Revenge of the Nerd

Charlie Bass Jun 9, 2006

With a new horror film released almost every week, who would have thought that the year’s most terrifying sequence thus far would come from a PowerPoint presentation given by Al Gore? Illustrating the near-biblical flooding that will likely ensue from the melting of sections of Greenland and Antarctica, Gore shows a simple overhead map of various parts of the world (including downtown Manhattan) with light blue color rushing over them, while talking of the roughly 100 million people whose lives would be lost. The once (and now probably not) future President of the United States makes it very clear that this flooding is not something that will occur hundreds of years from now, but something that may happen within the next 20 years.

Though no other sequence in An Inconvenient Truth has quite the same powerful impact, the film as a whole employs similar methods of informed, righteous doom-saying to help inspire a global call to action. Structured around the lecture Gore admits to having performed over 1,000 times around the world, the documentary is consistently clear-headed and persuasive, offering both a crucial lesson on our wanton
destruction of the planet and a view of a man whose passion, humor, indignation and intelligence has rarely been so evident. Using a mix of hard science, sophisticated charts and computer models, crisp stills and video, personal anecdotes and even (hooray!) a clip from Futurama, Gore lays out precisely how we are heating our world and building a future of more and more Katrinas.

After touching briefly on the basic science needed to frame his argument, the former vice president climbs aboard a crane to show just how far off the chart we’ve pushed global temperatures. It’s an unnerving gesture, especially following a series of charts demonstrating how rapidly downhill the problem of global warming has accelerated in just the last five years. What’s on display here is a global historical perspective. Not satisfied to simply show the rising CO2 emissions of the last 20 years, Gore charts back
650,000 years to look at the changing temperature of the world as far back as we can presently measure.

He’s always been unusually far-sighted for a politician, but seeing it dramatized here makes Bush’s near-sightedness appear all the more horrifying. Oddly, both Gore and the film only become wooden when they step out of the lecture to get personal. The repeated foreboding shots of him looming over his Powerbook are too much. But, like any good lecture, when the film stays on topic it’s powerfully convincing.

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