"An Inconvenient Truth": A Convincing Documentary on Climate Change

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. An Inconvenient Truth: Analysis of Rhetorical Techniques
  3. Conclusion


Throughout Earth’s history, there have been periods of drastic changes in Earth’s climate. However, there has never been a period of significant climate change within such a short amount of time. Stronger and more frequent storms have taken place all over the world in addition to other tough weather conditions such as extreme heat or cold. Therefore, as a new decade dawns, people all over the world are starting to accept and act upon the crisis. This is seen through the passion of Greta Thunberg as she has traveled across the world to demand change. However, this plethora of information on climate change in the public eye was not always the case. When An Inconvenient Truth was created in 2006, it illuminated the crisis at a time when it lacked understanding and media coverage. The whole idea of an environmental crisis was far more controversial and far from the minds of most individuals during the early 2000s. In addition, most people were not exposed to very much information about increased levels of carbon dioxide in the air. More carbon dioxide in the atmosphere leads to more heat trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere - which increases the effects of climate change. In this essay we will analyze how 'An Inconvenient Truth', aconvincing documentary on climate change, was able to alter people’s thinking all across the world.

An Inconvenient Truth: Analysis of Rhetorical Techniques

In the documentary directed by Davis Guggenheim, environmentalist Al Gore presents his case for saving the environment and making changes before it's too late. Therefore, the film was able to present key information about the crisis to the public. Al Gore played a significant part in making this documentary as he was the narrator throughout the film. In addition, there is a clear focus on how climate change is man-made and how humans have caused massive damage to the planet. Throughout the film, a compelling argument is presented on what global warming is and how it will affect people all over the world. In addition, the politics of climate change are discussed on how the government has done little to nothing to help ease the vicious effects of the the environmental crisis. Without a doubt, Gore brings an interesting perspective to the argument over climate due to his experience as a senator and his active role in government. As a matter of fact, he was vice president to Bill Clinton in the 90’s and even earned the Democratic nomination for president in 2000. Throughout the film, he continues to focus on how he has tried time and time again to propose legislation to protect the environment and create change. Unfortunately, Gore has been met with massive opposition in Congress, which he touches base with during the documentary. The film was produced by famous producers: Laurie David, Scott Z. Burns, and Lawrence Bender. This presentation was filmed with an audience present. During the film, a convincing presentation is given through a slideshow to people on climate change explaining the effects humans will see in the near future if no progress is made. Throughout the documentary, many rhetorical devices were used to guarantee the audience is convinced of the growing importance of climate change in society. Gore makes sure no one that watches the documentary will forget it the next day. When explaining any relevant information to an audience, it’s important that the speaker can convince the audience what they’re saying is important to their lives. Gore does a fantastic job of connecting the audience to the crisis, even if they haven’t even heard of climate change before watching the film.

The targeted audience for the documentary is anyone in the world. This is because climate change is not one country’s issue as it has negative effects everywhere -- from coast to coast. This film points a finger at everyone -- even people in different countries. During the film, Gore goes to China to present the facts on climate change where his words are translated. Therefore, this targeted audience can range from people in government with the power to cause change to young people that have their whole life ahead of them. In addition, those that do not believe climate change is real are also targeted as that perspective was refuted over and over. The film caters specifically to all people because it makes clear that all can make a difference whether in a government role, another place of power, or just an average citizen. The film also focuses on the idea that people are fundamentally good at heart and want the best for the Earth. Assumptions are made that many individuals participating in climate change do not want the only planet suitable for life to end in ruins.

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One prevalent technique used throughout the film was the use of data in graphs and charts. The consistent use of data proved the narrator’s point with ease. Since data is able to be visualized, a clear message can be conveyed that climate change is only going to get more severe if people do not step in and make matters better. At one point, there was a graph where carbon dioxide levels went off the charts so far that Gore needed a lift machine to point to the graph. Therefore, this visualization of data is not only irrefutable, but it provides a point of reference and understanding for the audience on the issue. The use of evidence is specific and relevant to climate change and gives a distinct idea of where the crisis is heading and how intense it is. In fact, “[Data visualization] can not only act as supporting content but can drive the overall story and provide succinct clarity” (Astle). In this case, the data supported the content of the film in addition to driving the narrator’s point forward. Also, data “adds credibility, encourages engagement, and increases impact” (“How To use Data Visualization To Win Over your Audience”). Therefore, the reason data adds credibility -- especially when talking about climate change -- is that it shows that the problem is real and prevalent in the world. Also, the narrators and creators of the film seem credible and prepared in their presentation. Furthermore, in the film, the use of data makes the documentary reach new heights, and is able to make the argument believable because it’s difficult to ignore overwhelming amounts of data. Numbers often stick with people, especially when they are easy to understand and there are data visualizations to back it up. In the documentary, Gore presents the fact that the U.S. has contributed the most to climate change out of every other country in the world. There is a chart used to show the percentages America has contributed to carbon dioxide emissions versus other places over the globe. These graphs and charts make a big difference in the quality of the documentary. They constantly prove to the audience that the issue is real and the time to act is now upon the climate crisis. The emphasis on logos or logic through data in An Inconvenient Truth is most effective. This is because when talking about controversial issues the speaker must provide data during a presentation. Especially when talking about global warming in the early 2000s when many people did not see the effects firsthand, so the data is necessary to back up the claims and convince the viewers.

