By far, the most terrifying film you’ll ever see.
It will shake you to your core.
A film that has shocked audiences everywhere they’ve seen it.
There’s nothing scarier. …
If these lines from a movie trailer make you think you’re about to see the next big summer horror blockbuster, then you’re in for a surprise. For it turns out that the most terrifying movie of the summer—the film that has audiences on the edge of their seats, gripping their popcorn tubs in panic and grabbing on to their dates—is a documentary on the perils of global warming.
Directed by David Guggenheim, “An Inconvenient Truth” is the brainchild of former Vice President and presidential candidate Al Gore. Gore figures prominently in the film as narrator and lecturer, gallivanting all over the world to speak to adoring audiences about climate change. The film is largely in homage to Gore himself, with his many personal tragedies, including losing the 2000 presidential election, as backdrop to his newfound role as prophet of doom. Gore warns us that humankind has only 10 years on its current path before we’re all toast.
But despite Gore’s dire predictions and the over-the-top trailer, which promises scenes of death and destruction, the film itself is a dull affair. Most of it consists of Gore giving lectures with infantile visual aids, including cartoons that seem designed for 2-year-olds. Now and then he throws in an inspiring quote, providing some touchy-feely, Dr. Phil-like moments.
Then there are the scenes of Gore staring pensively out his limousine window as his gloomy narrative drones on in the background. Much like his nostalgic reveries for his idyllic childhood on an estate/farm, Gore seems to want to hearken back to a simpler time before modern technology came along and messed everything up. Sort of like the Garden of Eden before the Fall.
This is fitting, for Gore often comes across more like a preacher than a politician and global warming more like a religion than a science. He makes a point of framing the debate in terms of morality and ethics rather than politics (although politics inevitably creeps in). He uses the word mission to describe his current path and refers to the alleged ill effects of global warming as “a nature hike through the Book of Revelation.”
Like the Book of Revelation, Gore’s vision is an apocalyptic one. Scenes of smoggy skylines, gridlocked traffic and smokestacks are interspersed with crashing glaciers, storm-ravaged cities and Third World refugees fleeing on foot. Computer models predict the submerging of continents and the deaths of millions. Every problem on the planet, including overpopulation, war and infectious diseases, is attributed to global warming. If ever there were a vision of the End Times, this would be it. But instead of God’s wrath raining down on the planet, it’s human beings that are doing the damage. One might call it apocalyptic environmentalism.
At the heart of this new religion is planet Earth, photographs of which Gore holds up as if they were objects of worship. In fact, audiences are told in the trailer that they “owe it to the planet to see this movie,” which is certainly a novel marketing approach. Then to add just a twist of relationship psychobabble, the question is raised, “Did the planet betray us or did we betray the planet?” Gore provides the answer later, stating matter-of-factly that “our civilization is destroying the planet.” So why not just kill ourselves off now and get it over with?
This may indeed be the reaction of some audience members after seeing the film, because Gore, to his credit, succeeds in demonstrating that the planet is in a warming period. But in doing so he creates little controversy. For the central question isn’t whether global warming exists but whether it’s the result of man-made activity or simply part of the cycle of heating and cooling that’s been affecting the planet since the beginning of time. The much-referenced 1975 Newsweek article predicting a new ice age is a case in point. The planet is constantly in flux.
The recent increase in hurricanes, another component of man-made global warming according to Gore’s film, also suggests a cyclical pattern. For if one looks at any given 50-year hurricane timeline, it becomes obvious that hurricane seasons ebb and flow. The period between 1900 and 1950, for instance, saw the most intense hurricanes in U.S. history. Yet oddly enough, no one has chalked that up to man-made global warming. Not even Al Gore.
Gore does allude to the “cyclical argument” in the film but simply dismisses it out of hand. This is unfortunate, for he misses an opportunity to truly engage with the arguments of those he disdainfully refers to as the “so-called skeptics.” The fact that this group includes a growing number of scientists isn’t even acknowledged. Neither are the disparate voices who have begun to speak out about the “mild McCarthyism” that, according to Colorado State University professor Dr. William M. Gray, has taken hold of the scientific community when it comes to those who dissent from the party line. Instead, Gore alleges that it’s the other way around.
Despite his claims to the contrary, Gore’s film is hardly apolitical. The possibility of a second run at presidential candidacy hovers over the entire project. The film is littered with jabs at the Bush administration, particularly on energy policy. Yet somehow Gore manages to overlook Bush administration reports on the existence of global warming.
Even the war on terrorism comes up for criticism in the film. As Gore puts it, “Is it possible that there are other things we should worry about besides terrorism?” But the implication that environmentalism and fighting terrorism are somehow mutually exclusive merely comes across as a cynical political ploy, particularly when Gore uses the Sept. 11 attacks to make his point.
While Gore does include such offenders as China, India, Africa and the European Union on his list of top polluters, he reserves the lion’s share of the blame for the United States. In particular, the United States’ refusal, along with Australia’s, to sign the famed Kyoto Protocol. Yet nothing is said about the ineffectiveness of the document in action, despite the presence of all those other signatories. It’s as if the Kyoto Protocol were Gore’s holy grail.
On the other hand, Gore does end the film on a hopeful note, putting forth ways in which the United States can successfully enter the next stage of energy development. As he points out, we already have the technology and the knowledge to start pursuing alternate sources of energy. However, the world economy is still based on fossil fuels, and that’s not going to change overnight. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that until human beings exhaust the current oil supplies we will not fully move to the next phase. That’s how it’s always been and that’s how it’s likely to stay.
In the meantime, supporting realistic and effective environmental policies would seem to be a good start. Let’s leave the apocalyptic environmentalism to Al Gore.