Politics & Policy

An Incoherent Sequel

Al Gore at the premiere of An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power in Los Angeles, Calif., July 25, 2017. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)
Anecdotes vs. data in Al Gore’s follow-up to An Inconvenient Truth

There’s a lot of information in Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. There’s also a lot of information that isn’t in the film. Viewers who watch with a curious mind rather than a hushed awe for His Goreness might have a few questions.

For instance: Did a firm called SolarCity really save the Paris Climate Accord with a dramatic last-minute gift, as the film tells us? And what ties does Gore have to this company that his film portrays as beyond wonderful? (The answers are no, and significant ones.)

Gore shows us footage of storms, and commiserates with people who lost loved ones in them. But are these scenes illustrative of data points, or mere anecdotes that would be just as easy to gather even if the climate suddenly turned chilly? In other words, are there more storms than usual lately, or more people dying in them than usually do? (No, and no.)

Did Hurricane Sandy, as Gore claims, really back up a key prediction he made in An Inconvenient Truth? (No.) As for the Paris Climate Accord, which Gore trumpets in An Inconvenient Sequel (followed by lamentation when President Trump withdraws us from it), will it make much of a difference, and does it much matter that America is planning to get out of it? (Not necessarily, given that it’s non-binding, and probably not.)

Gore is a smug man, and he perhaps reaches peak smugness in the new film when he is seen telling an audience: “Ten years ago [now eleven], when the movie An Inconvenient Truth came out, the single most criticized scene was an animated scene showing that the combination of sea-level rise and storm surge would put the ocean water into the 9/11 memorial site, which was then under construction. And people said, ‘That’s ridiculous. What a terrible exaggeration.’” Smash cut to: Hurricane Sandy, and the flooding of downtown Manhattan and the World Trade Center area, in October of 2012. If Gore had a sense of humor, he would play a sample of Nelson Muntz’s iconic “HAW-ha” from The Simpsons.

Except Gore is here misleading us about his own earlier prediction. In An Inconvenient Truth Gore didn’t say anything about lower Manhattan getting inundated because of a passing storm. He showed the tip of the island disappearing underwater because of melting ice in the North Atlantic, not because a hurricane happened to strike the area at high tide and during a full moon. There’s a fairly critical distinction between the two scenarios: One is permanent. Lower Manhattan may someday be uninhabitable by anyone who doesn’t have gills, but it’s silly for Gore to claim this happened five years ago.

It isn’t the only time in An Inconvenient Sequel that Gore proves disingenuous. Throughout the film, he never hints that he has a financial interest in the technologies he’s promoting. A firm he co-founded, Generation Investment Management, was a very early investor in Elon Musk’s company SolarCity and held an $80 million stake in it as of 2013, according to the finance site Insider Monkey. Gore portrays SolarCity as a first-rate outfit, both in itself and because the company supposedly pushed the Paris Climate Accord over the top with a bold, philanthropic decision to share its solar-panel technology with India, which then withdrew its objections and signed the agreement. (Earlier Gore is seen browbeating India’s energy minister, who, not without wit, tells Gore to get back to him in 150 years, when the coal-powered country can afford the luxury of renewable energy.)

Gore doesn’t tell us that SolarCity ate up billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded subsidies before its stock price tanked, at which point Musk folded the company into Tesla in an all-stock deal, meaning any shares Generation had in SolarCity stock turned into Tesla stock. Oh, and Gore’s only son, Albert Gore III, served as deputy director, policy and electricity markets–finance for SolarCity and now works in Washington for Tesla, according to LinkedIn. If you’re wondering why Tesla requires a Washington office, or why it might enjoy having politically connected people working for it, there are about 4.9 billion reasons why. It’s hard to imagine Tesla (in which, Gore told Insider Monkey in 2015, he personally held shares) would even exist today without its ability to transmute climate-change hysteria into government subsidies.

Throughout the film, Gore never hints that he has a financial interest in the technologies he’s promoting.

Gore is the machine through which the conversion happen. It’s quite a racket, being the Goracle. Senators clamor to meet with you and are even willing to be filmed doing so (as they were for this film). You welcome the opportunity to proselytize for green-energy firms. Meanwhile, to the public you preach the gospel for the same industries, turning the most glamorous Hollywood talent into your apostles. All of the above helps you line your own pockets. Gore stands to profit from green energy both directly, through Generation, and indirectly, as a senior partner in the venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, for which he specializes in finding green-energy investments.

His response to all of this has been that at one time he didn’t make any money off Big Green. He really cares about the environment! His motives are pure! Are they, though? Gore is the man who made $100 million by buying a cable channel nobody watched, building its value not by making it watchable but by personally lobbying Rupert Murdoch and others to carry it on their systems, then selling it to Qatari oil sheiks so they could turn it into Al Jazeera. What part of that strikes you as putting idealism first?

Besides, would we buy Gore’s argument that he has always been on Team Green from anyone else? If Warren Buffett insists that he genuinely liked Coca-Cola as a kid (and still does), does that somehow mean he doesn’t have a conflict of interest if he tries to use his government connections to win a contract for Coke now that Berkshire Hathaway, of which Buffett owns about 19 percent, holds 400 million shares of Coke? How did Gore get to be the only corporate oligarch in America (net worth: $300 million) whose blatant conflicts of interest are mostly ignored by the media?

As for the strong implication in the film that Gore prompted SolarCity to do a favor for India that got the country on board the Paris agreement, “I am not aware of any such linkage, and neither are my colleagues in the negotiating team,” a top negotiator from India’s delegation told the online newsletter E & E News. The negotiator added that in the 20 months since the agreement, “SolarCity has not come to India.” SolarCity, E & E News reported, has never issued a press release to take credit for what Gore’s film depicts and did not respond to its reporter’s request for comment.

In a film that weirdly seeks to convince us both that global disaster is already underway and that the world is well on its way to solving the climate crisis, Gore weirdly seeks to portray himself as both hero and victim. There is a clip of him accepting defeat in the 2000 election, the outcome of which he continues to blame on the Supreme Court, and he ruefully walks us through his childhood house, fondly reading from a framed list drawn up by his children of the pros and cons of having Dad be president. Since this stuff happened before the first Inconvenient, it plays like a desperate reach for sympathy. Do even Democrats really care that he failed to become president, given that they got Barack Obama?

Gore’s ability to frame everything in terms of how it relates to his crusade is what really resonates through the film. When terrorists kill 130 people in Paris on the eve of the summit, a massacre that threatens to postpone the climate talks, Gore gets emotional because he sees it as a personal “setback” for him. He tells grieving Parisians that we need to fight back with military force but also with “values” — which is how he segues into . . . his climate-change talking points. You can see the relief when Gore learns the conference will go on as scheduled. More than a hundred people were killed by Islamists, and to Al Gore, the situation was really inconvenient.


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