Well, I finally got round to watching An Inconvenient Truth a few days ago, thanks to Jo lending me a copy of the DVD from the ClimateX library, and me being on a long train journey!
It wasn't as depressing as I thought it would be, in fact it reminded why I like working in climate change communications.
I thought Al Gore explained the causes and impacts of climate change very clearly, and quite a few of the things I had read about before were strengthened in my mind by the visuals he used, like the shrinking glaciers and the collapsing ice sheets in Antarctica. Al Gore's obviously a skilled and experienced speaker, and I thought he got the pacing right, making a few jokes, but not being too heavy, rather keeping a relatively neutral tone. I say relatively neutral, since it's an emotive topic, and I think the impact of his talk would be reduced if he became hysterical about it.
He addressed the sceptics, which is appropriate, especially in the US, but also for people who have only heard about climate change in the media, who, as he demonstrated (with the analysis that 100% of scientific papers about climate change in the last 10 years have supported climate change, whereas 53% of media articles assessed in a study questioned it), are understandably confused by the information presented to them. I also think he spent an appropriately short amount of time on the sceptics, since, as he says, the consensus is clear, and really the question is now what we do about it.
I think he put climate change in context, by discussing other major changes in civilisation, such as the discovery that smoking causes cancer, or the development of nuclear weapons, and how humanity has had to adapt and deal with these changes. The end, especially, where he shows all the other great achievements of humanity in recent times, is very powerful. If we could achieve all that, if we can put a man on the Moon, surely we can deal with climate change, if only we put our minds to it. It makes you wonder why on earth we aren't already doing more, why we haven't already done all the things to reduce emissions.
I'm afraid I couldn't help but wonder, when they reminded me how close the 2000 election was, what the world would have been like if Gore had become President. Probably not as wonderful as Gore might like to suggest it would have been, but at least the US would probably have signed Kyoto, taken steps in the right direction, rather than walked off in totally the opposite direction.
Nevertheless, better Gore is trying to wake Americans up now, than not at all, and I hope it does that. I certainly had an element of shaming American viewers into action, which is one way of doing it. He also appealed to future generations, which is another way. He mostly avoided the awful doom and gloom I had been anticipating, but maybe I'm becoming immune to the worst of that now, and other viewers would find the film depressing.
Overall, I think the film was reasoned and rational, humourous and well-paced. He brought his personal experiences into it, bringing the global problem home, but it clear that this is a global problem, which needs to be tackled by everyone, and tackled now. As an introduction to climate change, it filled in a lot of the details about the science and the history, and clears up many of the misconceptions. I was impressed, and I hope many many people see it.