An Inconvenient Truth
A social representation of scientific expertise
in Science and the politics of openness

In 2006, Al Gore's climate change documentary ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ was released, garnering substantial public attention. The film was used as part of a climate science education campaign with a view to building support for climate policies, a perspective that conveniently viewed a global public as suffering from an information deficit. In this chapter we discuss the film as an example of taking climate change expertise out of the pages of science journals and into the public sphere. While the purpose of the documentary was to persuade its audience of the consensual truth imparted by climate science experts, its effect was to become a lightning rod for dissent, critique and debate of that expertise. Overall, the film created a dominant representation of climate change, based on scientific expertise that became a touchstone for consent and dissent, action and reaction. If future engagement on climate change is to improve on the experience of 'An Inconvenient Truth', those taking part must be open to engaging with publics that might be regarded as inconvenient just as much as with invited and convenient ones. This conclusion supports John Dewey’s seminal argument that expert knowledge should be integrated in society.


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