An Inconvenient Sequel’s Surprising Ally in Fighting Climate Change: YouTube


Al Gore in An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power (2017). Photo courtesy: Participant Media

It’s hard to believe it’s been 11 years since the documentary An Inconvenient Truth became planet Earth’s biggest wakeup call ever to be put on celluloid. Now, the Emmy-nominated directors, Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk (The Rape of Europa, Audrie & Daisy), have joined forces with Al Gore to tackle the sequel.

All three filmmakers gathered at YouTube Space in Playa Vista on July 28 to talk about An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power and share their cautious optimism.

Co-director Shenk says making this movie offered a totally new experience for him as a filmmaker.  “We felt like we could make a new type of story. We followed [Gore] around and saw the world through his eyes and experienced the day-to-day drama that he goes through in order to find the solutions.”

According to Gore, the solutions to climate change are abundant in 2017. Though he said that climate related extreme weather events are a lot more numerous now, there is finally hope. “We have the solutions now. Solar and wind electricity have come down incredibly fast in price. Electric cars are becoming available – the new consumer version of Tesla is about to come out and all the major manufacturers are about to introduce [electric cars]. Batteries are coming down [in price], so we have the ability to solve this now and I think it’s important to convey that message.  It’s one of the reasons why people come away from watching Bonnie and John’s film feeling hopeful, but also feeling a great sense of urgency.”

But any documentarian knows that facts and figures alone – good or bad – don’t make for a great film. “Bonni and I feel that, at their core, films are really emotional vehicles. They can wake people up through the power of story.”

When making the film, the biggest surprise to Cohen and Shenk was the connection between extreme weather events and YouTube. It is now common for people all over the world to take a video of the extreme hailstorm, tornado or fire whirl outside their window and share it with the internet. Shenk sees this as a tool when it comes to dealing with those who still don’t think climate change is real.

“People are noticing the climate is changing very quickly,” says Shenk. “People are looking on the computer or in their daily lives and are seeing evidence of something they are being told doesn’t exist. The two things aren’t jiving. It’s becoming clearer to people… that now is the time to act, especially since the solutions are here.”

The connection between YouTube and climate change is clear as a bell in An Inconvenient Sequel. In the first film, Gore is seen going through a slideshow of mostly still photos and graphs. A lot of YouTube video from all over the world can be seen in the sequel.

“Some of it looks – from a visual perspective – it looks like computer generated material,” said Cohen. “The best example came from a helicopter pilot in Greenland who is flying his helicopter over the Jakobshavn glacier. He noted it was the middle of April, quite early, he noticed that not only was it extremely hotter than normal but the glaciers were exploding and just falling down in all these different places. So he pulled out his iPhone and he just recorded it out the window. You’ll see it in the film… it looks like something out of the most beautifully directed sci-fi film you’ve ever seen and it’s actually our world.”

In fact, YouTube videos are making their way into other movies and TV shows as well. The Emoji Movie featured the viral video “hands up: kitten.”

For Shenk, YouTube videos give people power. “People can broadcast user generated content from their phones. It’s amplified peoples voices, helping people feel more connected.”

Gore also spoke about the power of images. The first photograph of the Earth was taken by the ATS-3 satellite in 1967. Another image of the Earth called The Blue Marble was taken in 1972 by Apollo 17 and spurned great environmental activism.

“No one had ever seen images like that before, it really has a big effect,” said Gore. “Within 18 months the first Earth Day was organized and major environmental legislation like the Clean Air Act was passed… Realizing we all share the same home that is now at risk, at least the conditions that are conducive to the flourishing of humanity are at risk, and having that perspective is invaluable.”

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power is currently playing in Los Angeles and New York and will open wide August 4.


Shanee Edwards graduated from UCLA Film School with an MFA in Screenwriting and is currently the film critic for She recently won the Next MacGyver television writing competition to create a TV show about a female engineer. Her pilot, Ada and the Machine, is currently in development with America Ferrera's Take Fountain Productions. You can follow her on Twitter: @ShaneeEdwards

5 Replies to "An Inconvenient Sequel’s Surprising Ally in Fighting Climate Change: YouTube"

  • comment-avatar
    DizzyC August 7, 2017 (4:06 am)

    Good news, obviously. People are aware; things are being done.
    But still there are sceptics. What’s to be done about an Inconvenient POTUS?

