Review of ‘An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power’

Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Sequel is a dramatic improvement to the previous film. The cinematography is magnificent and movie includes beautiful shots from the icefields of Greenland and other beautiful vistas from around the world. Additionally, the new film has limited professor-like lecturing which, in turn, reduced the number of questionable graphs and charts that were so heavily criticized in the first movie.

However, the newest documentary still clings to the same deceptive message that anthropogenic global climate change is the single greatest threat to humanity and that fossil fuels should be eliminated from the world’s energy portfolio. Gore seems still not to grasp several facts about the climate system, and he continues to manipulate the emotions of the audience to frighten them into action against climate change.

To my surprise, the directors included one scene that presents a strong argument against the limiting of fossil fuel emissions. About halfway through the film, Gore travels to India to meet with Indian government officials about greenhouse gas reductions. The scene includes dialogue between Gore and an Indian official about why India was reluctant to sign the Paris Climate Agreement. The official said that developing nations were being listed as criminals for using an energy source that was pivotal in the development of the Western world. The official also states that the U.S. and other developed countries want to force energy technologies and policies onto India that are expensive and will infringe upon India’s dreams of economic opportunity for its people.

While meeting with the Indian official, Gore seems to accept the hypocrisy of energy rationing politics for developing countries, but later ruins the scene by saying that fossil fuel emissions are making India’s blue skies into brown skies, therefore, in Gore’s eyes, justifying the need for change. The film then pans through striking images of hazy skies in India and smoke stacks billowing out black smoke.

While it is true that India uses unscrubbed coal plants that emit pollutants into the sky which can cause respiratory issues and haze, air pollution is not the cause of global warming. Gore purposely mixes the message of the clean air crisis with the climate crisis to carefully manipulate the audience’s emotions about fossil fuels in developing nations. Gore claims that India’s skies could be clear and blue if only they abandoned fossil electricity altogether and switched to wind and solar technologies. Unfortunately for Gore, it would be economically disastrous to force expensive energy technologies and rationing policies onto a country like India, and the Indian government clearly expressed that sentiment both in the film and in the Paris negotiations.

The U.S. and many other countries have dramatically improved air quality by using low-sulfur coal and by collectively eliminating the majority of actual air pollutants from the combustion process. India’s air quality issues could be solved by changing to low-sulfur coal, by scrubbing pollutants with existing post-combustion scrubbers, or by using natural gas, but Gore manipulates the audience’s emotions and uses pollution as an emotional argument to regulate greenhouse gases.

Gore also defends his claims from the first film by using the “melting ice cap” argument as the mechanism for global sea-level rise, a claim that even the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate (IPCC) doesn’t wholly support (see page 1181 of the following report and note the contributions of thermal expansion). Gore claims that the melt water of the Greenland Ice Sheet “has to go somewhere” and is ending up in the “streets of Miami”.

The scenes of Al Gore trudging through shin-high water in Miami are striking. I was initially concerned by Gore’s ploy of using the single case study of Miami to manipulate the audience into a state of panic. However, I found solace in the following data. Here is a list of tidal stations around the globe with records beginning around or before 1910: San Francisco, CA, Aberdeen, UK, Cascais, Portugal, Sydney, Australia, Baltimore, MD, Trieste, Italy, San Diego, CA, and of course Key West, FL. All of the aforementioned stations, including the one nearest to Miami, Key West, have been experiencing gradual and constant sea-level rise since before humans began emitting vast quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The rate of rise is nothing new and is on the order of about .5mm to 4mm per year (5cm to 40cm per century). The sea-level rise trends also do not appear to be rapidly increasing or changing, and if the rising seas were an actual threat, then they were a threat before human greenhouse gas emissions ever influenced the environment. Nonetheless, Gore presents the sea-level rise as a catastrophic and human-caused threat to humanity and property that can only be stopped by eliminating fossil fuels.

Regardless of reality, Gore and climate activists thump their fists for action to save the planet from disaster. Gore’s startling footage of homes being destroyed by flood waters and a particularly jarring clip of a woman being rescued from a submerged car, are presented as if every natural disaster since 2005 was a direct result of global warming. For example, he claims that “every night on the news is like a nature hike through the book of Revelations”; in fact, there hasn’t been any notable rise in fatalities due to flooding and hurricanes in the U.S.

The new Gore film highlights several other exaggerated claims that are intended to sway the public into action. Gore exclaims that Zika virus, the Syrian Civil war, tropical storm Sandy, tropical cyclones, and heat-related deaths in India are all results of anthropogenic global warming. The “scientific consensus” stops at anthropogenic warming and Gore’s prophetic claims of natural disaster are not listed the IPCC’s report. Gore proposes solutions like electric vehicles (EV), and wind and solar as a path to a 100% renewable world but neglects to mention the cost and technological barriers to implementing the technologies. A huge part of the film’s storyline is about Gore negotiating a solar contract with Solar City that would share technology with India. The film presents Gore’s negotiation as an important part of India’s decision, but Indian officials say otherwise.

In sum, the new documentary has high production value and is more palatable than the first film, but Gore’s message hasn’t changed. He thinks the world is crumbling before our eyes because human kind is burning fossil energy. He also makes it clear that his preferred solution is a world with zero fossil emissions that relies of wind, solar, and EV technologies. While Gore’s emotional message in the film is powerful, his claims are becoming less substantial every year as the world neglects to experience the promised disaster. There were only three other people in the theatre when I watched the film in Georgetown, and it appears as if interest in the topic is dwindling with time.