Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

David Payne, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Frederick Steier, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Nathan Johnson, Ph.D.


Climate Change, Science, Facts, Rhetoric, Al Gore, Scientific Persuasion


This thesis project examines how scientific authority is produced through rhetorical practices instead of the “information deficit” model of science communication. By conducting a rhetorical analysis of the science documentary An Inconvenient Truth, this project demonstrates how the documentary format itself and the film’s leading agent, former United States Vice President Al Gore, attempt to persuade audiences through building degrees of scientific authority by employing multiple rhetorics or narrative themes of science to bolster the scientific facts supporting anthropogenic climate change. Additionally, I demonstrate how these narrative themes parallel three scholarly themes within the rhetoric of science literature: science as a story of perpetual discovery, science as reference, and science as an agent of moral prosperity. I argue that scientific authority is best understood through these multiple rhetorics of science which, in the dramatic case of An Inconvenient Truth, require Gore to overcome certain social and cultural obstacles by appealing to the values and sensibilities of his audience. Successful scientific persuasion, therefore, depends more on the elements of rhetoric rather than solely relying on accurate and verifiable scientific information as the crux of successful persuasion.