Skeptics outside the field of science participate in a debate about the validity of the science supporting the conclusions of global warming, while another question, not dependent on the science, also awaits decision. An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary film, by Al Gore and Davis Guggenheim, addresses both these concerns and offers clearly thought out and presented ways to look at, sort through and come to personal and societal resolution on these questions arising from the debates over global warming.
An Inconvenient Truth combines, in an excellently crafted fashion, highlights of Al Gore’s biography and a detailed overview of the science investigating the phenomenon of global warming. Film segments alternate between biographical scenes, such as those from Gore’s Senate career and the bulls his father raised, and presentation of charts and photographs, such as those showing global warming temperature patterns and shrinking glaciers. These seemingly disparate themes – biography and science – are aptly tied together through one of the elements in the introduction to An Inconvenient Truth. A shot of a beautifully flowing river is prolonged while Al Gore’s voice is heard to say that, because of the distractions of modern work and life keeping us away too long from natural scenes of beauty, “I forgot it could be like this.” Thus, the personal is made an essential element of the scientific.
Even though An Inconvenient Truth is a documentary, and a science documentary relevant to global warming, it is laced with intelligent humor. For instance, when Al Gore is discussing the point of view that espouses a policy of economics over ecology, he shows a slide used by those proponents that balances gold bars and the planet in a large scale. In discussing the fallacies of this perspective when judging global warming, Al Gore says, “If there is no planet….” Everyone watching, in the live audience to whom Al Gore is speaking, and the viewers of An Inconvenient Truth, all know the unspoken punch line – then there is no economy – and the laughter following his uncompleted statement is genuine, even if a little unnerved by this specific inconvenient truth which sheds additional light on global warming.
Mostly what An Inconvenient Truth contains is data – data explicating global warming – data collected covering eons, data collected from the contemporary record-keeping era and data that was previously Top Secret information, such as the data on the thickness over time of the Polar Ice Cap, newly released by and obtained by Al Gore from the US Navy Nuclear Submarine Commander.
The data presented in An Inconvenient Truth, some of it seen for the first time, is compelling and disturbing. Even those who are not wholly convinced of the global warming situation, will be provoked by the irrefutable information, trends, patterns and events which lead to the debate over global warming. Such provocation precipitates discussion of the other question brought to the fore, independent of the science and conclusions about global warming, and that question is this: If the world is changing because of the presence and activities of billions more people than have ever existed before, what is the right thing to do about the impact human existence has on the planet? There is no question that the planet is changing, and there is no question that this change is related to the people in the world – forests are vanishing, estuaries are vanishing, farm land is vanishing – the question is, what do we do, or more specifically, what do I do, to slow down or even avert these changes? This question stands apart from and independent of the questions over the science of global warming.
It is interesting to note, in connection with the reality of changes to our planet, that just this week in Grindelwald, Switzerland, as reported in an Associated Press story run on MSNBC News, a “massive chunk of Alpine mountain fell from one of Switzerland’s most famous peaks…” following days of warnings from scientists “regarding rock loosened by melting glacial ice.” The Alpine mountain rock was loosened because the glacier shrank, and is shrinking, as are the other Alpine glaciers. Glacier shrinkage is not restricted to the Alps, a fact Al Gore points out in An Inconvenient Truth: glaciers are shrinking the world over. (http://msnbc.msn.com ; Path: /id/13856484)
This question of the right thing to do is one of the questions An Inconvenient Truth addresses; and even a skeptic who sees errors or a margin for error in the science presented pertaining to global warming, must find that the the data can not be wholly taken for granted. Al Gore offers individual and direct, yet simple, ways that everyone – skeptic or adherent of global warming – can act reasonably to reduce the impact of humanity and ease up the changes that are indisputably occurring on our planet. These steps range from choosing energy conserving light bulbs to requesting and purchasing non-fossil automobile fuels, which carry lower price tags that even a skeptic of global warming has no quarrel with. There are also other more politically slanted recommendations which only adherents of global warming conclusions would readily agree with, but most are non-political and depend on doing what is right. These suggestions can be seen on the website www.climatecrisis.net .
One of the most pronounced affects of An Inconvenient Truth is that seeing glimpses of Al Gore’s inner man provides a new perspective on his efforts and motives. His intelligence, kind- and good-heartedness and single- minded dedication are shown through contemplative shots and through the various shots of this lone man walking through airport after airport. A further insight into his character and thoughts is revealed when he speaks candidly about his father’s tobacco farming and his sister’s lung cancer.
The end results of Guggenheim’s well orchestrated medley of man and data in An Inconvenient Truth are that, first, we believe Al Gore and the conditions relating to global warming that he reports on so objectively. Second, we come to understand the personal connection between the individual and the global condition. As a documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth has all the essential elements: It is objective; it is reasonable; it is compelling; and it reveals new information that can not be taken for granted. And more than that, it tells a memorable and honest human story that is worthwhile…more than worthwhile. I give the data in An Inconvenient Truth Five Stars, and I give the film, An Inconvenient Truth, Five Stars.