Film Reviews

An Inconvenient Truth Davis Guggenheim

Rating - 7/10

Having scared myself half to death with the horrifying futuristic distopia that is Children of Men, I missed an opportunity to kick back a little with this selection. Al Gore's horrifying vision of things to come though is not based on some high-concept conceit or the wild imaginings of sci-fi writers but the kind of hard facts that Mr Gradgrind would be glad of alongside a very simple premise: if we carry on in this fashion, the world as we know will very soon end and we shall be wholly responsible. Importantly, the conclusion the former future president draws is rather more empowering: there are steps that need to be taken at an individual and governmental level that can avert this imminent disaster.

Gore and the film's thesis - expounded in what is effectively an edited version of a lengthy Ppt that he has been giving over the last few years - is clear and ever present. Global warming is an incontrovertible fact. A meta-study of peer-reviewed science journals found that of the more than 900 investigations carried out, none of them doubted that the world was getting hotter, and that the culprit is man-made carbon-related emissions. Gore argues that those who deny this must be either scared of the consequences or in the pay of the energy lobby, whose spokesmen, in many cases working within the White House, have operated a policy of dissimulation, obfuscation and misinformation, all aimed at clouding the matter and prolonging the general air of public doubt. This has been aided by the mass communications media: during the same period, of more than 600 newspaper articles in the reputable press, around 50% expressed doubts over global warming that no scientific study would support. This situation he compares to the lengthy fight by cigarette manufacturers to hide the fact that their product is both deliberately addictive and ultimately fatal. In fact, Gore's family produced tobacco for many years, stopping when his sister died of lung cancer, a cruel irony noted along the way.

Thus An Inconvenient Truth comes as part of a project of consciousness-raising. In particular, Gore aims to explain that the consequences of current patterns of carbon emission are dire and, worse still, likely to occur in our lifetimes. In sum, the type of flooding disaster that we have seen in India, in Central Europe and, most visibly, in New Orleans, could very possibly, indeed even in conservative estimates, lead to global flooding on a catastrophic scale and with it the displacement - or death - of 100's of millions of people: a global refugee crisis unimaginable even twenty years ago. Oh, that and the end of the icecaps, the devastation of much of Africa, and the end of the Gulf Stream - what we Brits rely on for our mild climate: which is to say, next time someone jokingly looks at the autumn sunbathers in the Green Park and quips, "global warming, bring it on", you should perhaps remind them that 1) there won't be any more autumns and 2) Green Park will be under water. Along with most of the United Kingdom.

Mercifully, such shocking news is not, in Gore's view, a motive for despair, but rather for immediate action, in the same way that the rise of Fascism or the hole in the ozone layer led to sudden and emergent measures at state and individual level. The film indeed ends with a thorough list of steps that the audience can take to help achieve the goal of "carbon neutrality" such as changing light bulbs, using renewable energy sources, driving a hybrid car, and recycling. Much of this may seem old hat in the UK - Ethical Man has been strutting his stuff on Newsnight for the last few months now - but as Gore's audience is the US, where the Hummer is considered a normal mode of transport, the suggestions are welcome and enlightening.

This is not a faultless film, indeed a number of ironies seem lost on Senator Gore - much of the biog section of the film follows him in airports and on planes, by far the most carbon-heavy activity any of us will engage in (unless you have a coal-fired power station in your shed anyone); the biog section itself is not quite as awful as it might be; charismatic Gore is not but he makes the personal-political, local-global links absolutely plain. There are a number of blindspots and lines not followed: the need for effective public transport in the US is not dealt with; Kyoto is taken throughout as a shibboleth and not a starting point; third world poverty is not dealt with, although as the US is throughout shown as the main culprit that's not such an issue; and the theory of the "war on terror" (spit) as a smoke screen, excuse the pun, is suggestive but not properly followed up (Commissioner Ian Blair, can you fuck off now, please). But despite looking like the stuffedest of shirts, Gore is compelling and even funny at times: his quips at the expense of his moronic vanquisher in 2000 are laugh-out-loud stuff.

One of the final suggestions in the film is to get other people to see this film. Well, I always like to do my bit. See this film. And then walk home. While you can, in the case of those of you in low-lying countries.