'An Inconvenient Sequel' Is An Effective, Cautiously Optimistic, 'I Told You So' In 2006, Al Gore issued a forceful warning about the threat of climate change in An Inconvenient Truth. He's followed it up with a sequel that shows how far we've come — but with plenty of caveats.
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'An Inconvenient Sequel' Is An Effective, Cautiously Optimistic, 'I Told You So'

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'An Inconvenient Sequel' Is An Effective, Cautiously Optimistic, 'I Told You So'

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'An Inconvenient Sequel' Is An Effective, Cautiously Optimistic, 'I Told You So'

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Ten years ago, Al Gore's documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," argued forcefully that climate change should be a mainstream concern. The world seemed to hear that argument, though the current U.S. administration appears to have some doubts. Now Gore has an update - "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power." Our critic Bob Mondello says the new movie brings filmmaking savvy and striking visuals to a familiar story.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: A close-up of ice melting in brilliant sunshine is the first thing you see in "An Inconvenient Sequel." It's gorgeous - snow crystals glistening, moisture dripping from them into a pool of water so pure and clear it makes you thirsty. But in subsequent shots, as the drips become streams and the streams plunge over ice cliffs, you realize what you're seeing. A glacier is melting. And that's not so beautiful.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: So you see the line?

AL GORE: Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: On the - on the ridge here?

GORE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: That green line is where the ice surface was back in the '80s. Not so long ago.

MONDELLO: Al Gore almost seems most at home when he's visiting scientists and statistic gatherers. The man is wonky, no question. But that's what has made his climate change crusade persuasive for so many. He gets the figures, says things that initially sound outrageous and handles the pushback.

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GORE: Ten years ago, when the movie "An Inconvenient Truth" came out, the single most criticized scene in that movie 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.

MONDELLO: Then you see news footage from October 2012.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Hurricane Sandy slammed into New York City last night, flooding the World Trade Center site.

MONDELLO: Then a somber New York governor reacting to billions of dollars in damage.

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ANDREW CUOMO: There is a wake-up call here, and that is climate change and our vulnerability to it. It was true 10 years ago. It was true five years ago. It is undeniable today.

MONDELLO: Lessons learned. Steps taken. Still, much of this film manages to be upbeat and affirmative. The single most exhilarating moment may come from a bar graph. Seriously, I want to cheer. But there is no shortage of human stories on screen. The woman whose shoe gets stuck in pavement that's melted from the heat. The conservative Republican mayor of what's said to be the reddest city in the reddest county in oil-producing Texas bragging that his town is saving money by getting 100 percent of its energy from wind and solar.

And the whole middle section of the film dives deep into the negotiations at the global conference on climate change in Paris. At one point, there's a logjam. India has been complaining that industrialized countries built their economies on cheap fossil fuels for 150 years before investing in solar power. Give India till 2167, a diplomat says, and it'll join the switch, too.

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GORE: I've met with their energy and power minister, Piyush Goyal, in Delhi. I asked, what would it take to shift another hundred gigawatts from coal to renewables? His answer was incredibly specific.

MONDELLO: Gore, ever the politician - and in this crowd, also quite the celebrity - starts dickering on the phone and in meetings. And...

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GORE: Virtually every nation in the entire world agreed to get to zero greenhouse emissions. It is unprecedented.

MONDELLO: Gore's march to a triumphant finish, though, gets halted in its tracks.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It's time to put America first. That includes a promise to cancel billions in climate change spending. Our plan will end the EPA.

MONDELLO: Eco-evangelist meets denier-in-chief. Directors Jon Shenk and Bonni Cohen take every opportunity to picture the president, who was inaugurated the day after this film premiered at Sundance, as an antagonist for their protagonist. And they've been updating the film since Sundance, which is an effective way to add dramatic tension and make sure that their story about climate is always a story about people. I had a geology prof in college who, whenever he drew a volcano on the blackboard, also drew a village nearby that was going to be buried in lava when it erupted. Always got a laugh, but also made a point. Al Gore is like that prof, and "An Inconvenient Sequel" is a hugely effective lecture. I'm Bob Mondello.

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