A Cinematic Teaparty

Irish filmmakers Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer challenge Al Gore to a duel of scientific facts in “Not Evil Just Wrong,” a new documentary film now available on DVD. The filmmakers are organizing what they are calling “a cinematic teaparty,” a simultaneous “premiere” in locations all over the world on Sunday, Oct. 18 in order to choreograph media attention and grassroots support for the case against Al Gore.

Gore is a worthy target due to his popular, Oscar-winning 2006 documentary about “An Inconvenient Truth.” McElhinney and McAleer attack the scientific evidence for global warming cited by Gore and also provide a critique of the “end is nigh!” hysteria promoted by the global warming movement.

The film works well as a summary of the factual errors underpinning Gore’s argument, such as Michael Mann’s hockey stick graph (inaccurate programming) and NASA’s “hottest year” data (it was actually 1934, not 2006). Much of the evidence is available elsewhere, but “Not Evil Just Wrong” gathers it all into one place. The film can count itself a success if it convinces anyone to reconsider the consequences of implementing the radical changes Gore advocates.

Unfortunately, the movie fails to differentiate itself from the “my scientific fact beats your scientific fact” kind of debate that seems to populate the modern global warming landscape. It disproves Gore—for now—but does not necessarily disprove global warming.

“An Inconvenient Truth” worked in part because it dramatized and glamorized the global warming scare. It focused the movement by providing goals and turned Gore into an icon. “Not Evil Just Wrong” explains the result that closing down coal production facilities would have on the economy, and portrays the importance of dependable electricity and the power of flight in the lives of “ordinary” people as a retort to the rhetoric condemning the excessive and unnecessary waste of resources. Their points are valid, but the argument is merely defensive. Unlike “Truth,” it does not aim to win and the movie concludes with the delivery of a “letter of concern” to Gore’s house, almost as though their investigation requires his validation. No doubt Gore will have no trouble coming up with a rebuttal, even if it requires new “facts.”

Al Gore’s film has two other significant advantages over “Not Evil”: celebrity and drama. Gore represents both of those things, and “Truth” was as much about Gore as it was about global warming. McElhinney and McAleer seem to recognize their disadvantages and do their best to overcome them. People such as actor Ed Begley Jr. and Gore are unwilling contributors: the movie splices scenes of them speaking into contrasting footage, for instance Begley Jr. waxing rhapsodic about the “happy” low-tech lifestyle in Fiji against scenes of unsanitary, poverty-stricken Fijian households.

For drama, they also interview Stephen Schneider, a professor who claimed in 1975 that the world was facing another ice age and has now become a proponent of global warming. Since legal action was taken to prevent footage of the interview from appearing in the film, the filmmakers cleverly took advantage of a loophole to dramatically read the transcript of the interview over a black screen.

The real disadvantage of “Not Evil” relates to the very point they are making: that the global warming campaign relies too much on hype and hysteria. “Not Evil” takes a calmer tone in its approach to the facts and spends a significant portion of the film aiming their cameras at life in a small Indiana town that is economically dependent on the coal industry Gore wants to eliminate.

The message is that all the drama is unnecessary, and that many of the things environmentalists vilify help support an average quality of life. But having the facts on their side might not make up for the fact that their message is a lot less urgent and exciting than Gore’s. It doesn’t help that an undecided audience might be left thinking that science is flexible enough to support both sides of the argument.

Visually, at least, the film is as appealing as “Truth,” and it’s also a wealth of information. McElhinney and McAleer conduct interviews all over the globe with experts who help build their case, including Richard Lindzen, a former member of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Patrick Moore, a founding member of Greenpeace, Lord Nigel Lawson of the U.K. Parliament’s Economic Committee, and John Day, a lawyer involved in the 2007 British High Court case that found nine significant factual errors in Gore’s film. “Not Evil” also takes a concise tour of the cyclical history of climate change in order to prove the global warming hysteria ridiculous.

Global warming alarmists tend to be near-sighted, the film demonstrates, because they don’t account for the affect their extreme “corrective” measures will have on third-world countries and other vulnerable populations. As an example, the film points to the 1972 ban of the synthetic pesticide DDT as an early example of extreme environmentalism. In countries like Uganda and South Africa, the number of deaths by malaria increased after the ban went into effect. The World Health Organization declared DDT the best defense against malaria in 2006 and when South Africa reintroduced its use, the impact (on deaths from malaria) was immediate.

The title “Not Evil Just Wrong” actually comes from Roy Innis, the chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality. “These people must be forced to consider the pragmatic consequences of what they hope for or what they believe,” Innis tells the camera. “I don’t believe that the people who oppose DDT are evil people, but they’re people who are wrong."

Unfortunately for McElhinney and McAleer, audiences tend to prefer something evil to rally against. With “Not Evil Just Wrong,” these two filmmakers have served the facts well, but failed to create a compelling, entertaining narrative that could tap into a common spirit of resistance. Audiences will be left wondering: if Gore is not the bad guy, who is?

Too bad “Not Evil Just Wrong” gives Gore the last word.