An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

Alice O'Connor | 20/07/2017

It’s been 11 years since the TV trolley rolled into my social science class and Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth voiced its wake up call to the world on global warming. It became the centre of pop culture around the topic, won acclaim and derision the world over and was the ignition point of dialogue on climate change. It is fitting then that Gore’s sequel is released at a time when the debate has shifted focus from the existence of global warming, to our ability to utilise our knowledge and create meaningful solutions to the global issue.

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, directed by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, is as inspiring as it is inciting. It follows Gore in the years after An Inconvenient Truth, travelling the world, with his ever-present slide show, to teach and empower a new generation of climate activists. It divests from its predecessor by offering a behind-the-scene view of Gore and his team’s personal struggles as they prepare to do battle to ensure the success of the coming vote on The Paris Agreement. There is a sense of urgency that ripples throughout these scenes, interspersed with panoramic views of crumbling ice sheets and the optimistic faces of renewable energy innovators.


Opening to scenes of the Greenland ice sheets melting, the voices of climate change critics are overlaid in juxtaposition to what we can clearly see happening. Gore’s hard facts and figures are still an integral part, but they take a backseat to the emotional overtones of the film and the real-time footage of recent severe climatic events. Rather than utilise them as one off snapshots, the film focuses on the stories behind each image; the Filipino student who watched his town swept away, the worst Syrian drought on record as a catalyst for civil war and the redneck American town that’s embraced solar power for its economic benefits. Another snapshot that seems to recur is one of a sour faced old man, grabbing for power at the cost of all else – Donald Trump.


You can’t help but feel Gore should hold some ounce of smugness as he lists off his (scientist’s) predictions that came true; the severe loss of artic ice, the streets of Miami that contain more fish than humans and that global temperatures have continued to rise unabated. And yet he appears stoic in the face of them, as if he knew in some small part of his mind that these catastrophic events were needed to force us into action. At this point the film changes gears, leapfrogging with abandon from one success story to another. The cost of renewables has skydived and cities are able to power themselves on wind and solar energy alone. It is no longer a moral imperative but an economic viability as well.


The problem is that Gore is preaching to the converted. It aims to empower its audience where its predecessor aimed to shock them. A last minute edit which may seem a failed attempt to some, is utilised as a call to action 11th hour appeal!