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Gore's large ‘Truth’ lands on small screen

For some, "An Inconvenient Truth" may pose an inconvenient question: What's more important, loving the planet or hating Al Gore?
/ Source: The Associated Press

For some, "An Inconvenient Truth" may pose an inconvenient question: What's more important, loving the planet or hating Al Gore?

Fortunately, this is a non-issue for the many earthlings who already have embraced Gore's documentary for expressing so well what everyone needs to know: Global warming is a looming threat to a planet we are all forced to share, even when we act as if we live in different worlds.

Opening in theaters last year, then available on DVD a few months later, "An Inconvenient Truth" makes its TV premiere on Showtime at 8 p.m. EDT Sunday (with subsequent re-airings).

This is two weeks after the film won the best documentary Oscar, stirring up detractors who sneer at Gore's crusade as "a convenient lie" while lumping him with crackpots, lefties and that Hollyweird crowd.

What a moment in the life of the planet, when saving Mother Earth is co-opted as a wedge issue.

But viewers who have not yet seen "An Inconvenient Truth" (and are open to the prospect that the Earth isn't flat and never was) will likely find the film thought-provoking, even motivational.

Built around Gore's so-called "slide show" — actually a souped-up PowerPoint presentation he says he has given at least a thousand times worldwide — "An Inconvenient Truth" is more than a concert film. It weaves in personal glimpses of the former U.S. congressman, senator, vice president and 2000 presidential winner-but-loser that further enhance and humanize Gore's message.

Underpinning it all: the scientific conclusion that growing amounts of fuel emissions are trapping heat in the thickening atmosphere and causing polar ice caps' melting, higher temperatures, heavier rainstorms, more and bigger hurricanes, and other climate changes already being measured and potentially calamitous.

During the 96-minute film, Gore stands before panoramic graphics that show alarmingly increased population figures and skyrocketing carbon dioxide levels. He has then-and-now photos that show the disappearing snows of Mount Kilimanjaro, the ebbing glaciers of Glacier National Park.

He has computer simulations that project the impact of melting ice in Antarctica and Greenland. Large parts of Florida, for instance, could be under water. Same for a vast swatch of Calcutta and Bangladesh that 60 million people call home.

Sobering stuff. (And Gore's half-hour update that follows the film is no more rosy.)

But "An Inconvenient Truth" isn't depressing. Despite facts and figures, photos and video that build a strong case for time running out, there's no scolding, no guilt-tripping.

While Gore allows that "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," he offers a non-accusatory reason why lawmakers thus far have largely shirked their duty.

"There are good people who are in politics in both parties who hold this at arm's length," he says, "because if they acknowledge and recognize it, then the moral imperative to make big changes is inescapable." What they need, he says, is a shove by the voters.

Another surprise from "An Inconvenient Truth": It's entertaining, in the way any dose of clarity provides a boost. And it's accessible to a wide audience. My 12-year-old son, who ordinarily chooses sports and cartoons as his TV fare but insisted on renting "An Inconvenient Truth," was riveted by it.

One explanation? He liked the straight talk.

Consider Gore's attempt to clear up the misconception that global warming is a theory still open to debate. He cites a study that sampled all the scientific articles on global warming from the past decade. How many took exception to the scientific consensus that global warming is a serious threat? Not one of them, he says.

Then he turns to a study of articles published by consumer media the past 14 years. Fully half of those stories, he says, cast doubt on the truth of global warming.

How did the message get so garbled between the lab and the living room? Gore has his ideas, including a campaign to debunk global warming he likens to past efforts to represent smoking as safe.

But Gore reminds his audience it's not too late to get with the program, and to get the word out.

"When the warnings are accurate and based on sound science," he tells an audience in Shanghai, "then we as human beings, whatever country we live in, have to find a way to make sure that the warnings are heard and responded to."

This bears out one final, very welcome, surprise in the film: Gore's infectious faith.

"We already know everything we need to know to effectively address this problem," he declares, just as he declared on the Oscar telecast and, surely, a thousand other times.

Will people learn soon enough that the truth isn't too inconvenient? That's the film's big cliffhanger, and maybe the world's.