When addressing climate change, Gore focuses on natural disasters that are becoming more frequent and the immense damage they do. Throughout the film, camera angles are used to show the audience the effects of climate change many countries are facing. At one point, there is an aerial view of a hurricane with flooded streets and people in distress. This camera angle is able to capture the horrors people have to go through as a result of climate change. Camera angles “could make audiences feel more connected to the stories they were telling by carefully choosing where they placed the camera and how they framed each shot” (“Camera- GCSE Moving Image Arts”). In this instance, this angle was used to make people look vulnerable and weak. An emotional connection was made to this scene because of the camera angle portraying the effects the hurricane had on many individuals. Furthermore, there were also aerial views of devastating droughts, fires, and glacial destruction. All of these “camera angles may play a significant role when organizations are trying to convince TV viewers to support a cause, according to a study out of the University of Wisconsin.” These angles do create a sense of empathy for what is happening to the Earth. If there was no focus on camera angles and only talk about the effects of natural disasters on countries people, would likely have felt less compassion and be less likely to act. Therefore, this documentary does take on a rather somber and serious tone when addressing climate change.

Music is another technique that frequently is used throughout “An Inconvenient Truth.” At the ending scene, Gore wraps up the presentation with a message of hope which is followed by an emotional song written specifically for the documentary. During the song, there are examples of what can be done to combat climate change and reduce carbon emissions. The music makes the scene far more emotional, especially after being presented with rather sad information about how humans have destroyed a lot of nature. TRANSITION, “[Music] helps shape emotional responses, creates a rhythm to scenes and segments, and… is often crucial to the experience of a scene” (Grybowski). Since music can be moving during a film, it’s able to leave a permanent effect on the audience. Lasting impressions lead people to be more likely to make change and remember the film for years to come -- possibly for the rest of their lives. Also, music tends to hyperbolize? Is that a word?exaggerate what is trying to be portrayed; music can even exaggerate the feelings perceived of what someone else is going through. Since music can exaggerate the scenario, the viewer is more likely to not only have compassion for them but also try to do everything in their power to prevent someone from going through a situation like that. Furthermore, “[music] guides the audience in certain ways, for example, emotionally, to enrich and deepen their experience of the film.

Another prevalent technique throughout the film was the use of animation and cartoons to convey messages to the audience. Cartoons, even in a film on a serious topic, create a sense of childhood and simplicity for most people. During the film, the use of cartoons was prevalent in representing how global warming worked through a frog jumping in boiling water versus a frog jumping in water that slowly gets hot. This scenario not only describes the message in such a way that people will remember but also uses a simple concept using a frog so it makes more sense to the audience. Since most people have a soft spot for animals, this way of conveying information In fact, “Animation, like any other medium, has the potential to tell a diverse variety of stories for audiences across the age spectrum” (Meyer). Since there is some confusion around how global warming works, using scenarios with cartoons to explain the issue does provide clarity for an audience and simplify the problem. If a problem is hard to understand, people are less likely to act upon the issue because they do not know enough to begin to create change. An example of this is within Congress, if bills are not discussed for long (and there is some confusion), people are less likely to vote in favor of passing the bill. Therefore, cartoons in this case did play a role in guaranteeing all viewers know the problem being discussed in the movie.


An Inconvenient Truth was a fantastic informative documentary that achieved the purpose of informing people on climate change whilst pertaining to a diverse audience. This movie did create a call for change that can not be ignored whilst making sense of the complicated topic of climate change and humans effect on the Earth. Numerous rhetorical devices made it difficult to not be convinced to make a change in the way people treat the environment. Overwhelming amounts of data through graphs, charts, and statistics paved the way for providing evidence to back up claims made in the film. Music also contributed greatly to the takeaways of the movie because music heightened the response that was felt while watching the film. Furthermore, cartoons did simplify all ideas so that any viewer could understand the problem while camera angles of natural disasters created an emotional response to the effects of global warming. Therefore, these rhetorical devices made it difficult to not be moved by the film. TRANSITION, worldviews were changed because the movie explains how one person can always make a difference even when it comes to tackling a challenge as great as an environmental crisis. Again and again, Gore points out that there is nothing too massive or daunting that can not be handled when people work together. Sometimes as one person it is easy to get swallowed up in a big world, school, or community. However, the idea that when humans come together there is nothing people can not achieve was a great takeaway. In addition, sometimes when looking out at the world on a global scale there is little to no hope left but Gore continues to bring the idea that one person can change the world and there is a better future coming -- a future of unity. Currently, the state of America is very divided, but people’s old views are changing into thinking forward to a kinder world with less war, hatred, and more prosperity and acceptance.

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