An Inconvenient Truth

Since 2000 Al Gore, the "former next president of the USA", has been touring the world to present his slideshow on global warming. Davis Guggenheim has cut together numerous excerpts from this slideshow and mixed them with more personal footage of Gore to convey his deep commitment to this issue.

The resultant film is by its very nature non-cinematic, yet it remains affecting and absorbing. Gore´s presentation is unsurprisingly polished (he has apparently given it more than a thousand times), but he actually comes across better than I thought he would.

But is it a political film? If so, it partly because the political debate on pollution and global climate change seems to have polarised into two distinct "sides" and it is regularly assumed that Republicans all love polluting industries and either deny or are unbothered by their negative effects (which I dearly hope is not true) while Democrats all agree that the planet is warming as a result of human activities and are keen to limit the damage (which is certainly an oversimplification). However, by using Gore as the spokesperson the film risks being rejected out of hand by many Republicans who may well be the ones who most need to see it. After all, one of the biggest defenders of the oil industry is Bush. Gore is easily painted as a wishy-washy liberal by those who claim that the US cannot afford to reduce pollution because it would increase tax and damage the economy (a fact he skilfully and logically debunks in his presentation).

Despite the claims of some, Gore does have good scientific evidence to back many of his claims. However, his tendency to gloss over the science and present the viewer with a series of graphs, photographic evidence and humorous cartoons to convey his message has perhaps allowed his detractors to focus on the detail he has left out and the occasional inaccuracy or overgeneralization in order to reject his entire hypothesis.

He refers to peer-reviewed scientific journals which debunk many of the criticisms of those who deny that global warming exists and those who claim that warming is simply part of a continual cycle and has not been caused or effected by human interaction. Despite this many critics reject his arguments on specific technical grounds. The difficult part is separating the commentators who are in the pay of the large companies who are responsible for pollution (in particular Exxon-mobile) and those who are simply correcting errors in fact but either agree or are neutral to his overall theory.

For example, I have read widely that he oversimplifies the connection between CO2 and global warming. This may well be true, but that does not mean that we can assume that increasing the quantity of man-made CO2 is without any negative side-effects. Similarly, his suggestion that Hurricane Katrina was caused by global warming is far too simplistic. Even although freak weather patterns may have caused the flood, it was the failure of the US Government to act to protect its citizens in the face on a known threat that was truly to blame. Either way the damage was the result of valuing money more than people.

Gore also claims that you can see the effect of the Clean Air Act (one of his) on ice core samples, a fact which is disputed by those who are considered to be experts in that field. This is unfortunate, as it again allows the criticism of his understanding of the facts even although this mistake does not invalidate his message. Yet, he would certainly be more credible if he admitted to his own culpability in this matter. After all, he was in a position of great power and the government of which he was a member did not act like the environmentalists they sometimes claim to be.

Yet despite these criticisms, I found his general message to be very persuasive and rather scary. The bare fact is that he really doesn´t have to prove that global warming is a threat that is caused by human activity because only a simpleton or an employee of Exxon-mobile would argue that pollution was good for the planet or us. Where there is doubt, we should play safe and not just wait and see if it all goes wrong before we do something. Unfortunately, I also agree with his assertion that the current administration is in bed with the companies who profit from denying global warming and I am not gullible enough to think that the Democrats would be any more responsible.

"An Inconvenient Truth" presents Gore as a celebrity spokesman for the environmental movement, and some have claimed that it is a part political broadcast which is precursor to his fight to become president. This is certainly possible, despite his assertions to the contrary, and it is interesting to note that he avoids making any wide-ranging suggestions which could be seen as threatening to the big polluters. I hope that I am wrong, and that remains independent and so can speak the truth. You see, I actually quite like the new and improved Gore. He does not get as emotional about his subject as Michael Moore and so is harder to dismiss. His cool reasoned tones appeal to your common sense on an issue which should be above political boundaries and loyalties.

Reviewed by Jenny Hill

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