It's about the planet, not Al

From Friday's Globe and Mail

Country

USA

Language

English

An Inconvenient Truth

***

Directed by Davis Guggenheim

Starring Al Gore

Classification: G

As sure as it's going to be another hot summer, conservative critics are going to have fun taking shots at Al Gore's new film, An Inconvenient Truth. The filmed lecture on global warming, which the former American vice-president has taken around the world for several years, is straight-forward enough, but some of the criticisms will be justified.

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As directed by Davis Guggenheim ( Deadwood) and conceived of by a team of liberal Hollywood producers, An Inconvenient Truth often digresses into corny campaign biography: Al Gore the lonely crusader, staring thoughtfully out an airplane window; Al Gore the leader, making his way from the green room to the stage, to adoring applause. Guggenheim treats Gore's family tragedies -- the death of his sister, his son's near-fatal accident -- as stations on his road to enlightenment, though Gore seems to have not changed his opinion much since he first studied the environment 40 years ago in university.

Even when it comes to his squeaker election loss in 2000, Gore can barely articulate how it affected him: "Well, that was a hard blow," he says, and then adds: "What do you do? You make the best of it."

Unfortunately for his critics, An Inconvenient Truth isn't actually a movie about Al Gore. After the mandatory self-deprecatory introduction: "I'm Al Gore and I used to be the next president of the United States," he starts to deliver the message.

Then the lecture begins with an image of the planet in the first photograph taken from space, followed by more current images. He explains the theory and shows the effects of global warming. He debunks the idea that there is anything cyclic about the changes. The graph that shows increases in carbon-dioxide emissions and the corresponding rise in temperatures is jolting -- even without the visual aid of Gore standing on a hydraulic lift to show the line going off the chart.

There are photographs of dramatically retreating ice-fields, animated demonstrations of deep cracks through the ice on Greenland and Antarctic, computer simulations of disappearing coastlines, plausible explanations for the current rise in hot summers and hurricane activity.

Much of this material is familiar, but presented in total, over the course of 100 minutes, the impact is frightening.

Paradoxically, the effect is magnified coming from someone who clearly bats for the corporate side. Gore, no eco-warrior (the man drives a Cadillac, for heaven's sake), presents his argument in a sometimes comically upbeat way: Act now and the problems are fixable! Insurance companies and car manufacturers are beginning to see the light! Soon CEOs everywhere will see the advantages of long-term environmental planning over quarterly profits!

Even a politically naive film critic can see that An Inconvenient Truth isn't only about science or economics; it's also about ideology. Gore himself calls climate change a "moral" issue. The film exists because Michael Moore proved with Fahrenheit 9/11 proved that a left-wing political film can do an end-run around the mainstream news and business media to find its constituency. In fact, one of the most intriguing statistics offered in An Inconvenient Truth isn't about water levels and pollution, but about the media environment. In a sampling of 900-plus peer-reviewed studies in recognized journals, not one scientist challenged the idea of global warming. In contrast, more than 50 per cent of articles in the American popular press present it as a "theory."

In an atmosphere of so much heat and haze, An Inconvenient Truth is decisive and clear. Here is a man who was almost the American president, who declares that global warming is here and, unless checked, will lead to catastrophic results. If Al Gore is wrong, the argument demands a responsible and thorough refutation; if, on the whole, he is right, then we need to make changes, fast.