"An Inconvenient Truth" Changed How We Saw Climate Change. The Sequel Wants To Do Even More

Photo: Luis Cerdeira

As soon as it hit theaters in May 2006, An Inconvenient Truth was one of those films that transcended screens and came up in dinner table conversation across the country. It brought global warming to the forefront of our minds and inspired a new generation of climate activists. A public survey by the Pew Research Center found that the percentage of Americans who attributed global warming to human activity rose from 41 percent to 50 percent in the months following its release.

A lot has happened since Al Gore used stunning facts, figures, and footage to breathe new life into the climate discourse. Extreme weather events have destroyed entire communities, global temperatures have soared to new heights, our ice caps have melted, and our coral reefs disappeared. Solar power became cheaper than fossil fuel, entire countries promised to going carbon neutral, and climate marches filled the streets of New York City. A worldwide agreement on fighting climate change was reached—and broken.

So, 11 years later, the question on everyone's mind is simple: Are we better or worse off?

Gore is back to check in on our progress with a new documentary and corresponding book, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, and he's picking up where his last blockbuster left off.

"Since we still have so much work to do, a lot of people over the last several years have asked me if I would be willing to make a sequel," Gore told Fast Company earlier this summer. "My greatest hope is that it will significantly increase the number of people who make this challenge a personal priority."

The second installment ebbs and flows through moments of fear and triumph. Scenes of storm surges in the Philippines are followed by sweeping shots of windmill farms and solar panels. The Zika outbreak is explored, but so, too, is SolarCity's decision to help India achieve its ambitious climate change goals.

"Among the lessons I’ve learned is the importance of conveying realistic hope," Gore told FastCo. "Because despair can be paralyzing, and the fear of these consequences—whether long term, midterm, or short term, is not necessarily the most effective way to change minds and motivate people. But when you can convey hope in a realistic way, that unlocks a higher fraction of the potential for change."

The result is a film that ends with Trump's election and subsequent exit from the Paris Climate Agreement but somehow is still tinged with optimism. If anything, it's an empowering reminder that the climate landscape is an ever-evolving one, and we need change-makers to tip the scales now more than ever.

When An Inconvenient Truth predicted that severe flooding could leave the 9/11 Memorial underwater, critics seethed and said it would never happen. Just six years later, Hurricane Sandy turned the nightmare into a reality. Let's not let another disheartening forecast come true. Let's band together. Let's take action. Here are a few that Gore has recommended over the years:

  1. Don’t let climate denial go unchallenged.
  2. Be a conscious participant in the marketplace (aka, shop smart).
  3. Participate in the political process. He's said, "While changing the light bulbs is important, changing the laws and policies is far more important. And that can happen when people who do care about solving the climate crisis speak up, as members are doing at these town hall meetings, as others are doing by emailing and writing and calling the offices of their elected representatives."
  4. Add your name to the I Am Still In pledge (mbg has done it too!).

For even more actions you can take to help the planet out today, check out this list of what leading nonprofits see making a real difference.

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