From big screen to big changes – how a movie moved citizens to action against climate change

Movie-goers need no telling that this week sees the launch of the sequel to one of this century’s most talked-about Oscar-winning films.

The significance of the unlikely Hollywood blockbuster, whose legacy today is still reverberating across the globe, should not be underestimated.

An Inconvenient Truth charted the warnings about climate change and its imminent threat to the planet from former US presidential candidate, Al Gore.

The former Vice President’s infamous slide show featuring his education programme to teach people about effects of global warming was the focus of the film which was a huge hit on its release in 2006, winning two Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature and Best Original Song. It grossed $24 million in the US and $26 million at the international box office making it the tenth highest grossing documentary film to date in the US.

The film is widely recognised as having reignited the debate around environmental issues and sparked international interest in tackling climate change with immediate action rather than allowing a lingering debate to continue behind closed lab doors.

The great and the good in the corridors of power around the world were forced to sit up and take notice – and action – to address the concerns and threats raised in the movie.

Now more than a decade on, the film follow-up, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, is due to hit the big screen.

We’ll leave it to the film buffs to analyse its cinematic worth, but from a climate change perspective, it provides a welcome opportunity to get environmentalists re-energised, to reinforce the message to a new generation about the importance of the role they (and the rest of us) play in safeguarding our planet’s future and to reflect on the impact of the first iteration.

Just what has changed in the past 11 years on the world stage regarding global warming?

Without getting too technical or political, the answer is a lot. An awful lot. But not yet enough.

Most significant, arguably, is the Paris Agreement on climate change – signed by 195 countries including Mr Gore’s home country which of course has subsequently, very publicly, withdrawn. (Cue a further follow-up film?)

Companies like our own are thriving in a business world more acutely aware than ever of its responsibilities in driving down carbon emissions and putting in place structures and policies to mitigate the harm done by previous versions.

More of us seek out sustainable products for our daily lives, from clothing to food sources, energy-saving devices around the home and office to fuel-efficient vehicles.

Recycling has become second nature after a slow start in the UK, air quality has come to the fore of the national debate, wind farms are popping up on increasing swathes of landscapes and more emphasis is being placed on where our food and construction materials are sourced to avoid lengthy, harmful transportation methods.

Building and planning regs have changed to reflect the newly acknowledged importance of eco factors affecting the built environment and environmental considerations are now front and centre of many political and business decisions compared with the backseat (if any) they took previously.

Critically, links to public health and finances have been made to the issue of climate change, making it much more tangible to everyday people going about their normal lives. The shift in emphasis away from what might happen to our grandchildren and great grandchildren’s generations to what might could change within our lifetime – and how we can positively impact that, has made an enormous difference, thanks in no small part to Mr Gore’s intervention.

As Andrew Jones from US non-profit organisation Climate Interactive said: ‘Waiting for climate results is delayed gratification — it’s difficult to motivate continued action. But if you reduce burning coal, air quality improves almost immediately.’

Actually, whether you believe Mr Gore and his assumptions/bold statements/undeniable truths, is largely immaterial. He got the world talking and that’s got to be a good thing.

Here’s hoping his latest foray into the public conscience once again shines a light on all things green and the world takes notice with discussions getting louder, more intense and more personal.