In 2006, Davis Guggenheim directed An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary film about Al Gore’s fight to educate the world about climate change. It made nearly $50 million at the box office, won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, and is credited for moving the conversation about climate change along (although not nearly fast enough, in my mind). This July, a followup documentary will be released: An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. From a review in the LA Times:
Eleven Sundances later, Gore’s star wattage seemed entirely undimmed at Thursday evening’s premiere of “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,” an awkwardly titled, stirringly crafted follow-up that measures the progress that has and hasn’t been made in the battle against global warming. Taking over for Davis Guggenheim, the directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk largely abandon the framing device of Gore’s lecture (which he and his international team of trainees continue to give regularly) in favor of a nimbler, more on-the-go approach.
Despite some updates on the continuing decline of the world’s glaciers and the link between climate change and the recent Zika virus outbreak, the focus this time is less on science than on politicking. Cohen and Shenk tag along with Gore on a globe-trotting mission to persuade various heads of state to invest in wind and solar energy, and reduce their reliance on fossil fuels — an effort that culminates on-screen with the signing of last year’s historic Paris climate accord.
In a review in Prospect, Matt Ridley, who is no slouch as a science writer himself, calls Andrew Montford’s The Hockey Stick Illusion “one of the best science books in years”. Pretty high praise for what Ridley also calls “the biography of a graph”. Specifically, this graph:
You may have seen it in An Inconvenient Truth in this form. The graph shows the dramatic rise in temperature in the northern hemisphere over the past 100 years caused, presumably, by humans. But as Montford details in his book, the graph is incorrect.
[The author] had standardised the data by “short-centering” them — essentially subtracting them from a 20th century average rather than an average of the whole period. This meant that the principal component analysis “mined” the data for anything with a 20th century uptick, and gave it vastly more weight than data indicating, say, a medieval warm spell.
Talk about an inconvenient truth.
Update: As expected, ye olde inbox is humming on this one. Here are a few places to look for the other other side of the story: Real Climate, Climate Progress (2, 3), New Scientist, and RealClimate. (thx, reed, barath, aaron)
Al Gore won a share of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for what is essentially a PowerPoint presentation. More info here.
Update: Yes, yes, I know Al Gore uses Keynote and not Powerpoint. Hence the “essentially”. (thx, everyone in the world)
Update: Amazingly, Al Gore now has an Emmy, an Oscar, and now a Nobel Prize. All he needs is a Grammy for the full Gore. (thx, brent)
Update: Man, you folks are testy today. When I say that Gore won a Nobel Prize for a Powerpoint presentation (again, “essentially”), I’m not being derogatory towards Gore. I like Gore…I’ve written several posts about him. But whatever his other accomplishments regarding the environment, he won the Nobel for An Inconvenient Truth. No movie, no prize. Period. Suppose someone had told you two years ago that someone would win a Nobel Peace Prize for a Hollywood film of a Powerpoint presentation…you’d have laughed in their face and every other part of their body!
Unsurprisingly, the WSJ doesn’t much care for An Inconvenient Truth. Is there any way of uncoupling political alignment and one’s position on this issue?
An Inconvenient Truth, a movie about Al Gore’s global warming crusade, opens today in NYC and LA. John Heilemann has a lengthy piece on Gore for New York magazine, the NY Times has a piece about Gore and the movie, the climate science blog RealClimate has a positive review of the film, and here again is my review. Larry Lessig, who knows a thing or two about bringing tha PowerPoint noize, loves the movie, calling the slideshow “the most extraordinary lecture I have ever seen anyone give about anything”.
An Inconvenient Truth will open in the rest of the US in mid-June; check this theater listing for details. For more news, check out the movie’s blog.
Riding a wave of publicity from his movie, An Inconvenient Truth, might Al Gore run for President in 2008? (My answer: unlikely.)
In the 1960s, a young Al Gore had the good fortune to study under Roger Revelle at Harvard University. Revelle was one of the first scientists to claim that the earth may not be able to effectively deal with all of the carbon dioxide generated by the earth’s rapidly increasing human population. The American Institute of Physics called Revelle’s 1957 paper with Hans Suess “the opening shot in the global warming debates”. Gore took Revelle’s lessons to heart, becoming a keen supporter of the environment during his government service.
Since losing the 2000 Presidential election to George W. Bush, Al Gore has focused his efforts on things other than politics; among other things, he’s been crisscrossing the world delivering a presentation on global warming. Gore’s presentation now forms the foundation of a new film, An Inconvenient Truth (view the trailer).
In organizing my thoughts about the film, I found I couldn’t improve upon David Remnick’s review in the New Yorker. In particular:
It is, to be perfectly honest (and there is no way of getting around this), a documentary film about a possibly retired politician giving a slide show about the dangers of melting ice sheets and rising sea levels. It has a few lapses of mise en scene. Sometimes we see Gore gravely talking on his cell phone—or gravely staring out an airplane window, or gravely tapping away on his laptop in a lonely hotel room—for a little longer than is absolutely necessary. And yet, as a means of education, “An Inconvenient Truth” is a brilliantly lucid, often riveting attempt to warn Americans off our hellbent path to global suicide. “An Inconvenient Truth” is not the most entertaining film of the year. But it might be the most important.
Watching the film, I realized — far too late to move to Florida and vote for him in 2000 — that I’m a fan of Al Gore. He’s smart & intellectually curious (the latter doesn’t always follow from the former), understands science enough to explain it to the layperson without needlessly oversimplifying, and despite his reputation as somewhat of a robot, seems to be more of a real person than many politicians. As Remnick says:
One can imagine him as an intelligent and decent President, capable of making serious decisions and explaining them in the language of a confident adult.
The film has some small problems; many of the asides about Gore’s life (particularly the 2000 election stuff) don’t seem to fit cleanly into the main narrative, the connection it makes between global warming and Katrina is stronger than it should be, and the trailer is a little silly; this is a documentary about Al Gore and global warming after all, not The Day After Tomorrow or Armageddon. But the film really shines when it focuses on the presentation and Gore methodically and lucidly making the case for us needing to take action on global warming. An Inconvenient Truth opens in the US on May 24…do yourself a favor and seek it out when it comes to your local theater.