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OUT OF THIS WORLD | What's Up In Climate Change - a glance at the most important news about our warming world

Al Gore's controversial new film a powerful message of hope


Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist/Science Writer

Monday, July 31, 2017, 4:01 PM - Al Gore's An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power has come to theatres, and this is not just another slideshow presentation. This update to An Inconvenient Truth delivers a powerful message of urgency, and hope, to us all.

In 2006, when An Inconvenient Truth hit theatres, seeking to raise awareness about the developing climate change crisis, we were already seeing its impacts. Global temperatures had just reached a new record high. Sea level rise had reached a new high as well. Global sea ice extent had just reached a new record low. New Orleans was still recovering from the impacts of Hurricane Katrina. Meanwhile, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere had risen to over 380 parts per million.

A LOT HAS HAPPENED SINCE

Now, global temperatures have risen even higher, with five of the past 10 years meeting or exceeding 2005's record, and 2014, 2015 and 2016 each topped the last for warmest year on record. Global sea ice extent has dwindled even further, with a precipitous drop over the past year, reflecting record lows at both poles. Glaciers are melting away. Floods, droughts and heat waves are getting worse. Wildfires are growing larger and more intense. We are seeing stronger storms develop over warming oceans. And carbon dioxide levels have now reached 410 ppm.


An image of Earth from July 30, 2017, taken by NASA's EPIC camera, on board the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR). This satellite, positioned 1.5 million km away between the Earth and the Sun, was championed by Al Gore, who finally saw it launched into space on February 11, 2015. Credit: NASA

Even with all of this and more, however, actions to address climate change have been limited, and the voices of climate change denial have grown ever louder.

Thus, it was about time for an update, a refresher on the issues addressed in An Inconvenient Truth and what has occurred since, and Al Gore, along with producer Jeff Skoll, has delivered something powerful with An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.

The slideshow is still there, of course, but this time it remains in the background, in a supporting role.

Centre stage is Gore himself, as he empowers new climate leaders to educate their communities on climate action, as he speaks to those impacted by extreme weather, and as he witnesses the impacts of climate change, first hand, bringing us along with him.


Al Gore speaking to future climate leaders in Houston, Texas. Credit: Paramount Pictures and Participant Media

On the Greenland ice sheet, we visit a climate station that once rested directly on the ice, but is now accessible only by ladder. The ice underneath the station has melted away, exposed the support posts that were driven deep into the ice at the time it was built, turning the small building into a house on stilts. Nearby, a rushing river of melt-water pours into a deep sinkhole in the ice, and this is just one of many, which deliver melt-water directly to the oceans, and to the base of the glaciers, where it accelerates the advance of that ice towards the sea.

In the streets of downtown Miami, we're there with him as he speaks with local politicians and city officials from flooded streets, while pumps operate to keep the water back and construction crews work to raise street levels. This is not the impact of a heavy rainfall event, but simply the twice-daily high tide pushing farther and farther into the city as sea levels rise.



In front of his audiences of future climate leaders, Gore reminds us of the damages wrought by Hurricane Sandy's storm surge, and the devastation left behind in the Philippines by Super Typhoon Haiyan. While these storms, along with Katrina from 2005, cannot be blamed directly on climate change, the warmer ocean temperatures and greater water vapour content in the atmosphere that is resulting from climate change certainly played a role in their impacts. We see the human impacts of events, as well, such as the conflict and civil war that arose in Syria after the region suffered the worst drought seen in roughly 900 years.

"Every night on the evening news is like a nature hike through the Book of Revelation," Gore says in the film.


Watch our interviews with Al Gore and Jeff Skoll on The Weather Network, and on theweathernetwork.com!


SERIOUS, BUT NOT ALL DOOM AND GLOOM

An Inconvenient Sequel is certainly not all doom and gloom, however.

The film also shows Gore in candid, behind the scenes moments - at home, in the office, and during his travels. Throughout, we are witness to his passion about leaving a world better than the one he was born into, his frustration at the stubborn inaction from some political corners, and the deep empathy he feels for those who have suffered or continue to suffer the impacts of climate change.

These very human moments provide a much-needed challenge to the "straw-man" figure his opponents have built up over the years, and reveal that despite repeated attacks by critics, climate change deniers and politicians with ties to fossil fuel interests, all seeking to discredit him, he remains committed to tackling this problem.


Al Gore speaks with Alfred Romualdez, former mayor of Tacloban City, Philippines, and Demi Raya, a survivor of Typhoon Haiyan, on March 12, 2016. Credit: Paramount Pictures and Participant Media.

Also, while it may subject us to a necessary look at how much worse things have become in just the past 10 years, the film also shows us the points of hope we are seeing as well.

For example, the costs of clean energy have dropped considerably, and with that, the number of clean energy projects planned around the world has seen a dramatic increase. Some businesses and communities, regardless of their feelings about global warming and climate change, are switching to clean energy technologies - especially solar - because it is far less expensive than the fossil fuel alternative. The Kentucky coal museum is one example. Another is the city of Georgetown, Texas - a community that the mayor calls "the reddest city in the reddest county" in the state. It's not about politics or environmentalism for some. It's simply a matter of economics.

Highlighting what is possibly the most important point of light in recent years, the film walks us alongside Gore in the days leading up to, and during, the 2015 Paris Climate Conference.

Here, we get a chance to see, from inside the meeting, the overwhelming global commitment towards tackling climate change and the threat it poses to our current way of life. Not only that, but we see how the participants are prepared to pull together, to help each other overcome the roadblocks that stand in the way of success, and we learn the surprising way that Al Gore, himself, was instrumental in resolving one of the biggest impediments to getting India - a nation that was poised to build hundreds of coal plants - to cancel those plans and sign on to the agreement.



ADDRESSING TRUMP

Perhaps the only downside we encounter at this point in the film is the choice by the current administration in the United States to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

Even as President Trump is shown saying that the world should focus more on fighting ISIS than climate change, though, we've already seen how one of the worst climate impacts in that region of the world played an integral role in sparking the Syrian civil war, which helped ISIS to become the threat it is today. It's clear that addressing climate change can deal with some of the root causes of these conflicts, to prevent them from happening, rather than attempting to deal with them after they begin.

Furthermore, while the U.S. federal government may deny the problem, downplay its significance or attempt to spin a tale that puts the United States at a disadvantage due to climate action, American businesses, communities and even states, are already stepping up to show their commitment to the ideals of the Paris Agreement, and to the efforts that will drive us towards the solution to the climate crisis.

That, really, is what lies at the core of this new film. It humanizes the crisis, revealing the impacts on people and communities, and it emphasizes how we are responsible for what's happening, but it also shows us that by being inconvenient to the vested interests that would like to see the momentum towards climate action falter, and by speaking the truth about the crisis and the solutions to those in power, we are fully capable of solving this crisis.

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power arrived in theatres in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver on August 4, and appeared in wider release across Canada on August 11.

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