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Al Gore: Eco matinee idol?

May 23, 2006 By Emma Marris This article courtesy of Nature News.

An Inconvenient Truth showcases science of climate change.

An Inconvenient Truth, a feature film starring former vice-president Al Gore as Al Gore giving his PowerPoint presentation on climate change, opens in New York and Los Angeles on 24 May and elsewhere throughout the summer. tackles the big questions surrounding this much talked-about film.

Is the science any good?

Climate-change scientists who have seen it say (on www.realclimate.organd elsewhere) that the main thrust of the presentation is correct, although they do disagree with details here and there. Some of his more melodramatic moments might make those used to the cautious language of scientific papers a bit uncomfortable. The wretched chaos in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina gets a lot of screen time, for example. Most climate scientists are very scrupulous about explaining that individual hurricanes can never be said to be 'caused' by global warming, although climate change may tend to increase storm numbers or severity. Gore never actually makes a causal link, but a lay viewer could easily infer it.

Is the film any good?

Your opinion of the film will depend almost entirely on your opinion of Gore himself. The cinematography is unobtrusive, the soundtrack is low-key, and I'd guess that some 95% of the lines belong to Gore. If you find Gore to be a refreshingly un-phoney politician with more brains than most whole administrations, you will love this film. If you find Gore boring, annoying or prone to strange shifts in tone, you may well tire of shots of him gazing into the middle distance and ruminating, in voice-over, about the tragedies he's known and how each eventually taught him something about global warming. It reportedly received a standing ovation at January's Sundance film festival though it's hard to know if they were applauding the movie or the man.

Is it going to convince global-warming sceptics?

That's anyone's guess. The trailer for the film ( has a certain big-budget disaster-movie feel, which might attract those without any interest in climate change. But then again, Al Gore is no Jake Gyllenhaal (of The Day After Tomorrow fame).

In the film, Gore gives his presentation in front of an audience from which sympathetic murmurs can be occasionally heard. One audience member wears a T-shirt that reads 'Sweet Jesus, I hate Bill O'Reilly', referring to Fox News' famously conservative talking-head. If these people are going to be the only ones buying tickets, Gore will be preaching to the choir. But that might not be a bad thing. The film may well get those who believe in climate change to be more vocal and active, and indeed, it ends on a remarkably positive and energizing note.

Has there been a response from climate change sceptics?

The free-market think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) has rolled out an arguably hilarious television advertising campaign criticizing attacks on carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon-based fuels, one ad points out, "have freed us from a world of back-breaking labour, lighting up our lives." It closes with the voice-over saying "they call it pollution, we call it life". The campaign doesn't mention Gore by name, but it's plainly a response to the message that climate change is a problem, as promoted by this film's publicity.

Is Gore going to run for president in 2008?

Poor man, that's all anyone can think about. He denied it at the Cannes Film Festival on 20 May. But in one of the film's last lines, Gore says "It is our time to rise again to secure our future." He is ostensibly talking about all the other times humans have gotten together to do the right thing (abolishing slavery, defeating Nazism, curing polio, and so on), but it sounds just a bit like an election slogan. If he does run, it will be interesting to see how firmly he might stick to an anti-global-warming campaign platform.

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