  • comment-avatar
    Ron August 7, 2017 (2:39 pm)

    Very disappointing to see politcal fodder on here. Hyperbole and fiction should not be paraded as truth. Seriously? The world is ending because the earth is a tenth of a degree warmer? This is so silly it’s not funny, ok it is funny. The earth all on its own went through an ice age – duh! Then it warmed back up. But somehow this truth escapes kooks like Al Gore who make millions from this disinformation already debunked by the most credible scientists. Even Michael Crichton explore this and wrote State of Fear. It has more facts in it about temperature readings and climate trends than anything Al has ever reported. I suggest reading it. According to AG every hurricane is because of global warming. Yet the climate record shows a hundred years ago there were seasons of much higher rates of severe storms. But again truth doesn’t matter. As long as we have something to fear they can pass all kinds of legislation and taxation that will hamper business and industry forcing us into smart cars and thermostats that will forbid you to cool your home in the swelter summer below 79 degrees as was advocated by Nancy Pelosi, while Al flies around in his private jets and changes not one iota of life style. Oh that’s a very an inconvenient truth, I know. But it is true.

    Ironically he’s right about the fact that things are getting better. That’s because back in the 70s America recognized the smog problem which was real. I lived in LA where there were daily smog alerts and remember it well as a child. The skies were brown and unhealthy. So we did something about it and today’s cars burn 10 times more effienctly that those of old. Electric cars are getting more popular. The trend is definitely toward electric power. But this is all happening by the free market because of people like Tesla and Toyota all without AG’s help and influence which is to mandate what cars we drive. Read his books. That’s his solution. We all march in lockstep to his drum.

    What’s really insane about his rantings is that millions of those old clunker poluting cars are zooming around India, Africa, China and much of the rest of the world. These countries produce thousands, perhaps millions of times more harmful polutants than the US. The earth won’t clean up until these countries deal with it, until then Americans can ride bikes to work and shut off their furnaces and the effect would be like a bucket of water in the ocean.

    Without a proper perspective of actual climate history, and the world’s polution record, Chicken Little fear mongering does nothing but expose the Uni Bomber manifesto mentality that it really is. Hysteria. Every generation has one. Al is ours. But at least he provides some entertainment.

    All due respect to the article writer who has written some good article. Sorry if I stepped on some toes. But if this kind of artcle is going to be on a screenwriting site where most of us have paid money for classes, you do yourself a diservice turning it into another politcal rant just because Mr. Gore is making another climate scare movie. AG is in the one percent of population at best. No one believes his silly movie anymore because his predictions for 2015 never came true. You see, they DID NOT come true, the oceans haven’t risen 5 to 10 feet, it’s risen the width of a dime which is what it does naturally. But then that’s science and AG is not about science since he doens’t include it in his silly films.

    Very disappointing article here, showcasing a hasbeen filmaker no one takes seriously anymore. Al Gore seriously? OMG.

    • comment-avatar
      SWT August 8, 2017 (11:15 am)

      So nice of you to care, not. If only you were a scientist studying the effects; then, maybe you’d be able to write something here worth reading.

  • comment-avatar
    Old Croc August 7, 2017 (3:15 pm)

    What is really inconvenient is the revelation that Algore’s home in Tennessee uses 21 times as much electricity as the average home in the U.S.

  • comment-avatar
    Paddy August 9, 2017 (6:25 am)

    I remember the day when documentaries were made for highly educated and PHD folks only! Now, please forgive me, they have a ‘new audience.’ This audience, for the most part, is in a new psychological thriller being manipulated ever so ‘artfully’ like Jim Carrey in The Truman Show. 100 years from now, Al Gore and Orson Wells may be remembered for their showmanship similarities. Kind of sad really.

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