An Inconvenient Truth

An Inconvenient Truth is an American documentary film about global warming, presented by former United States Vice President Al Gore and directed by Davis Guggenheim. The film premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival and opened in New York and Los Angeles on May 24, 2006. The film was released on DVD by Paramount Home Entertainment on November 21, 2006. A companion book by Gore, An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It, reached #1 on the paperback nonfiction New York Times bestseller list on July 2, 2006. The documentary won Academy Awards for Best Documentary Feature and for Best Original Song.

Earning $49 million at the box office worldwide, An Inconvenient Truth is the fourth-highest-grossing documentary film to date in the United States (in nominal dollars, from 1982 to the present), after Fahrenheit 9/11, March of the Penguins and Sicko.


An Inconvenient Truth focuses on Al Gore and his travels in support of his efforts to educate the public about the severity of the climate crisis. Gore says, "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." The film closely follows a Keynote presentation (dubbed "the slide show") that Gore presented throughout the world. It intersperses Gore's exploration of data and predictions regarding climate change and its potential for disaster with Gore's life story.

It weaves in events that changed his world view, including his college education with early climate expert Roger Revelle at Harvard University, his sister's death from lung cancer, and his young son's near-fatal car accident. Throughout the film, Gore makes comments regarding his loss to George W. Bush in the 2000 United States presidential election. For comic effect, Gore also uses a clip from the Futurama episode "Crimes of the Hot" to explain global warming.

In the slide show Gore reviews the scientific opinion on climate change, discusses the politics and economics of global warming, and describes the consequences he believes global climate change will produce if the amount of human-generated greenhouse gases is not significantly reduced in the very near future. A centerpoint of the film is his examination of the annual temperature and CO2 levels for the past 650,000 years in Antarctic ice core samples.

The film includes segments intended to refute critics who say that global warming is unproven or that warming will be insignificant. For example, Gore discusses the possibility of the collapse of a major ice sheet in Greenland or in West Antarctica, either of which could raise global sea levels by approximately 20 feet (6 m), flooding coastal areas and producing 100 million refugees. Melt water from Greenland, because of its lower salinity, could then halt the currents that keep northern Europe warm and quickly trigger dramatic local cooling there. The documentary ends with Gore arguing that if appropriate actions are taken soon, the effects of global warming can be successfully reversed by releasing less CO2 and planting more vegetation to consume existing CO2. Gore calls upon his viewers to learn how they can help him in these efforts.

Gore's book of the same title was published concurrently with the theatrical release of the documentary. The book contains additional information, scientific analysis, and Gore's commentary on the issues presented in the documentary. A 2007 documentary entitled An Update with Former Vice President Al Gore features Gore discussing additional information that came to light after the film was completed, such as Hurricane Katrina, coral reef depletion, glacial earthquake activity on the Greenland ice sheet, wildfires, and trapped methane gas release associated with permafrost melting.

Scientific basis

The film's thesis is that global warming is real, potentially catastrophic, and human-caused. Gore presents specific data that supports the thesis, including:

The Associated Press contacted more than 100 climate researchers and questioned them about the film's veracity. All 19 climate scientists who had seen the movie said that Gore conveyed the science correctly. Professor Brian Soden, however, expressed concern about the coverage of topics for which there was not a scientific consensus, indicating "I thought the use of imagery from Hurricane Katrina was inappropriate and unnecessary in this regard, as there are plenty of disturbing impacts associated with global warming for which there is much greater scientific consensus."

In contrast, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, at the time chaired by Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) issued a press release criticizing this article. Inhofe's statement that "global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people" appears in the film. The majority of climate researchers have rejected Inhofe's views.

Eric Steig, a climate scientist writing on RealClimate, lauded the film's science as "remarkably up to date, with reference to some of the very latest research. Michael Shermer, scientific author and founder of The Skeptics Society, wrote in Scientific American that a lecture that Gore gave "shocked me out of my doubting stance".


According to Gore, he became interested in global warming when he took a course at Harvard University with Professor Roger Revelle, one of the first scientists to measure carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Later, when Gore was in Congress, he initiated the first congressional hearing on the subject. Gore's 1992 book, Earth in the Balance, dealing with a number of environmental topics, reached the New York Times bestseller list.

