Politics & Policy

Recycled Gore

Al Gore at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January. (Reuters photo: Ruben Sprich)
The former vice president resurfaces, with another round of familiar apocalyptic predictions.

At least one environmentalist is capitalizing on President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord: Al Gore.

The former vice president and Nobel Peace Prize winner is back in the public eye whether you like it or not. Since Trump’s announcement last month that the U.S. would pull out of the Paris climate pact, Gore has been on a media blitz to reprise his role as the prophet of planetary doom. The timing couldn’t be better for him. Next week, Gore’s new film, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, will debut. It’s the follow-up to An Inconvenient Truth, his 2006 documentary that won two Oscars and became the rallying cry for climate-change activists around the world.

Gore has mostly avoided politics and kept a relatively low public profile the past several years, heading up the Climate Reality Project, a nonprofit he founded on the heels of the movie’s success. (He also divorced his wife, Tipper, and sold his Current TV channel to Al Jazeera in 2013 for a reported $100 million.) But Trump’s presidency is now breathing new life into this aging climate crusader, and he is poised to play the Climate Good Cop to Trump’s Bad Climate Cop.

On June 4, Gore appeared on Fox News Sunday for the first time since he ran for president in 2000. He told Chris Wallace that Trump’s move to exit the Paris pact “undermines our nation’s standing in the world and isolates us and threatens to harm humanity’s ability to solve this crisis in time.” While Gore blasted Trump’s action as “reckless and indefensible” and compared the Paris agreement to the post–World War II Marshall Plan, he also acknowledged that the accord would not have solved climate change but was rather a “powerful signal to the world.”

For a fleeting moment while watching the interview, one could reminisce about the era when Democrats didn’t sound off-the-rails hysterical, as Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders often do. Gore still has his signature monotone, robotic cadence that can temporarily lull one into believing anything he says. But then he quickly pivots to the same apocalyptic rhetoric that made him a climate cult hero after his failed presidential bid. He said humans are putting “110 million tons of heat-trapping global-warming pollution up into the sky every day as if it’s an open sewer.” He urged viewers to listen not only to scientists but also to Mother Nature: “You don’t have to rely on the virtually unanimous opinion of the scientific community anymore. Mother Nature is telling us. Every night on the TV news is like a nature hike through the Book of Revelation.” He rambled on about wildfires, droughts and downpours, and claimed he saw “fish from the ocean swimming in the streets” in Miami.

In an obsequious interview yesterday on CBS News Sunday Morning to promote his new movie, Gore doubled down on his global-warming proselytizing despite his record of failed predictions: Manhattan was going to be under water because of Greenland ice melt, Kilimanjaro was going to be snow-free, we would be battling rapidly rising temperatures and stronger, more frequent storms, just to name a few. Even as late as last week, Gore erroneously blamed climate change for the break-off of a massive iceberg in Antarctica, though scientists said the iceberg’s “calving” was due to natural causes.

Gore doubled down on his global-warming proselytizing despite his record of failed predictions.

Gore talked about meeting with Trump during the transition and told CBS’s Lee Cowan that he had thought the president would “come to his senses” and remain in the pact. In fact, much of Gore’s new film takes place at the Paris conference. The trailer opens with a clip in which Trump mocks global-warming orthodoxy; this is followed by a rapid-fire sequence of scary weather videos narrated by Gore in a mournful voice-over. Cameras followed Gore for two years as he flew around the world from Greenland to Miami, recording the planet’s demise from carbon-emitting airplanes.

In excerpts from the book that will accompany the film’s premiere, Gore ranks climate change among the great moral causes of our time — equating it with abolition, suffrage, and gay rights — a claim with more than a tad of self-serving interest. Gore (again) says that we are at a tipping point and that “every day now, millions more are awakening to the realization that it is wrong to destroy the future of the human race.” He promotes a so-called sustainability revolution that purports to both solve climate change and create “hundreds of millions of jobs” now threatened by automation and a stagnant global economy. In perhaps the scariest of all prospects, Gore says that today’s youth will play a special role in “focusing the attention of their elders on the clear distinction between right and wrong.”

If we don’t act now, Gore warns, our children will inherit a world of “stronger storms, worsening floods, deeper droughts, mega-fires, tropical diseases spreading through vulnerable populations in all parts of the earth, melting ice caps flooding coastal cities, unsurvivable [sic] heat extremes, and hundreds of millions of climate refugees.” Apparently neither age nor inaccuracy has mellowed Gore’s penchant for the apocalyptic.

In many ways, Gore is the perfect archetype of the modern-day climate movement: monotonous, hyperbolic, and opportunistic. For the first time in a decade, the climate crusade is on its heels and desperate for a cogent message and strong leadership. We’ll see if recycling Gore as the hero will work.


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