Film Review: Al Gore Speaks Truth To Power (2017) DVD and online
21 December 2017
The first moment that you accept that the release of this sequel was necessary is when Al Gore stands in front of his video screen and says, “one of the things that An Inconvenient Truth (2006) got most criticized for, was the film sequence that predicted the flooding of the world trade centre site”, the sequence is shown again. The film then cuts to news footage of the extensive 2012 flooding of the world trade site driven by the exact same storm-surge forces described in the 2006 film. We see Governor Cumo at a press conference pointing out that those who doubted this could happen—must now accept that seeing is believing. Al Gore then goes on to demonstrate that the same recent increase of the warming of the sea and the resulting storm-surges has had devastating consequences for the Philippines and other island nations.
Talking to Florida workers operating the pumps during their recent storm-surge Gore enquires, “how much was the road going to be raised?” - to compensate for future flooding “One foot”, came the answer. It's not surprising that the climate change activists that attend Gore's day school looked grim, because the most important deluge that has been happening has been the deluge of money that flowed into the Republican Party coffers which ensured that the successful candidate would not even speak to climate scientists. The friendly journalist from the Miami Herald who reminds Gore of this, is then more than skeptical about what Gore can do to turn things around. Gore's reply is that the climate change crisis cannot be fixed without, “spending time fixing the democracy crisis.” How then can our limited time be best spent?
The second half of the film answers this question by reporting from the 2015 Paris World Climate Change Summit. It was here that Al Gore's Jeffersonian paternalism met its match in the shape of India's reactionary BJP government. The BJP where there to represent India's power generating companies and the Indian governments right to commission three hundred new coal-fired power stations. This was what they had come to Paris to insist on.
Before the Paris summit how much forehand knowledge Gore had of Modi and his BJP's climate change denying government, can be best gauged from the amazed look on Gore's face after an Indian minister of development had finished explaining to him why the BJP government will not be doing anything about global warming because national development was a more important priority. At the Paris summit Gore tries to work his contacts to negotiate a credit line for the BJP so that they can start the switch to renewables. He then negotiates a cut price deal for the high spec cells that the new solar panels will use. But the deal as the film shows was not reached because of these details. It was reached as a result of the extreme and unusual Indian flooding that took place while prime-minister Modi remained at the dead locked summit. The rainfall and flooding was the worst in over hundred years. Gore then takes to the Summit stage and makes a special presentation on India. At the end of the presentation Gore announces that Modi was now in India surveying the flood damage. Gore then reads Modi's announcement that “we are feeling climate changes fast growing impact now”. Did Modi want to be seen to be holding out in Paris while the people who had voted for him drowned?
But the Indian ruling elite and the BJP actually wants it both ways. It will extend its existing solar grid capacity but will still maintain and expand its fossil few electricity generation. As of March 2017 60% of India's power was still being generated by fossil fuels while 15% was generated from renewables. Solar generating capacity has doubled in five years (2012-2017) but the sector still remains small. Some countries such as Chile as Gore points out, have streaked ahead on solar power, but it will be what the US, China and India do that will determine our future.
That said it’s important to accept the limitations of Gore's approach. Gore works at his own pace which is that of a private individual CEO commanding essentially a corporate structure. Part of his pitch to conservative America is that the price of renewables has declined enough to make them viable and efficient replacement for fossil fuels and on that basis alone as we see at the end of the film, city halls who want to maintain low cost government tax regimes are beginning to switch to renewables. But the biggest problem is the Bannon?Trump corporate axis which is in the process of making its last stand as climate deniers and against those who want a new social America—and they will not go gently into that goodnight.
And noticeable by its absence from Gore's organisation is a political momentum like campaign structure that was capable of reaching out and connecting to the Saunders network.
It's important for us (and Gore) to accept that the long and distinguished tradition of Southern liberalism that he belongs to has survived the Johnson administration's passing of the civil rights act to re-merged in 1990s to take the Presidency (1992-2000) but the Clinton inheritance - which still dominates the leadership of the Democratic Party—can't endure or return to power. It is instructive that this tradition was inherently opposed to the modernizing solutions promoted by Barrack Obama and that almost none of the former president’s New Deal and climate change policies have survived H. R. Clinton's 2016 defeat. So we have Al Gore hoping that the most serious of the recent climate disasters will do the persuading and that more people will join him. But so much more needs to be done and more activists will be required to replace the politics of Bannon and Trump.