May 3rd, 2014 by Zachary Shahan
I just read a wonderful article about and interview with Al Gore on POLITICO. Worth your time, I believe. Al Gore is such an excellent communicator. One of the best out there on the topic of global climate change. However, if you aren’t drawn to read the full thing, here are some key excerpts from the interview part picked out specifically for our Planetsave audience:
POLITICO MAGAZINE: You have more to say on climate? Is the public interested in seeing another film [An Inconvent Truth Part 2]?
Al Gore: Let me answer both parts of the question separately. Do I have more to say on climate? Yes, I do. As the evidence not only gets even stronger, but as the picture resolves into a finer-grain image of regional impacts and better understandings of exactly how the water cycle is being disrupted, for example, then yes, I and others have a lot more to say about this.
This is the challenge of our time. We have to solve this. We have to solve it. And we can solve it. And it will be solved. We’re going to solve this. The only question is: How long will it take us to get past that political and social tipping point? We’re getting there.
Forty-nine years ago … after the march from Selma to the Pettus Bridge in Montgomery, Martin Luther King Jr. made a famous speech in which he said, “How long? Not long. Because no lie can live forever. How long? Not long. Because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” That’s where we are on the climate crisis. How long will it take us to get to the point where we really start solving it? Not long.
PM: So you see climate change reaching a tipping point like civil rights or gay rights?
AG: Absolutely. No question about it. … [W]hat [all three causes] have in common is that ultimately, when any question is resolved into a choice between what’s clearly right and what’s clearly wrong, the outcome is foreordained, just because of who we are as human beings. And most of the effort by the climate deniers has been to delay the arrival of that binary choice. To cloud the issue. To create false doubt. To sow confusion. Just like the tobacco industry did in hopes that they can delay the clarity of the choice. It’s clearly wrong to do what we’re doing. It’s clearly right to change. We will change. It’s just a matter of time. And again, how long? Not long.
PM: During the “24-hour project” [a Gore-led October 2013 effort to raise awareness about climate change], there were a lot of critics who said it didn’t get the right message out, that you weren’t the best messenger, either. There was one response in particular that summed it up that came from Mike Shanahan, from the International Institute for Environment and Development: “Climate change needs a Gandhi or a Martin Luther King or a Mandela and Al Gore is none of those.” What do you say when critics note that Al Gore as a person polarizes half the country; you need someone different to lead the cause?
AG: It’s not about me. And I’ve never tried to make it about me. And far be it from me to disagree with someone who says I’m not Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. or Nelson Mandela. I have to plead guilty to that charge. I wish that I had the greatness of those three men.
But I’m enough of a student of history to know that Martin Luther King Jr., to pick one example, was considered extremely polarizing and was by many hated and despised. And in the South it was not uncommon to hear people trying to appear reasonable on civil rights but nevertheless digging their heels in, who’d say, “Well, if King would just get out of the way this would just happen.” I think that whoever puts his head up above the trenches and says, “We’ve got to do this” is going to attract the ire of people who don’t want to do it. And there are plenty of them.
The partisanship that characterizes opinion polls on climate in the U.S. now is relatively new, and it has been intentionally created. You know, after I left the White House and started my NGO, I had an equal number of Republicans and Democrats on the board. I ran advertisements with Newt Gingrich and Pat Robertson and other Republicans. Even now, I have Republicans that I have featured in the latest version of the slide show I give.
PM: Sen. John McCain supported cap and trade but backed away from it when President Obama was elected. He had his primary that he was thinking about in 2010.
AG: Hello! The Koch brothers and the others who operate the way they do have worked overtime to put fear in the hearts of Republicans that if they as much as breathe a favorable breath about solving the climate crisis they’re going to get a well-financed primary opponent. And so they’re all running scared. And this is part of the hacking of American democracy. Money. Big money has paralyzed American democracy to a shocking extent. Now it can change. And it will change.
PM: Will it take a Republican in the White House – a Jeb Bush or Chris Christie – to make it easier for the party to work on climate change?
AG: I don’t know that any Republican who is in favor of solving the climate crisis can get the nomination.
PM: McCain was at his most vocal when Bush wasn’t.
AG: If you go back to the 2000 campaign, which I don’t want to do, if you look at the positions that then-Governor Bush took, he was in favor of limiting CO2 emissions. And then that changed quickly.
PM: Do you regret not swinging on climate during the debates against Bush in 2000?
AG: Well, I did make quite a few speeches and try to make that issue. But the coverage of that issue has also been a problem, for reasons that are not entirely disconnected.
Here’s an analogy. You think of a family of an alcoholic father who flies into a rage every time the word alcohol is mentioned. Well, the rest of the family sometimes learns to never mention the gorilla in the middle of the room in order to avoid the rage. Well, that is what happens to some in the news media. … they get told by the conglomerate owners and managers hitting the bottom line: Our ratings go down if you make this percentage of people so angry that they switch the channel.
I don’t pretend to understand all of it, but I know that virtually every news and political talk show on television across the dial, one of the three largest advertisers is the American Petroleum Institute, the coal industry, the oil industry, the oil companies, the gas companies. It’s not uncommon to say, “Look I don’t want my ad to be adjacent to a story about the following list of issues.” In any case, there’s been an issue of coverage. I think that’s changing now a little bit, thankfully.
But anyway, the point I was trying to make is, I didn’t polarize it. When I started my efforts after the White House, I had Republicans joining with me to do it, and then there was a new orthodoxy enforced in the Republican Party. A law was laid down: You cannot admit that there is such a thing as man-made global warming and expect to survive in the Republican Party.
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