The former vice president is back with “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,” the follow-up to his Academy Award-winning film about climate change. And much has changed since the first alarming documentary.
In late July, Al Gore was in Bellevue, holding a training for the Climate Reality Leadership Corps, the army he is building to spread the word — and worry — about climate change and global warming.
At one point, Gore pointed out a crack in a section of the Antarctic Peninsula — an area he visited during the filming of his 2006 documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.”
“I said, ‘You all watch out for this,’ ” Gore recalled the other day. “‘Could be tomorrow, could be next week, could be next month. You watch for it and you remember.’”
Two weeks later, the crack opened up, and a chunk of floating ice that weighed more than a trillion metric tons broke away, producing one of the largest icebergs ever recorded — and showing just how the Antarctic ice sheet could very well fall apart.
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It also proved that Gore, 69, is still at the center of the fight to raise awareness and cool down the planet before we burn ourselves into extinction.
“It’s not any great act of prescience on my part,” Gore said of predicting the iceberg. “All I’m doing is channeling what the scientists were predicting.”
The former vice president is channeling once again as the star of “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,” the follow-up to his Academy Award-winning film, which played a part in his receiving the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize (with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).
The new film follows Gore as he surveys melting ice sheets and glaciers in Greenland; trundles through the smoke-choked streets of India on his way to tense meetings with officials who feel left out of the climate-change conversation; and brokers agreements to cut coal use by making solar panels more affordable to governments.
It also chronicles Gore’s skills as a distiller of complicated science, a speaker and a politician who can get economist and former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Lawrence H. Summers or Tesla founder Elon Musk on the phone anytime, anywhere.
“What I have tried to do for a long time now,” Gore said, “is to try to talk with the scientists and impose upon their friendship and patience to explain things to me over and over until I can boil it down to simple language that I can understand.
“If I can get it into language that I can understand, then I feel pretty confident that I can communicate it to others,” he said. “And that’s all I really do.”
Gore really is the best person for the job: He is familiar and knowledgeable, but his passion is measured by his Southern upbringing.
Gore is a little bigger, a little grayer, but still the same kid whose father walked him around the family homestead in Carthage, Tennessee, and whose mother read Rachel Carson’s environmental blockbuster “Silent Spring” out loud to him and his sister.
The tone of “An Inconvenient Sequel” isn’t as dire as “An Inconvenient Truth.”
The first movie was aimed at those who knew nothing about climate science and global warming. “Here are the facts, and the threats,” Gore said of the film’s intent. “The solutions were visible on the horizon, but you had to rely on the technology experts to tell you that they will be here. They’re coming. Just wait.”
The sequel chronicles what has changed — for better and for worse.
In the last decade, there have been more extreme weather events: Super Storm Sandy, the flooding in New York City, most notably at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. In Miami, fish from the ocean were swimming in the streets.
At the same time, the solutions are at hand. Solar and wind electricity have come down in cost. Electric cars like Teslas and Leafs are affordable for many.
Gore gets daily summaries from his staff of all the climate events around the world, as well as any advances in renewable energy and clean technology.
“It just keeps getting better,” he said.
Better for Gore, too. He has moved past losing the presidential election to George Bush in 2000, despite winning the popular vote; and the end of his 40-year marriage to his wife, Tipper. He is the co-founder and chair of Generation Investment Management, on the board of Apple and a senior adviser to Google.
So, he has the green to live green. At home in Carthage, Gore drives a Tesla and has a charging station in his garage. He has 33 solar panels on his roof and 10 geothermal ground-source heat-pump wells underneath his driveway.
“LED lights, insulating windows, everything that you can think of,” Gore said. “And I planted 16,000 trees on my farm last year and I don’t have a private plane. I fly commercial.
“So I walk the walk.”
He knows that “An Inconvenient Truth” scared the dickens out of some people.
The sequel carries that same sense of urgency, “But people will come out of this movie hopeful,” Gore said. “And that’s really important. Because we can change this. We can solve this. But we have to get on with it.”
He said as much when he met with Donald Trump not long after the November election. Trump had denied climate change and said he would pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, to which the U.S. pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025
“I thought it was worth trying,” Gore said of the meeting, then demurred when I asked for details.
“I’m kind of old school,” he explained. “I believe that conversations that are private with the president should be kept private.”
So the words he used were the very same ones he used with “Late Night” host Stephen Colbert:
“I had reason to believe that there was a chance that he would come to his senses,” Gore said of Trump. “But I was wrong.”
“I think the reason (Trump) went the other way is that he surrounded himself with a rogues’ gallery of climate deniers. And I think they have just gotten control of his thinking.”
Gore was heartened, though, when politicians like Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and California Gov. Jerry Brown “doubled-down” on their commitment to the Paris Agreement.
“It looks like the country is going to meet our commitment in spite of him,” Gore said of Trump. “Somebody called it a boomerang effect. There’s a law of physics that sometimes works in politics: ‘For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction.’”
Just like the iceberg, Al Gore could have predicted it.