Not since, well, "The Da Vinci Code" has there been a movie with as much advance fanfare and controversy as "An Inconvenient Truth." The documentary, which is based on a slide show about global warming that Al Gore has been giving since 1990, is being lauded by its advocates as a doomsday call to save the planet and derided by conservatives as junk science. Count me as an advocate.
The former vice president opens the film by greeting an audience with his now familiar line: "I'm Al Gore, and I used to be the next President of the United States." What follows is a slickly produced chronicle directed by Davis Guggenheim, complete with graphs, flow charts, and computer enhancements of what Gore contends has gone seriously wrong with our global climate. His slow and steady litany of danger zones and warning signs has cumulative force.
For example, 2005 was the warmest year on record since atmospheric temperatures were recorded, and the 10 warmest years on record have all been since 1990. Oceans are rapidly warming. Data from Antarctic ice cores show carbon dioxide concentrations higher than at any time during the past 650,000 years. Most devastatingly, we are shown graphic visuals demonstrating the melting ice fields in Greenland and Antarctica. The snows of Kilimanjaro, by 2020, may exist only in Ernest Hemingway's imagination. Gore maintains that a signifi-cant amount of the warming is human- driven and proposes a variety of solutions centering on new clean-energy technologies (though, pointedly, he doesn't bring up nuclear technology).
Critics who accuse Gore of opportunism will have to acknowledge that he has been at this for a long time, ever since he researched the subject in college and helped organize the first Congressional hearings on global warming in the late '70s. They will also have to deal with the fact that, as mentioned in the movie, a 2004 Science magazine survey of all peer-reviewed scientific studies of climate change showed 928 papers supporting man-made global warming. None denied it. Meanwhile, a similar sample of stories from the mass media showed that 53 percent claim global warming is unproven.
"An Inconvenient Truth" will no doubt be used by Gore supporters eager for him to run again for president. It occasionally dips into hagiography more suitable for a campaign promo. But even if only a fifth of the disasters he predicts were to come true, even if he is wrong on the science more than half the time, the message is still dire. It seems to me that too often in this country, and especially now, science has become politicized to the detriment of those who could be helped by it. Just because truths are inconvenient is no reason to suppose they are not real. Grade: A-
• Rated PG for mild thematic elements.