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Al Gore believes the internet might be the answer to 'fake news'

A scene from Al Gore's
A scene from Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power" directed by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk.
Paramount Pictures

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In the age of "fake news," Al Gore still believes in facts.

"I simply refuse to give up on the role of truth, and reason, and facts, and the best available evidence as the lifeblood of self-governance and representative democracy."

The former vice president is back on the big screen Friday with the hopes that his latest film, “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power," will inspire others to think about just that — the facts.

Eleven years after his Oscar-winning documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth," shed light on the impact of fossil fuels on the environment, many of the scientific predictions presented in that movie have come true. In some cases, the results have been worse than anticipated.

His latest film offers case studies of positive change that may give some reason to hope for a more conscientious future.

He also praises leaders like Gov. Jerry Brown for taking action to make an impact.

An Inconvenient Sequel trailer

Directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk worked with Gore to make a documentary with a timely message. They had already finished filming when Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. After the president’s decision, Cohen and Shenk added new footage and recut the film.

Gore recently sat down with The Frame's John Horn to discuss the role that documentaries can play in society and where he finds reason to hope for meaningful action on climate change. 

The Frame's John Horn spoke with former Vice President Al Gore about his documentary
The Frame's John Horn spoke with former Vice President Al Gore about his documentary "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power," fake news and the reality of climate change.

You can hear their conversation by clicking the play button at the top of this page. Below are some highlights.

Interview Highlights

On how he reacted to Trump pulling out of the Paris Agreement:

I worried a lot that if the U.S. pulled out of Paris, other countries might use it as an excuse to pull out themselves. That's one of the reasons I spent a lot of time talking with the president-elect and then after he entered the White House, President Trump, to try to convince him to come to his senses. I was not able to do that.

But after he made his speech, I was tremendously gratified that the entire rest of the world redouble their commitment to the Paris agreement, almost as if they were saying to him, we'll show you. And then governors, mayors and business leaders in large numbers stepped up to fill the gap and said, we're still in Paris. And it now looks as if the U.S. may meet our commitments under the Paris agreement in spite of Donald Trump.

On how "An Inconvenient Sequel" differs from "An Inconvenient Truth":

There are two big changes in the last decade since the first film came out. The first is that, unfortunately, the climate-related extreme weather events are a lot more common and more destructive. That's waking a lot of people up. But the second change is that we really do have the solutions now.

It is astonishing that the cost of electricity from solar and wind is well below the cost of electricity from burning fossil fuels in many, many regions of this country and the world. The cost continues to come down every year. It will soon be lower than the cost of fossil energy everywhere in the world. That's a big difference. So we wanted to tell people the danger is even greater now, but we're gaining on it and we have the solutions now. 

On the role of documentary film in the public conversation:

Documentary films occupy a privileged and unique place. It's really the only place where people can sit in a communal setting for 90 to 100 minutes and really give their attention to a well-reasoned, well-documented, well-fact-checked argument that goes from soup to nuts and leaves you with a comprehensive understanding of the subject that they're exploring. I think that's maybe one of the reasons why so many people are saying that we're now in a golden age of documentary film.

On not feeling despair in the face of climate change:

It is an emotional experience, and if you have immersed yourself in the scientific data, it's an entirely different experience to really see it firsthand. Yes, it's tragic, but that sense of tragedy cannot and must not produce despair. Despair is just another form of denial.

For a long time, we have faced the reality that the maximum that is politically possible is still far short of what the laws of physics require. But a famous economist, Rudi Dornbusch (now deceased), once said: a change takes longer to happen than you think, and then it happens much faster than you thought it could.

That pattern has characterized all of the great moral causes that have advanced the cause of humanity. Like the civil rights movement and others, the climate movement is now at that inflection point. My fondest hope is that this movie will add to the momentum for change that's absolutely essential to our future. 

On what audiences can do to combat climate change:

Number one, it's important to learn about it. Deepen your understanding and that will give you confidence that you can win the conversations about climate. I saw, as a boy growing up in the South, how the conversations about civil rights preceded the changes in the laws.

Number two, in addition to using your voice to win those conversations, use your vote to tell candidates for office and elected officials that this is important to you. And their ability to remain in office will depend, if you have anything to do with it, on whether or not they do the right thing on climate.

And then use your choices in life, including in the marketplace. When you insist upon the climate-friendly alternatives, that not only reduces your own personal impact, it sends a powerful message to business. And when enough people do that, more and more businesses decide to be a part of the solution. And that's already happening.

On combating fake news with truth:

The age of the internet, even with all of its problems, empowers individuals to learn the truth, spread it, gather others who agree with your point of view and then use reason-based argument as a basis for bringing about rational change that can save the future of our civilization. I don't think that is a Pollyanna-ish view.

I see bloggers now affecting the debate. I see internet media now having a big impact. I see candidates now rejecting special interest money and big contributors and relying on internet-based individual contributions in small amounts. I think the future of our democracy is what we choose it to be, and if we decide that we're going to redeem the promise of America, we have the ability to do that. 

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