As Vice President during the Clinton Administration, Gore pushed for the implementation of a carbon tax to modify incentives to reduce fossil fuel consumption causing fossil fuel to last longer and thereby decrease emission of greenhouse gases in the short term but not long term; it was partially implemented in 1993. He helped broker the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions. However, it was not ratified in the United States after a 95 to 0 vote in the Senate. The primary objections stemmed from the exemptions the treaty gives to China and India, whose industrial base and carbon footprint are growing rapidly, and fears that the exemptions would lead to further trade imbalances and offshoring arrangement with those countries.

Gore also supported the funding of a satellite called Triana, to increase awareness of environmental issues and to take the first direct measurements of how much sunlight is reflected from the Earth. During his 2000 Presidential Campaign, Gore ran, in part, on a pledge to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

After his defeat in the 2000 presidential election by George W. Bush, Gore returned his focus to the topic. He edited and adapted a slide show presentation he had compiled years earlier, and began featuring the slide show in Power Point presentations on global warming across the U.S. and around the world. At the time of the film, Gore estimated he had shown the presentation more than one thousand times.

Producers Laurie David and Lawrence Bender saw Gore's slide show in New York City after the 2004 premiere of The Day After Tomorrow. Inspired, they met with director Davis Guggenheim about the possibility of making the slide show into a movie. Guggenheim, who was skeptical at first, later saw the presentation for himself, stating that he was "blown away," and "left after an hour and a half thinking that global warming [was] the most important issue. . . . I had no idea how you’d make a film out of it, but I wanted to try," he said.


Box office

The film opened in New York City and Los Angeles on May 24, 2006. On Memorial Day weekend, it grossed an average of $91,447 per theater, the highest of any movie that weekend and a record for a documentary, though it was only playing on four screens at the time.

At the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, the movie received three standing ovations. It was also screened at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival and was the opening night film at the 27th Durban International Film Festival on June 14, 2006. An Inconvenient Truth was the most popular documentary at the 2006 Brisbane International Film Festival.

The film has grossed over $24 million in the U.S. and over $49 million worldwide as of June 3, 2007, making it the fourth-highest-grossing documentary in the U.S. to date (after Fahrenheit 9/11, March of the Penguins and Sicko).

Al Gore has stated, "Tipper and I are devoting 100 percent of the profits from the book and the movie to a new bipartisan educational campaign to further spread the message about global warming. Paramount Classics is committing 5% of their domestic theatrical gross for the film to a new bipartisan climate action group, Alliance for Climate Protection, dedicated to awareness and grassroots organizing.


The film received a generally positive reaction from critics. It garnered a "certified fresh" 93% rating at Rotten Tomatoes (as of May 21, 2007), with a 94% rating from the "Cream of the Crop" reviewers. Film critics Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper gave the film "two thumbs up". Ebert wrote: "In 39 years, I have never written these words in a movie review, but here they are: You owe it to yourself to see this film. If you do not, and you have grandchildren, you should explain to them why you decided not to.

Journalist Ronald Bailey argued in the libertarian magazine Reason that although "Gore gets [the science] more right than wrong," he exaggerates the risks.

Critic Jayson Harsin emphasized the film's groundbreaking aesthetic qualities, as a new genre of "Powerpoint" film. In addition Harsin drew attention to its persuasive or rhetorical nature (instead of only its scientific claims), including the use of emotion in analogies to the danger of tobacco and to the universal identification with the fate of our children. He notes that the film's persuasive choices very likely fail in the end with what should be the film's target audience.


The film has received a number of awards worldwide.

