Nobody is more excited about Friday’s release of Al Gore’s sequel to “An Inconvenient Truth” than climate skeptic Marc Morano, which comes as an ill wind for the movement to stop global warming, not to mention Mr. Gore.
For months, Mr. Morano and his team have tracked the Democrat at advance screenings of “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,” ambushing him with stunts such as asking him about his prediction that without drastic measures, the planet would reach a “point of no return” in a decade.
The former vice president made that claim 11 years ago in “An Inconvenient Truth,” the Oscar-winning documentary whose warnings of climate doom propelled Mr. Gore to the forefront of the movement against global warming — while turning him into something of a punchline.
“Al Gore is the gift that keeps on giving,” said Mr. Morano, who runs the skeptical Climate Depot website, a project of the free-market Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow.
Even the left has its doubts about whether the sequel will do more harm than good by reinforcing Mr. Gore’s status as the face of the movement to protect the climate.
The liberal New Republic aired those concerns in a Monday article headlined “The Troubling Return of Al Gore,” which said that “not everyone on the left is celebrating Gore’s reemergence” and described him as “the most polarizing figure in climate politics.”
“Having a highly partisan spokesman who instantly divides the public between support and opposition is doing the climate campaigners no favors,” said Mr. Morano. “Gore turns off half the audience before the film even starts, just by virtue of him being a divisive player in American politics.”
Already, the sides have lined up: California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, attended a Wednesday screening with Mr. Gore in Hollywood, but no congressional Republicans turned up for a free Tuesday showing on Capitol Hill, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“I’m not sure Mr. Gore will re-energize either side. In my opinion, he’s become largely irrelevant in the climate debate, mainly due to the multitude of failed claims and factual errors in his statements over the years,” said Anthony Watts, who runs the widely viewed skeptics website Watts Up With That.
Two weeks ago, Mr. Gore came under fire by comparing climate change to slavery abolition, saying both movements were “met with ferocious resistance.”
“He’s clearly mostly about propaganda, and both sides of the climate debate now recognize this,” Mr. Watts said.
With “An Inconvenient Sequel,” Mr. Gore said his aim is to drum up grass-roots support for climate activism.
“We need to get more people involved,” he told The Associated Press. “That’s one of the real purposes of this movie: to tell people what they need to know, to show them that there is hope and there are solutions now, and inspire them to get involved.”
The film has drawn celebrity backing, earning kudos on Twitter from ecowarriors such as actor Leonardo DiCaprio and singer Jason Mraz. Mr. Gore has promoted the film on late-night shows hosted by Stephen Colbert and James Corden.
After showings at the Sundance Film Festival and Cannes Film Festival, the film is slated for limited release Friday and wide release Aug. 4.
So far, reviews have been mixed. While the original film focused on the climate change issue, the sequel spends more time on Mr. Gore’s story, prompting some critics to praise the movie for being more engaging than the first even as others have called it a “vanity project” and a “victory lap.”
The timing of the film is both prescient and problematic. Alarm over President Trump’s skepticism about climate change prompted The Wrap’s Elizabeth Weitzman to declare that “we need [Mr. Gore’s] voice more than ever.”
At the same time, the filmmakers miscalculated by initially ending with the success of the Paris agreement, which fell apart after Mr. Trump announced June 1 that he would pull out of the accord.
The film and its trailer have since been updated with an anti-Trump message. Still, some reviewers have complained that the tacked-on ending muddles the documentary’s final stretch showing Mr. Gore working to bring India on board at the 2015 Paris summit.
The sequel’s “whole inspirational framework seems shaped around the realities of a pre-November 9 world, to the point where its outlook now seems sadly outdated, what with a powerful new enemy to the cause threatening to undo all the progress Gore has made and the film celebrates,” film critic A.A. Dowd said on the A.V. Club website. “Talk about an inconvenient truth.”
Another problem is that Mr. Gore is no longer on the cutting edge of the climate movement. Up-and-comers such as the Copenhagen Consensus Center’s Bjorn Lomborg have called for making green energy cheaper by increasing funding for research instead of entering into sweeping global treaties like the kind Mr. Gore favors.
Mr. Lomborg said the Paris agreement is likely to fail just as the 1997 Kyoto Protocol did by focusing on government subsidies for “inefficient solar and wind and Teslas that feel good but actually don’t do much.”
“Yes, we’ll go see another Al Gore movie, and honestly it’s not going to move us anyplace because he’s basically still trying to scare us witless using a solution that hasn’t worked for the last 20 years and is likely not to work the next 20,” Mr. Lomborg said.
Repeating the impact of “An Inconvenient Truth” would be difficult under the best of circumstances. The film, which earned nearly $50 million at the box office, gave Mr. Gore an unexpected second act in public life after his nearly victorious 2000 presidential run. He was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. He launched the Climate Reality Project. He also became rich, amassing a net worth estimated at as much as $300 million, including renewable energy investments as co-founder of Generation Investment Management.
At the same time, Mr. Gore faces accusations of climate hypocrisy every time he climbs into an SUV or hops onto a private plane. He took heat for years over the lighting bill on his mansion in Nashville, Tennessee.
Despite the Trump win, Mr. Gore says the climate message is taking root with Americans. A Gallup poll in March found that 45 percent of those surveyed worry about global warming “a great deal,” up from 37 percent a year earlier.
“People are seeing through this now. Two-thirds of the American people want to solve this, big time,” Mr. Gore said.
Then again, a Bloomberg poll this month found that only 10 percent saw global warming as the most important issue facing the country. A Chapman University poll released in October found that those surveyed were more afraid of clowns than global warming.
“Anyone predicting Gore’s sequel will even come close to his 2006 original,” said Mr. Morano, “will be joining a long list of failed climate predictions and climate models.”