A movie about a politician giving "great man talks" about climate change will surely become a bestseller. My question for you is whether any movie like this can be a policy catalyst? There are 3 groups of people. Group #1 are people like al gore. They do not need to see this movie to be convinced that climate change is real threat. This movie may stir them up to keep being politically active.
Group #2 are people like George Bush. They will not see this movie. Such bayesians have a "prior" concerning climate change and they are not interested in paying $8 to update their prior based on Al Gore's information.
Group #3 are the people at the margin. What percentage of the population is this? Will they pay $8 to see this movie? Maybe Al gore should subsidize their attendance? This could be done by having famous celebrities do cameos during his movie?
The challenge for Al Gore is population heterogeneity. How do you build a policy coalition when there is uncertainty over the benefts and costs over climate change and these key parameters depend on where a person lives, one's occupation and one's altruism for people faraway and for natural capital on emay have never visited?
May 22, 2006
'An Inconvenient Truth': Al Gore's Fight Against Global Warming
By ANDREW C. REVKIN
The frustrations of a man whose long-sought goal remains out of reach are vividly on display in the first few minutes of "An Inconvenient Truth," a new documentary about former Vice President Al Gore's quest to spur action against global warming.
And the scene has nothing to do with the Supreme Court vote that denied Mr. Gore a chance to win the 2000 presidential election.
He is tapping on his laptop, adding yet another tweak to the illustrated climate lecture he has given more than 1,000 times since 1989 in ever more sophisticated ways: first with flip charts, then slides, then a mix of digital imagery, animation and high-tech stagecraft, and now through this film itself, which was screened at Cannes and opens on Wednesday in New York and Los Angeles.
He laments being unable so far to awaken the public to what he calls a "planetary emergency" despite evidence that heat-trapping smokestack and tailpipe gases are warming the earth, and even after Hurricane Katrina and Europe's deadly 2003 heat wave, which he calls a foretaste of much worse to come.
"I've been trying to tell this story for a long time, and I feel as if I've failed to get the message across," Mr. Gore muses.
The question now is whether the documentary, with the potential to reach millions of people instead of a roomful of listeners at a time, can do the job.
For the moment, opinions on its prospects range from hopeful to scornful, not so much a reflection on the film's quality as the vast distance between combatants in the fight over what to do, or not do, about human-caused warming.
In a recent interview in Manhattan, Mr. Gore said he was convinced that Americans would move on the issue, not just because of his documentary (and companion book), but also because of the vivid nature of recent climate-related disasters.
"The political system, like the environment, is nonlinear," he said. "In 1941 it was impossible for us to build 1,000 airplanes. In 1942 it was easy. As this pattern becomes ever more clear, there will be a rising public demand for action."
"An Inconvenient Truth" came about after Laurie David, a prominent Hollywood environmentalist, saw Mr. Gore give a short version of his presentation two years ago at an event held just before the premiere of the climate disaster movie "The Day After Tomorrow."
Ms. David said she was stunned by the power of Mr. Gore's talk and helped organize presentations in New York and Los Angeles for people involved in the news media, environmental groups, business and entertainment. By the time she had done the Los Angeles event, "I realized we had to make a movie out of it," she said. "What's the guy going to do? There are not physically enough hours in the day to travel to every town and city to show this thing."
She helped recruit a team of filmmakers and investors and, after pressing Mr. Gore, persuaded him to be followed by a film crew.
In the film, directed by Davis Guggenheim, Mr. Gore comes across as a professorial guide who uses science, humor, his own life lessons, depictions of perilous climate-driven events and even cartoons to make his case.
Mr. Gore — who said he had veto power over all elements of the film but did not exercise it — tries just about every possible tactic to make his points.
One moment he is delivering his climate talk before an invited audience on a Los Angeles sound stage, rising in an electric lift to point to a soaring graph illustrating the buildup of heat-trapping gases. And in the next there are golden-hued restagings of wrenching moments in Mr. Gore's life. These include the loss of his sister Nancy to lung cancer, a subject explored as he discusses how industries, from tobacco to oil and coal, have run expensive media and lobbying campaigns to emphasize uncertainties in the science that points to risks of their products.
Mr. Gore tries to connect the dots between human-driven warming and recent shifts in mosquito-borne diseases, drought patterns, rates of extinction, storm strength and the pace of melting of polar ice sheets and sea ice on the Arctic Ocean.
In a lawyerly way, he often chooses his words to avoid making direct causal links that most scientists say are impossible to substantiate, but uses imagery and implication to convey that humans are fiddling with planet-scale forces.
Longtime critics of Mr. Gore and opponents of cuts in greenhouse gases who attended a Washington screening last Wednesday quickly assembled lists of complaints about his portrayal of the science, saying the dangers of warming are grossly overstated.
The libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute, in a clear jab at both the film and recent news media coverage focused on worst-case climate risks, unveiled two television commercials last week that amounted to a defense of the main gas linked to warming, each with the tag line: "Carbon dioxide. They call it pollution. We call it life."
In interviews and e-mail exchanges, many climate specialists who have seen the film quibbled about details but tended to agree with Eric Steig, a University of Washington geochemist who posted his reactions at the Web log realclimate.org after a recent Seattle screening: "The small errors don't detract from Gore's main point, which is that we in the United States have the technological and institutional ability to have a significant impact on the future trajectory of climate change."
Initial media coverage, rather than focusing on the film's message, has examined it mainly through the lens of presidential politics.
Mr. Gore and his staff have repeatedly swept aside questions about 2008, insisting that Mr. Gore is not running for office, but is racing to save the planet.
But many Democrats are watching Mr. Gore closely in the belief that he could emerge as a strong opponent from the left to the woman viewed as the front-runner for her party's nomination, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York. The film does not do much to dispel this thesis. While it is being billed as an environmental call to arms, it begins, ends, and is peppered throughout with politics.
The film opens with Mr. Gore greeting an audience with his most famous, and anguished, punch line: "I'm Al Gore, and I used to be the next president of the United States."
It includes a few shots at Republicans including a piece of news film from the 1992 presidential campaign showing the first President Bush saying that Mr. Gore was so environmentally extreme that "we'll be up to our necks in owls and out of work for every American."
The film concludes with Mr. Gore stating that the one element missing in the fight against global warming was political will.
In a line that some have interpreted as a hint of electoral ambitions, Mr. Gore adds, "In America, political will is a renewable resource."
Some scientists said they were worried that Mr. Gore's inherently political nature would further polarize the issue and distract from the underlying science. But some environmental specialists played down the political angle, saying that if someone were seeking a political boost, climate change was hardly the issue to address.
"There are lots of things he could do with his life, and this is what he's chosen," said Jonathan Lash, the president of the World Resources Institute, a private research group in Washington. "I admire him as a political leader who's chosen to use his platform to speak about this issue, and to do so in both scientific and moral terms."
Adam Nagourney contributed reporting from Washington for this article.