It is rare for a documentary commenting set in the arenas of politics and science rather than musical arenas to receive worldwide release beyond the small circuit of independent cinema chains who cater to specialist markets; to be screened in multiplex chains is almost unheard of, yet focusing on the accelerating dangerous climate change of our planet 2006’s An Inconvenient Truth was a global issue which surpassed borders or parochial concerns.
Eleven years have passed, and directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk have spent much of that time in the company of climate activist and former United States Vice President Al Gore as he has toured the world, engaging and debating with audiences and building a network of local champions who will continue to work within their local communities, a story told in An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.
With the consensus of opinion among scientists estimating a 95% probability that global warming is predominantly caused by human activity, primarily the burning of fossil fuels and the release of greenhouse gases, this is a battle for the future of our civilisation which we cannot afford to lose, the primary and side effects of which have been demonstrated to devastating effect in the intervening decade.
Fourteen of the fifteen hottest years recorded have been since 2001, with 2016 the hottest single year on record ever; this does not mean that there are no cold days within that year because weather and climate are not the same thing, a facile and ignorant deflection trotted out by self-serving politicians whose hostility to ameliorating the damage done to our planet serves the entrenched positions of the establishment whose interests dictate that policy not be overhauled to reflect the potential of renewables or green energy.
With visible changes in vast landscapes, Gore shown around collapsing ice caps exposing surfaces which have been shrouded for centuries, this is not anecdotal or open to interpretation, it is a fundamental shift in the balance of the planet which expresses itself differently across the continents, weather patterns shifted as annual rains fail to fall, leaving plains baked dry while other lands are swamped by deluge.
Climate change happening faster than the attitudes or behaviour of a resistant society can be changed, the effects manifested in Kolkata, Mumbai in Dhaka, in Kiribati and the Maldives are not reported worldwide as headline news, but nor is the flooding in Miami when the Florida State Governor refused to meet climate scientists to discuss mitigation even as the water rolled in.
There is noticeably less science in this sequel than the original, the graphs and numbers giving way to footage of the immediate effects and the secondary consequences, displaced populations fuelling refugee crises and conflicts escalating over diminishing resources, Syria suffering the worst drought in nine hundred years.
Gore consciously placed as personality rather than presenter, by making it more about him the weight of the message is diluted but he is well placed to have witnessed first hand the dealings behind closed doors in the palaces of power and demonstrates considerable discretion in not directly calling out those who have failed to address the “moral, ethical and spiritual issue” which future generations will hold this one answerable to.
A hugely emotional and powerful film, An Inconvenient Sequel depicts a world in crisis where the worst affected are the poor, the barrier to change not being the existence of technology but the access to it which is controlled by the richer countries who hold the third world to ransom. While most of the film was made prior to the election of Donald Trump, an annoying but persistent background noise, the developing word’s resentment of western dictates is a complex subject touched upon too briefly.
What the dominant economic power of the United States of America now sells is division, distortion, dissent and willful ignorance even as mass graves in Pakistan and the Philippines are filled with the bodies of those who have died in heatwaves, as the range of disease carrying insects expands and incubation periods accelerate. For all the forward steps made it is Trump and his kind who are the greatest barriers to change and the hope of a sustainable future where a global crisis can be met with global unity and the cooperative agreement of more rational minds.
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power is currently on general release