  • The film won the 2007 Academy Award for Documentary Feature and Best Original Song for Melissa Etheridge's "I Need to Wake Up". It is the first documentary to win a best original song Oscar.
  • It has often been erroneously reported by many members within the various news and entertainment media outlets that Al Gore himself had won the Oscar for An Inconvenient Truth but it was actually Davis Guggenheim who was the Nominee and Recipient of the Academy Award.
  • The film received special recognition from the Humanitas Prize, the first time the organization had handed out a Special Award in over 10 years.
  • 2007 Stanley Kramer Award - The Producers Guild of America; recognizes "work that dramatically illustrates provocative social issues".
  • The President’s Award 2007 - The Society for Technical Communication "for demonstrating that effective and understandable technical communication, when coupled with passion and vision, has the power to educate—and change—the world."
  • For his wide-reaching efforts to draw the world’s attention to the dangers of global warming including An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore, along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

Best Documentary:

  • Academy Awards (The Oscars) 2007 February 25, 2007
  • Chicago Film Critics Association - 2006-12-28
  • Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association - 2006-12-18
  • Florida Film Critics 2006 - 2006-12-22
  • Kansas City Film Critics Awards 2006 January 2, 2006
  • Las Vegas Film Critics Society 2006 - 2006-12-18
  • National Board of Review - 2006-12-06
  • New York Film Critics Online - 2006-12-10
  • New York Film Critics Society - 2006-12-12
  • Ohio Film Critics Awards 2006 - 2007-01-11
  • Oklahoma Film Critics Circle Awards 2006
  • Online Film Critics Society 2006
  • Phoenix Film Critics Circle 2006
  • Satellite Awards 2006 (Nominated) December 18, 2006
  • St. Louis Film Critics Awards 2006 January 07, 2007
  • Toronto Film Critics Association Awards 2006 (Nominated) December 19, 2006
  • Utah Film Critics Awards 2006 December 28, 2006
  • Washington D.C. Film Critics Association 2006 December 10, 2007

Best Non-Fiction:

Political response

The documentary has been generally well-received politically in many parts of the world and is credited for raising further awareness of global warming internationally, prompting calls for more government action in regard to the climate. Several colleges and high schools have begun to use the film in science curricula, though at least one US school district put temporary restrictions on its use in the classroom.


  • President Bush, when asked whether he would watch the film, responded: "Doubt it." He later stated that "And in my judgment we need to set aside whether or not greenhouse gases have been caused by mankind or because of natural effects, and focus on the technologies that will enable us to live better lives and at the same time protect the environment." Gore responded that "The entire global scientific community has a consensus on the question that human beings are responsible for global warming and he [Bush] has today again expressed personal doubt that that is true." White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino stated that “The president noted in 2001 the increase in temperatures over the past 100 years and that the increase in greenhouse gases was due to certain extent to human activity”.
  • In September 2006, Gore traveled to Sydney, Australia to promote the film. Then-Australian Prime Minister, John Howard said he would not meet with Gore or agree to Kyoto because of the movie: "I don't take policy advice from films." Former Opposition Leader Kim Beazley joined Gore for a viewing and other MPs attended a special screening at Parliament House earlier in the week. After winning the general election a year later, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd ratified Kyoto in his first week of office making the United States the only industrialized nation in the world not to have signed the treaty.
  • In the United Kingdom, Conservative Leader of the Opposition David Cameron urged people to see the film in order to understand climate change.
  • In Belgium, Margaretha Guidone persuaded the entire Belgian government to see the film.
  • In Costa Rica, Al Gore met with president Oscar Arias, and was well received by other politicians and the local media.
  • In Germany, German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel bought 6,000 DVDs of An Inconvenient Truth to make it available to German schools.
  • In Spain, after a meeting with Gore, prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero said the government will make An Inconvenient Truth available to schools. Gore has received this year's Prince of Asturias Prize for international cooperation .




The Dimmock case

As part of a nationwide "Sustainable Schools Year of Action" launched in late 2006, the UK Government, Welsh Assembly Government and Scottish Executive announced between January-March 2007 that copies of An Inconvenient Truth would be sent to all secondary schools in England, Wales and Scotland. The UK Government's distribution of the film was challenged in May 2007 in the High Court of Justice by a group of global warming skeptics, notably Viscount Monckton. The plaintiffs sought an injunction preventing the screening of the film in English schools. They argued that schools are legally forbidden to promote partisan political views in the teaching of any subject in school and, when dealing with political issues, are required to provide a balanced presentation of opposing views.

