09 June 2006

Climate Change: An Unfortunate Messenger - Al Gore's film debut

I just saw the Al Gore global warming film An Inconvenient Truth. Gore makes some compelling points, many of which echo thoughts about global warming and climate change with which readers of this blog will be familiar: there is consensus in the scientific community that global warming is real; that we have the technology and wherewithal to address the issue now and make a real difference; and that there is huge economic potential in taking action now.

I came away from the film, even more than Gore's slideshow, which forms the film's core, thinking that Al Gore is the wrong messenger for the message.

Sure, he comes off as passionate about the issue. He's even less wooden than he was during his political life; approachable, even likable.

And yet, what strikes an unfortunate chord in "An Inconvenient Truth," is that it seems too much like a campaign video. There are too many shots of pensive Al, contemplating landscapes and computer screens, too many attempts to show that Al Gore was ahead of everyone else on this issue and that it is time the rest of us caught up. Even, perhaps, one too many swipes at his 2000 opponent and his administration, to the point where he turns the issue into a political issue.

Whether it is or is not a political issue is beside the point; an Al Gore is not going to win any converts from among the skeptics or fence-sitters, let alone those who stand in opposition. An audience of the choir is all who will hear his hymn.

It's too bad, really, because Al Gore has spent a long time considering this issue and his arguments and points are simple, direct, at times eloquent. But are such messages effective if they only reach those -- like those in the progressive theater in which I sat -- who nod and cheer and laugh at all the right moments, as if playing the role of a canned studio audience?

I wish someone from the other side of the issue or political spectrum, a former oil executive or a Hank Paulson, was the messenger carrying this important message. It may be lost otherwise.

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