Global warming is real, not the ramblings of tree-huggers. And it isn't a natural, cyclical phenomenon, we caused it to happen. A short twenty years from now, according to Al Gore in his brilliantly argued but terrifying documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, it’ll be too late to reverse its disastrous effects, meaning life for our children and grandchildren will be an distinctly uncomfortable prospect.
Director Davis Guggenheim’s documentary is, for the most part, a simple recording of the powerpoint presentation and lecture that Gore has toured the world with (on carbon-spewing aeroplanes, worryingly) for the past five or six years, enlivened by the addition of some robustly presentled statistics of doom, a few chucklesome, self-effacing jokes and long segues into biographical background details on the former US Vice President. If that sounds boring, the film is anything but – it’s as gripping as any horror movie with the difference being that this is real, and its denouement is imminent.
Gore, who does get a great moment out of a cherry-picker, doesn’t otherwise require much in the way of spin or smooth talk to convince his audience that the Earth is in serious trouble. Although the film could be read as an elaborate campaign advertisement for a still-active politician, who carefully positions himself as the man with the plan to save our sorry hides, it is better viewed as the wake-up call we need to pay attention to. The beaten candidate at the election that brought the oil-hungry Texan GW Bush to power, Gore by contrast comes across as an educated, decent and earnest fellow, informed and passionate, with a professional politician’s highly-developed communication skills, especially when presenting complex ideas in a clear and unequivocal manner. Rather than wring his hands while preaching to the choir, Gore presents hard evidence that can support no counter-argument, and proposes a consensus on up-to-date scientific thinking. Red-tinted graphs show the rapid increase in global temperatures and the corresponding increases in greenhouse gas emissions. Simple, unadorned comparison shots of glaciers, reduced to ice-cubes in as little as thirty years, or the disappearance of the snows of Kilimanjaro. The film is packed with troubling case studies; struggling polar bears swimming hundreds of miles searching for their melted habitats or the sequence of stark Google Earth forecasts that illustrate the deluge that awaits the coastal cities of the world (which includes most of the metropolitan areas in this country) when the ice-caps melt and the sea-levels rise. Better learn how to swim.
Then there are the grim statistics. The 10 warmest years in history were all in the last 14 years. The Gulf Stream and the other ocean currents of the world are changing as sea temperatures rise. There is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that at any other time in history. Snow reflects sunlight back into space, but since the polar ice-caps are melting, in an alarmingly rapid manner, and sea-water actually absorbs heat, the more the ice melts, the more of the sun’s energy is retained by the ocean. Gore leaves us with the hope that the effects of one hundred years of industrialisation can be reversed if action is taken immediately. An Inconvenient Truth is the most important documentary released to cinemas this year, but movies don’t change the world, people do. Lobby government, change your lifestyle, get informed and do what you can to increase awareness in your local area.
Practical information and more details on the film are available at the film's special website.