership. An Inconvenient Truth (2006) reached and influenced hearts and minds on a global scale, energising scientific facts formerly regarded as ‘crank’ theories, to broadcast new, powerful norms of communication. The question now in the balance is how and why humankind maintains climate change impacts beyond Al Gore’s lifetime.

Using analogies, simple physics explanations and statistical reasoning during his pre-film interview, he conveyed a context for learning and doing. For those with commercial interests, he quoted figures about solar jobs’ 17 times growth compared with other industry sectors, reflecting results from climate change industry buy-in to date.

A pre-feature short conveys the beauty and fragility of our planet alongside catastrophic events which relate to cause and effect within the global warming and climate change discussion. The main film again has Al Gore as its undoubted star, engaging in activism, political and commercial influence and discussion with national and international leaders, and teaching his very own growing number of Climate Change Leaders. The much bigger player, according to Gore, is ‘Mother Earth [who] is the new participant in the discussion’.       

He explains that he does his ‘best’ while emphasising that scientific argument for man-made global warming impacts needs ‘grass roots voices to activate and sustain the empowerments afforded by the Paris Accord’. Thus, film footage includes Gore meeting political heads in Japan in 1997 in relation to the Kyoto Protocol, which ostensibly expired in 2012; also Europe’s central involvement in sustaining Japan’s original momentum, further documenting Gore’s contribution to driving solar energy costs down for less developed countries and confirming his role as instrumental in respect of Paris Accord ratification to the tune of 150 Nations, including India and Chile, in 2016.

Whereas the Democrat-Republican political platform may no longer be active for him in terms of equal seats of power, press interviews during the film’s release show his willingness to lock horns. Gore’s focus upon relevant technologies is wide-ranging within his films and currently his unique involvement with the less developed countries reveals his eschewing of ‘land-line’ technology. He fails, however, to mention that server technologies have long been the subject of criticism for their use of toxic coolants. Gore has, thus, possibly weighed in as seriously as he is politically able at this stage.

In spite of being faced with climate change deniers who are in equally if not much more powerful positions of influence, Gore successfully conveys that he is not taking on the political world alone: he has broadcasters and film crews, credible scientists, Climate Change Leaders, captive book and film audiences and accumulating grassroots support from younger generations in tow. In politically correct and humble style, respectively, he moreover co-credits both the female director and producer of this sequel and the Oscar-winning director of the first documentary.

Gore also certainly delivers impactful sound bites: ‘Using the sky as an open sewer’; ‘Our atmosphere is not limitless’; ‘Humanity is at risk’; ‘Mother Nature is the new participant in the discussion’. ‘Unprecedented’ being the buzz word of the past decade in relation to global finance, he brings it in to describe phenomena which he links with global warming effects, such as the Zika virus and survivalist migration. He emphasises throughout that true power in sustaining arguments and support for climate change will continue if clear, consistent messages get through to governments, businesses and investors capable in enacting relevant laws and policies. In more prosaic terms, his words to the Mayor of Texas ‘money talks’ ring very true.

The power of An Inconvenient Sequel may be that its audiences will consider the possibility of imagining a world without climate change believers; where development and use of energy and technologies ignore impacts upon earth’s atmosphere; where depletion of fossil fuels meets with alternatives which allow toxins and pollutants to pour into the air and sea; where sight of the bigger picture in relation to global warming, climate change and all of the resultant impacts is lost. We, therefore, understand Gore’s obvious sadness when filmed talking about recent USA election results. Admirably, he fights on.

Jackie Bergson has worked in the voluntary sector and commercial business development in technology and creative sectors. Educated in and living in Glasgow, her political and social views chime left-of-centre.