In early 2000, Al Gore was a narrowly defeated U.S. presidential candidate – a career Democrat who had been battered by the political process, and could not be blamed if he'd chosen to hide away at the family farm in Carthage, Tenn. He laid low for a while, but when Gore re-emerged in 2006, it was as the star of an unlikely sleeper cinematic hit, An Inconvenient Truth, which used pie charts and line graphs to illustrate how the global hot house we had cooked up using fossil fuels was destroying the planet. The documentary, directed by Davis Guggenheim, won two Oscars and netted Gore a Nobel Peace Prize (which Donald Trump suggested be taken back in 2010).
Now Gore, the near-septuagenarian, is back in Act II. An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power picks up where its predecessor left off. Only this time it is less PowerPoint presentation and more "day in the life of" Gore, whose crusade to have people embrace the climate crisis movement has made steady progress the past 10 years. The sequel's message? While we still have a long way to go, countless individuals (Gore has personally trained 10,000 so-called "climate leaders"), businesses and governments are committed to finding Earth-friendly solutions. And despite blows such as President Trump's recent decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement, a low-carbon economy is emerging – with 2016 marking an all-time high in investments in renewable energy across the globe.
The film begins with sound bites from the past – particularly the extremely personal ones directed at Gore from the fossil fuel sector and its defenders, who go so far as to compare the former vice-president to a Nazi. Then the camera shadows Gore on an odyssey through Greenland, India, Europe, Asia, and across the United States. We watch the former farm boy pull on galoshes and wade through knee-high water in Florida streets. We see Gore – security detail in tow – jump on the Paris Metro when traffic is snarled ahead of the climate conference (he looks like a fish out of water), and eavesdrop while he listens to heart-wrenching stories from typhoon survivors in Tacloban, Philippines. There is an impromptu greeting with newly minted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the hallways of the Paris conference in 2015, and a tense exchange between Gore and Piyush Goyal, India's Minister of Energy and Power, who wants to understand why the United States – and other industrialized countries – shamelessly burned coal for years to build their cities, while India is asked to look for cleaner energy sources. "I'll do the same thing after 150 years … after I've got my people jobs," he tells Gore.
In the first documentary, Guggenheim used computer-generated graphics to show how rising water levels could flood huge swaths of Manhattan. In the sequel, co-directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk have living proof of the scientist's dire predictions. They use footage of the flooded World Trade Centre site after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. On a daily basis, Gore tracks the environmental travesties, and the film shows people getting stuck in melting roads in India, homes and forests burning in Fort McMurray, Alta., sci-fi-like "rain bombs" pelting Arizona, and vast ice fields simply melting away in Greenland.
If An Inconvenient Truth was a call to action, An Inconvenient Sequel is a plea to not become complacent. The sequel lacks the solar plexus punch of the original, but it's a reminder that we need to stay vigilant – and keep those rubber boots handy. Residents in Miami were navigating the streets in kayaks and surf boards earlier this week.