Tonight, in 340 cinemas across the UK and Ireland was a special showing of Al Gore's latest film, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to power, with a live interview of Al Gore, before it goes on general release. I went to the show at the Oxford Magdalen St. cinema. Here is my review.
At the special showing I saw a music video style trailer for the film, a regular trailer, the live interview of Al Gore in London, followed by the film.
The official trailer
The One Republic lyric video
This is a film about what has happened and what Al Gore has done in the 10 years since An Inconvenient Truth was released. It starts with powerful images showing what climate change is already doing, as ice melts in Greenland, wildfires increase around the world and Miami floods. All these confirm predictions made in the earlier film, that had been ridiculed by commentators. As the oceans warm, more water evaporates, storms get worse and tropical storm Sandy flooded the World Trade Center site in New York, as predicted.
We see Al Gore explaining this in presentations taken during his climate change training events, from the first 50 people on his farm to hundreds of people in the Philippines, China, India and the USA. Many of the people trained had gone on to take leading roles in climate campaigns. At these events and in this film, he showed both how people are already being affected by climate change and how people in different places were responding to the challenge. In his training event in Tacloban, a city devastated by a tropical cyclone, he showed the exponential growth in installed solar power, way beyond the predictions made 10 years ago, as solar cells became so cheap.
The final third of the film is about Al Gore's personal journey to change policies around the world, from his grounding in the values of his Tennessee family to negotiations with the Indian energy minister at the COP21 Paris conference. India was planning to build 200GW of coal fired power plants. Al persuaded a US company to licence for free to India the technology for the most efficient solar cells in production, making it feasible for India to invest in solar energy instead of coal. India then signed the accord with the 1.5 °C target.
While other reviewers have disparaged the part of the film about the Paris conference, I found it interesting. It give a feeling of the few days of intensive political negotiations. We see him talking to Christiana Figueres, the organising secretary, who gave a talk last autumn in the Oxford University Examination Schools, organised by the Blavatnik School of Government. She was optimistic, explaining that the investment in renewable energy had outpaced fossil fuel investment for several years (also explained in the film). Politicians and governments just had to catch up with what others were doing. She had spent over a year getting governments to agree carbon reduction commitments before the conference. The conference opened with statements from all the country leaders, who all (a) expressed condolences and solidarity with the French people following the terrorist attacks two weeks before and (b) made their promises to cut carbon, in solidarity with future generations.
The film should have ended then, with the success of the Paris conference. But it descended into bathos, as Donald Trump announced that the USA would withdraw from the Paris agreement and to stop funding international climate change programmes. However it ended with a call to action: use your choice, use your voice and use your vote.
Overall, this is a film that did what it says on the tin. It is the sequel to An Inconvenient Truth. It is an account of what happened over the next 10 years and what did Al Gore do. It does not try to counter the arguments of climate change deniers or expose their mendacious campaigns. That is for another film. Nor does it go into detail of the effects of climate change or how to combat it. Instead it gives glimpses of both, enough to get people - even politicians - to think.
It is a political film. In it Al Gore continually reminds us of how thinks can quickly change when large numbers of people campaign. He referred to the final quick successes of the campaigns that had initially seemed hopeless: abolition of slavery, votes for women, civil rights and most recently equal marriage. When children started asking their parents why is it fair to discriminate against people because of the colour of their skin, they had no good answer. When enough people spoke up, it became possible to change attitudes and the law. He repeatedly emphasised using your vote in democracies, even in political systems corrupted by money. It is not enough to change your light bulbs. We need to change our political representatives. In British terms, a sympathetic Tory or Labour politician can do a little, but Green MPs and councillors can bring real change. Hence the subtitle of the film: Truth to Power.
Before the film, we saw the live interview of Al Gore in a London cinema. He gave strong, forceful and informed answers to the questions sent in by the audience using the hashtag #AskAlGore.
Al Gore laid into the carbon polluters. They want to continue using for free our atmosphere as a sewer for as long as they can. They are applying the tobacco industry playbook to sew confusion in public discourse. All the big fossil fuel companies concluded decades ago that the greenhouse effect is real and dangerous. Nevertheless, for short-term financial benefit they have mounted disinformation campaigns to ensure that people will suffer. As Pope Francis said, it is the poor who suffer first and most from the effects of climate change.
But when asked how he could continue in the face of so many setbacks, Al Gore said he was still optimistic. When An Inconvenient Truth came out, no one would have dreamed that solar power and wind could have grown as fast as it has in the last 10 years. After Donald Trump announced the US would withdraw from the Paris agreement, Al was worried that other countries would follow. Instead they publicly rebuked Trump and reaffirmed their commitments. Under the agreement, the first date the USA can withdraw is the day after the 2020 presidential election. So the next president might not withdraw. And a country can rejoin the agreement with just 31 days notice.
When asked what we can do now, he said we should campaign and vote. He told a story about an 11 year old who turned up at one of his 3 day training camps. She spent three days quietly taking pages of notes. Then two weeks later Al Gore was told about a viral video. It was a recording of the same 11-year old tearing in to a Governor at a town hall meeting.
What can we do next?
- Go and see An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to power when it goes on general release. There were less than 50 people at the preview in Oxford. Organise groups to go together to see and discuss the film, using our Meetup group, Green events in Oxfordshire.
- Vote for Green Party candidates everywhere.
- Join the Green Party or at least sign up for the Oxfordshire Green Party newsletter.
- Volunteer to campaign for the Oxfordshire Green Party or one of the climate groups in Oxfordshire. Could Oxfordshire, like Burlington, Vermont get 100% of its electricity from renewable energy? That is the big question for Oxford 2036.
- Donate to support our campaigns.