On 10 October 2007, Mr Justice Burton, after explaining that the requirement for a balanced presentation does not warrant that equal weight be given to alternative views of a mainstream view, ruled that it was clear that the film was substantially founded upon scientific research and fact, albeit that the science is used, in the hands of a talented politician and communicator, to make a political statement and to support a political program. The film could then, on that basis, be shown, provided an accompanying explanation was given of its scientific errors, in order to prevent political indoctrination.

The judge concluded "I have no doubt that Dr Stott, the Defendant's expert, is right when he says that: 'Al Gore's presentation of the causes and likely effects of climate change in the film was broadly accurate.'" On the basis of testimony from Robert M. Carter and the arguments put forth by the claimant's lawyers, the judge also pointed to nine 'errors', i.e. statements that he found to depart from the mainstream. He also found that some of these 'errors' arose in the context of alarmism and exaggeration in support of Al Gore's political thesis. Since the government had already accepted to amend the guidance notes to address these 'errors' along with other points in a fashion that the judge found satisfactory, no order was made on the application.

The Minister of Children, Young People and Families, Kevin Brennan, declared the outcome a victory for the government, stating: "We have updated the accompanying guidance, as requested by the judge to make it clearer for teachers as to the stated Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change position on a number of scientific points raised in the film. Stewart Dimmock also declared victory but expressed dissatisfaction at the verdict, saying that "no amount of turgid guidance" could change his view that the film was unsuitable for the classroom. A spokesman for Gore said: "Of the thousands of facts in the film, the judge only took issue with just a handful. And of that handful, we have the studies to back those pieces up.

In the United States

In the United States, 50,000 free copies of An Inconvenient Truth were offered to the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), which declined to take them. Laurie David, one of the film's producers, provided an email correspondence from the NSTA detailing that their reasoning was that the DVDs would place "unnecessary risk upon the [NSTA] capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters," and that they saw "little, if any, benefit to NSTA or its members" in accepting the free DVDs. In public, the NSTA argued that distributing this film to its members would have been contrary to a long-standing NSTA policy against distributing unsolicited materials to its members. The NSTA also said that they had offered several other options for distributing the film but ultimately "[it] appears that these alternative distribution mechanisms were unsatisfactory. Laurie David has stated that NSTA Executive Director Gerry Wheeler promised in a telephone conversation to explore alternatives with NSTA's board for advertising the film but she had not yet received an alternative offer at the time of NSTA's public claim. She also said that she rejected their subsequent offers because they were nothing more than offers to sell their "commercially available member mailing list" and advertising space in their magazine and newsletter, which are available to anyone. She noted that in the past, NSTA had shipped out 20,000 copies of a 10-part video produced by Wheeler with funding provided by ConocoPhillips in 2003. NSTA indicated that they retained editorial control over the content, which David questioned based on the point of view portrayed in the global warming section of the video.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science publication ScienceNOW published an assessment discussing both sides of the NSTA decision in which it was reported that "David says NSTA's imprimatur [i.e. endorsement or sanction] was essential and that buying a mailing list is a nonstarter. 'You don't want to send out a cold letter, and it costs a lot of money,' she says. 'There are a thousand reasons why that wouldn't work.'.

In January 2007, the Federal Way (Washington State) School Board voted to require an approval by the principal and the superintendent for teachers to show the film to students and that the teachers must include the presentation of an approved "opposing view". The moratorium was repealed after broad public condemnation at the subsequent meeting on January 23.

Shortly thereafter, the school board in Yakima, Washington, calling the film a "controversial issue", prevented the Environmental Club of Eisenhower High School from showing it, pending review by the school board, teachers, principal, and parents. It lifted the stay a month later, upon the approval by a review panel.


Richard S. Lindzen wrote in a June 26, 2006 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that Gore was using a biased presentation to exploit the fears of the public for his own political gain. Roy Spencer wrote an open letter to Gore criticizing his presentation of climate science in the film, asserting that the Arctic had a similar temperature in the 1930s before the mass emissions of carbon dioxide began. Timothy F. Ball rejected Gore’s claim that there has been a sharp drop-off in the thickness of the Arctic ice cap since 1970, stating that the data was taken only from an isolated area of the Arctic and during a specific cooling period.

