With articles about climate change going viral on social media, reports of extreme weather events and melting glaciers circling in the news, and the president’s recent decision to leave the Paris climate accord, it seems that this couldn’t be a better or scarier time for “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” to hit theaters. A follow-up to former Vice President Al Gore and Davis Guggenheim’s Oscar-winning 2006 documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” this film seems like it almost might be too terrifying or depressing for those audiences concerned about climate change. But “An Incovenient Sequel” is surprising, vital, fascinating, edifying and absolutely crucial viewing for all of us who plan to continue inhabiting this planet for a while.
Directors Bonnie Cohen and Jon Shenk take over for Guggenheim, and Gore is again the star of the show, but this film is far more than a slide show. There is footage of Gore giving talks around the world, at his climate leadership trainings, but we follow Gore off the stage too, as he experiences the real effects of climate change, wading through Miami high tides swamping the city streets, or visiting with victims of Typhoon Haiyan that devastated Tacloban City in the Philippines.
But the most compelling material follows Gore at the Paris climate talks in November 2015. Arriving early for a live broadcast, Gore and his team have to be evacuated in the wake of the Bataclan terrorist attack. It’s an incredible moment that offers the opportunity for Gore to expound on the many different ways climate change will affect our existence. Climate events are going to become more extreme, and civilization will break down along the seams of class, wealth, access and other social dividers. His description of the way the drought in Syria played a part in the civil war that paved the way for ISIS to gain traction in that country is illuminating, and chilling.
Climate change isn’t just a scientific or environmental issue, and “An Inconvenient Sequel” demonstrates the ways in which it has become a political, industrial, economic, health, and simply existential quandary. Climate change will start to affect our lives in a multitude of ways, not just through weather. It will chip away at our day-to-day lives – take, for example, the current effects of Superstorm Sandy on the New York City subway system.
Part of the story thrust of “An Inconvenient Sequel” is Gore’s tireless negotiation in Paris to bring India into the agreement, and to prevent the building of hundreds of coal-burning factories to create jobs. Gore’s careful diplomacy is thrown into stark relief with the hindsight knowledge of Donald Trump’s seemingly cavalier decision to leave the Paris accord.
But somehow, “An Inconvenient Sequel” is empowering, not depressing. Yes, the visuals of Gore walking on rapidly melting glaciers are horrifying. But he is quick to remind us that there are other parts of the world that are picking up the renewable energy slack, notably, Chile. There are moments to cheer as well as jeer.
There are signs of hope, and signs of dire warning. There have been chances to take action and we haven’t yet embraced that moment. “An Inconvenient Sequel” once again poses the question to us, now with even more dire stakes. The window of opportunity is closing, so what is it that we’re going to do – now?