SEATTLE — It’s been 11 years since “An Inconvenient Truth” first hit movie theaters, and no one is more aware of that than Al Gore. Recently, a woman who spotted him in a restaurant — and couldn’t quite place him — insisted he would look just like the former vice president if only he would dye his hair black.
Gore, now 69, is just as impassioned as ever about reversing global climate change, admonishing the world to “stop using the sky as an open sewer.” He spoke July 30 to three sellout audiences in Seattle who came for a special screening of his new movie, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. The film, set to open nationwide today, shows him stomping around melting glaciers in Greenland, wading through flooded streets in Miami, and comforting survivors of the deadliest Philippine typhoon on record — Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest ocean-based storm to ever make landfall, which killed 6,300 people. We also see him training climate activists all over the world. The cameras follow him as he tries — and is successful — in persuading India to sign the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement.
What has changed in 11 years since “Inconvenient Truth”? To be sure, global climate has become more severe. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere exploded from 382 parts per million to an all-time high of 409.5 ppm. But there is also good news to report. Technology has advanced to bring us cheaper batteries and solar panels. Electric vehicles are on the upswing. “Every major car manufacturer in the world is either introducing or poised to introduce electric vehicles,” Gore said. India has made major policy changes. “They announced two months ago that within only 13 years, 100 percent of their cars and trucks are going to have to be electric vehicles,” Gore said. “That’s really encouraging.”
The film also has lowlights.
It shows the moment Donald Trump proclaimed on June 1 he would withdraw the United States from the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement. Gore described it as being “sucker punched.”
Though Gore admits to moments of genuine despair about the state of our world and sometimes feels as though he has failed, he was determined to create a movie with an encouraging missive.
“We wanted to tell a hopeful message that we do have the ability to solve this, and couple that with the fact that we need an increased sense of urgency because the problem’s still getting worse, and we’re going to solve it. But the real question is whether we’re going to solve it in time. And we’re getting close to that tipping point beyond which we’re going to really move quickly.”
Ultimately, Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement — and Trump himself — may be irrelevant. The same day Trump famously said, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” three U.S. governors announced the formation of the United States Climate Alliance, which is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“That was so gratifying that the next day, the entire rest of the world redoubled their commitment to the Paris agreement,” Gore said. “That was really fantastic. For us, as Americans, it was even more important that Governor (Jay) Inslee, Governor (Jerry) Brown in California, Governor (Andrew) Cuomo in New York, a lot of other governors, a huge number of mayors, and business leaders, all stepped up and filled the gap and said we’re still in the Paris agreement.”
“It looks like now the U.S. is going to meet our commitments under the Paris agreement regardless of what Donald Trump did.”
(Fun fact: One of the governors who helped initiate the United States Climate Alliance – Jay Inslee of Washington – was in the audience for the premier of Gore’s film. Seattle International Film Festival organizers actually delayed the start of the 6:30 p.m. showing so that Inslee, traveling by Washington State Ferry, could get to the theater.)
So, what can you do to help stop global climate change? Go see “An Inconvenient Sequel,” chat it up on social media, and know that box office sales can make a difference. “One hundred percent of the profits go to the Climate Reality Project to train more climate activists all over the world,” Gore said. That project has trained an army of more than 12,000 people in 137 countries.
Gore is also pleased to report more bipartisan support for his lifelong mission. He joked about the Climate Solutions Caucus, a group in the U.S. House of Representatives that is nicknamed the “Noah’s Arc caucus.”
“It’s not just a reference to the Biblical deluge; it’s also a reference that they can only join by twos. They have to have one Republican and one Democrat going together. It’s working. A lot more are coming on board now.”
Republican mayors are coming around, too, including Tomás Pedro Regalado, the mayor of Miami. Gore shared this anecdote: “Now that the fish from the ocean are swimming in the streets of the city on sunny days when the high tide comes in, he’s said look, I’ve changed. This should never have been a political issue in the first place.”
Seems like the climate change battle will march on regardless of what the 45th president does. Perhaps we can all render him nothing more than an inconvenient footnote.