Last night I attended a “special event” at the local Red River Theatres, a rather nice independent movie theater in Concord NH. The event was their premiere showing of “An Inconvenient Sequel – Truth to Power”. It was made special with a reception and introduction before the showing and an introduction featuring letters from our congressional delegation (all democrats, all women, we were reminded), and followed by a panel discussion of people from organizations working to end our dependence on fossil fuel.
It’s a smallish theater, but I was impressed that it was sold out.
I was expecting that it would be an updated AIT (An Inconvenient Truth), with updated science, and updated predictions, but targeting the year 2100 so they couldn’t fail in the predictor’s life time. The opening of the film included spots of Gore’s claims being dismissed by news media, candidate Trump, Senator Inhofe and others. (It was a surprisingly good summary!) Then there were a number of scenes attributed to climate change (melting ice in Greenland, flooding in Miami, brief shots of storm floods around the world), essentially nothing had hard enough data to critique effectively, but were meant to show that his critics aren’t paying attention to things Gore sees, and shame on them.
The film began to narrow its focus to a “touchy-feelly” “rally-the-troups” film with shots from his first training session and a reference to the iconic Apollo Big Blue Marble photo, which he hung in his West Wing office. He got interested an updated photo, and when he found there were none with that resolution from beyond geosynchronous orbit, he pushed the development of the DSCOVR Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite. Politics forced it into storage after he entered the presidential race. (DSCOVR was designed to orbit at Earth’s L-1 Lagrange point which is about a million miles sunward from Earth. One of its important tasks is to provide us with a little warning of incoming geomagnetic storms.) The film doesn’t have the word “Lagrange” in the script, a clue this is not a science-heavy film.
A visit to his childhood home, still in the family, brought reminiscences about hope in the early part of his presidential campaign, then the shift to his concession speech when the US Supreme Court awarded the election to George Bush showed the matching disappointment. He then noted that people working to stop climate change also experience shifts between hope and despair. He brings in renewable energy (always wind and solar), showing the early, exponential adoption rate and then the NY Attorney General as he begins his investigation into the well funded denial organizations and vested interests like Exxon Mobil were trying to cripple mankind’s ability to respond to this existential threat. There is not one word about power grid stability or the outcome of the investigation. Nor anything about problems with renewables, other that a snippet from Donald Trump ranting about the short lifetimes of PV panels.
He does admit that fuel use has done much to improve human existence and life spans, but quickly visits China and then India where he meets with officials there and tries to get them to commit to renewables. The Indian minister say coal plants are still cheaper and points to the west’s 150 years of development and high incomes enabling that transition there. He also notes that the west hasn’t come through with support and even adds impediments.
Then shots of record heat in India with melting asphalt streets and people losing their sandals as they try to cross. Mass graves being dug in Pakistan in anticipation of heat deaths if the coming summer has a repeat of the previous summer’s heat wave. Diseases spreading from the tropics north to us, and especially Zika.
Increased heat energy in CO2 (!) is going into the oceans and making storms stronger. After saying one of the big criticisms of AIT was the animation of sea level flooding Manhattan, that happened just a year later when superstorm Sandy came through. [N.B. In AIT it’s clear that he is referring to sea level rise due melting at Greenland and Antarctica. There is no mention of storm surge in AIT!] Then on to Super Typhoon Haiyan and it’s impact on the Philippines. [From the NASA page: A storm surge of anywhere from 3 to 5 meters (10-17 feet) hit the island of Leyte and its coastal capital of Tacloban; much of the local elevation is about 10 feet above sea level.]
Gore’s Climate Reality Project held what was meant to be a 24 hour pre-Paris broadcast, and the movie showed some of the backstage responses to the terrorist attack nearby, ending with Gore’s announcement that the program was being suspended.
The Paris COP did go on, of course, and after showing some of the arriving delegations and a brief review of the few successes and little progress from the earlier COPs, Gore comments there was “… no way in to really take hold of the process and say ‘Okay, let me help you here’.” Quite a bit of this segment shows Gore trying to get SolarCity to release some of their patents to give India some of the western support they are looking for. Apparently backroom politics these days are conducted by cell phones across multiple continents. Also Gore was trying to find lower cost credit for building wind farms than the 13% they had pay at the time. At the end of the segment, Secretary of State John Kerry, President Obama, President Hollande, and others helped create the largest loan ever to help India shift to renewable energy and stop their increasing CO2 output. Ultimately India supported the Agreement and everyone went home happy.
Then an interlude showing the launch, finally, of DSCOVR on 2015 Feb 11 and a thanks to President Obama for allocating the money for the launch and operation.
And finally – Donald Trump wins the election. “With all these new threats, there has never been a more important time to speak truth to power.” Gore had hoped to end the movie on a triumphal note but the election and then Trump pulling the US out of the Paris Agreement forced him into step back to regather his forces and continue the fight a while longer.
Both Inconvenient Truth movies have a lawyer’s bias, a one sided approach with a goal of making people see the proponent’s way instead of the scientists’ “question everything” approach to learning the truth about how our universe works. I’ve noted a couple things above, feel free to fact check things I’ve missed or find samples of the “worst ever” that have “it was worse back in …”. Take some time to come up with a good comment that adds to the story.
Of course, while I think Trump would be more natural in a clown suit, bringing down the climate accord buys us more time to track the ever-so-slow climate change processes. Ultimately I expect we’ll find that CO2 is overrated as a greenhouse gas, there is a lot of good empirical data that says that now. If we’re really lucky, science agencies will realize that “natural variability” is an awful term that should never be uttered, at least not until we figure out the components that make up natural variability – and measure them. That’s a large area that needs more study and agencies ought to be able to find ways to get Congress to fund that.
Finally, clearly, I don’t recommend the movie. I do, however, recommend the Red River Theatres if you’re in the state or even just passing through. (The State of NH is good at getting people passing through to leave some of their hard-earned cash behind, I’m glad to help out!) The theater folks had to work hard to get Paramount to give them AIS for the premiere showings, and it would be nice if they can impress Paramount. Of course, there is a lot of Al Gore to sit through. And let’s face it, some of those matinees may be private showings.