MOVIES/Ed Rampell

‘An Inconvenient Sequel’ Raises Some Inconvenient Truths about Gore.

In An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, former US Vice President Al Gore, that screen scourge of greenhouse gas emitters and climate deniers, revisits the terrifying terrain he explored in the pioneering 2006 exposé, An Inconvenient Truth, which won two Academy Awards and a shared Nobel Peace Prize.

The heart of that film was Gore’s famed slideshow lecture on the dangers to the planet posed by a global warming. Sequel’s co-directors Jon Shenk and Bonni Cohen take Gore’s continuing campaign against climate change in new directions. The husband and wife team tailed the now 69-year-old ex-presidential candidate as he straddles the globe going to extreme weather flashpoints.

In Greenland, Gore is given a guided tour of an Arctic realm where he witnesses glacial melt, up close and personal. Amidst the drip drip of dissolving ice, glaciologist Konrad Steffen of Swiss Camp Climate Station warns Gore where to step and — more importantly — where not to, in case the warmed-up surface collapses.

Gore is also shown wading around Miami’s inundated streets, flooded due to rising sea levels caused by global warming. This is one of the film’s excellent visualizations of the cause and effect of climate change, which Gore grouses is often overlooked by a media that “doesn’t connect the dots.”

In New Delhi, Gore holds high-level meetings with India’s ministers of energy and environment, who insist on their right to use fossil fuels to develop their country, leading Gore to remark, “We’ve got to crack that nut.” Then an Indian heat wave hits an all-time high of 123 degrees Fahrenheit, and what seems to be news footage shows the rubber sandals of people trying to cross a city street melt, meshing into asphalt, temporarily immobilizing them.

In the film’s most poignant sequence, Shenk and Cohen accompany Gore to the Philippine city of Tacloban, where Typhoon Haiyan’s winds in 2013 reached 196 mph, devastated wide swathes and caused thousands of deaths. Sequel presents Gore clearly explaining how the overheating of the oceans generates superstorms such as Haiyan and Hurricane Sandy in New York. On land, this warming causes drought, like the one in Syria that Gore contends has been a major factor in the ongoing warfare there.

About 30 minutes of the 98-minute documentary are devoted to the 2015 climate talks in Paris, where world leaders gathered to negotiate a climate treaty. (The film was retooled from the version screened at the Sundance Film festival and L.A.’s Greek Theatre to include Gore’s reaction to President Donald Trump’s June 1 withdrawal of the United States from the Paris accord.)

In the film’s portrayal, Indian resistance to restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions endangered passage of the accord. But here is where the film falters.

Gore is depicted as breaking the impasse, by brokering a deal with billionaire Elon Musk’s SolarCity. The company agrees to provide India with its patented silicon-based bifacial photovoltaic cell for free, so the subcontinent can use solar energy in its quest for development. This supposedly leads to a way for the agreement to be signed by 195 members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

This representation of Gore as rescuing the Paris negotiations is disputed.

“I am not aware of any such linkage, and neither are my colleagues in the negotiating team,” Ajay Mathur, one of India’s top negotiators in Paris, told the independent outlet E&E News. “None of us recall any discussion in the negotiating team on any such linkage; I don’t recall an offer of solar technology being discussed at all.”

E&E News added that the filmmakers “didn’t interview Indians or other participants on their views before making the SolarCity deal a central theme. Nor did they verify that anything came of the transaction.”

There’s a larger problem here. In concentrating their attention on Gore, the filmmakers have created a fawning depiction of a flawed politician. While there may be much to applaud about Gore’s climate activism, the film seems to go out of its way to cast him in a positive light. Yes, Sequel does include disparagement of Gore by climate deniers, but there is never any criticism of him from the left.

With the exception of the climate cause, Gore has generally been aligned with the Democratic Leadership Council, which sought to move the party rightwards.

During 1988’s Democratic primaries, Gore campaigned against Jesse Jackson. The Tennessean red-baited his fellow Southerner for “embrac[ing] Arafat and Castro” and raised the issue of the furlough of black convict Willie Horton against Democrat Michael Dukakis before it became a staple of George H.W. Bush’s campaign.

And while Sequel includes footage of Gore speaking out about climate issues at an early 1990s conference, he didn’t fully use the bully pulpit of the vice presidency to advocate for the environment. (A much more prominent campaign was launched by Gore’s then-wife Tipper to put warning labels on record albums.)

In the 2000 presidential race, Gore disastrously chose the Republicans’ favorite Democrat, right-leaning Sen. Joseph Lieberman, to be his running mate. The Clinton/Gore Administration’s failure to clean up Lake Okeechobee was among the reasons 97,000 Floridians voted for the Green Party instead of the Democrats. Out-maneuvered during the recount, Gore lost the Sunshine State by only 537 votes.

Ironically, Al Gore arguably lost the presidency due to his lack of advocacy for environmental issues.

Born into a prominent political family, including his father Al Gore Sr., a onetime US Senator, Gore is a charter member of the one percent. But his fabulous wealth—Gore reportedly sold the failed Current TV channel he co-owned to Al Jazeera for $500 million—is never mentioned in Sequel. While Bill Clinton, John Kerry and Barack Obama are glimpsed in Sequel, which complains that none of the 2016 GOP presidential candidates opposed global warming, the candidates who did make climate a campaign issue—socialist Bernie Sanders and Green Jill Stein—never appear onscreen.

Gore’s stance on climate may be admirable, but he’s no saint and this is only part of the saga. To truly speak truth to power, documentarians have to show all sides of the story.

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power opened in select theaters on July 28 and went wide Aug. 4.

Ed Rampell is a film historian and critic based in Los Angeles. Rampell is the author of Progressive Hollywood, A People’s Film History of the United States and he co-authored The Hawaii Movie and Television Book. This first appeared at

From The Progressive Populist, September 1, 2017

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