William Gray said of the movie: "We're brainwashing our children. They're going to the Gore movie An Inconvenient Truth and being fed all this. It's ridiculous. While discussing the companion book to the movie Gray said, "This is a slick propaganda book. The pictures are very good. But there are factual errors.

A March 13, 2007 article in The New York Times reported on concerns among some scientists about the tone and the accuracy of the film, noting that they "argue that some of Mr. Gore’s central points are exaggerated and erroneous." Gore's discussion of a rise in sea level of up to 20 feet, while not stating a timeframe, appears in contrast with a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which predicts a maximum rise of 23 inches this century, excluding non-linear effects on ice sheets; although that too discusses the possibilities of higher rises if the ice sheets melt. The article also states that "a report last June by the National Academies seemed to contradict Mr. Gore’s portrayal of recent temperatures as the highest in the past millennium." The article quotes both defenders and critics of the film; Gore responds that scientists may disagree with him on some details, "but we do agree on the fundamentals."

The documentary film The Great Global Warming Swindle, broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK in 2007, brought together skeptical scientists and others who disagree with the IPCC position regarding human-caused global warming. The film claims that Gore misrepresented the data in An Inconvenient Truth, and contends that the actual relationship between carbon dioxide and the temperature is the other way round (that is, rise in temperature preceded an increase in carbon dioxide in the ice core samples and therefore does so today). The claim that CO2 increases lag temperature increases in the historical ice core record is not disputed, but the inference that the same relationship holds today, and several other of The Great Global Warming Swindle's claims, have been disputed by scientists and scientific bodies such as John T. Houghton, the British Antarctic Survey, Eigil Friis-Christensen, and the Royal Society. The UK media regulator OfCom has since upheld some complaints against the programme (while rejecting others and declining to investigate the majority).

Influences on popular culture

  • Prior to An Inconvenient Truth being released, Al Gore was parodied in the South Park episode “Manbearpig,” which ends with Al Gore exclaiming his intention to make a film starring himself in which he will try to save the world from the manbearpig, a "half man, half bear, half pig". Gore laughed off this sensationalized depiction of him, saying "Their comic sensibility is aimed at a different demographic than the one I inhabit, but I still find a lot of what they do hilarious. Gore makes a second appearance on South Park in the episode "Imaginationland Episode III", where he argues that the American government must nuke Imaginationland (where all the imaginary characters live) in order to destroy Manbearpig.
  • During the movie, Al Gore shows a clip from the Futurama episode "Crimes of the Hot" dealing with global warming; Al Gore was a guest star in that episode (though not present in the clip.) While not the credited author of this episode, his daughter, Kristin Gore Cusack, was on the Futurama writing staff and worked as a story editor. In addition, Gore stars in a faux trailer made by the Futurama cast and crew titled, A Terrifying Message from Al Gore.
  • Stephen Colbert, on The Colbert Report, also parodied the critics of An Inconvenient Truth on 19 July 2006. Entitled "The Convenientest Truth", Colbert created his own presentation that argued for the positive effects of global warming, using his signature humor tactics to satirize the conservative response to Gore's presentation.
  • In The Simpsons Movie, An Inconvenient Truth is parodied when Lisa Simpson, presenting dangers of the pollution of Lake Springfield to Springfield's residents in a style similar to Gore, fails to properly operate a scissor lift intended to lift her up in order to show a spike of data on a projected graph regarding global warming. The title of her presentation is An Irritating Truth. Mayor Quimby's initial response was to buy a new scissor lift until Lisa revealed that she put the polluted lake water in the audience's drinking glasses, convincing them to immediately fix the pollution problems.
  • The phrase “an inconvenient truth,” or variations thereof, has become a common descriptive expression in the English vernacular since the film's title was announced, appearing in journalism, blogs, and elsewhere.
  • In an episode of The Replacements, when an evil villain realizes that his plot to melt Antarctica will eventually backfire, Riley asks him if "the truth is too inconvenient".
  • The episode of the TV shows Scrubs My Inconvenient Truth parodies the title. Also the character The Janitor is inspired, after being shown the movie by lawyer Ted Buckland, to be more environmentally friendly.
  • An episode of Dexter is named "An Inconvenient Lie".

See also


External links

Review: "Eco-Apocalypse and the Powerpoint Film"

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