Al Gore: President Trump Has Become 'The Face Of Climate Denial'11:00
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Former Vice President Al Gore during the Global Action Climate Summit, Sept. 14, 2018, in San Francisco. (Eric Risberg/AP)MoreCloseclosemore
Former Vice President Al Gore during the Global Action Climate Summit, Sept. 14, 2018, in San Francisco. (Eric Risberg/AP)

Next week former Vice President Al Gore's Climate Reality Project will broadcast a 24-hour streaming video special, calling attention to the public health impacts of climate change around the world. It will be his eighth annual "24 Hours of Reality," and Gore says the situation has only become more urgent since he started.

"The climate crisis is still worsening at a faster rate than our progress in developing solutions," Gore (@algore) tells Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson. "But we're gaining momentum."

Three years after the world agreed to limit the planet's warming to "well below" two degrees Celsius, the United Nations' report card on climate progress says things are getting worse, not better. This week the U.N. Environment Program released its annual emissions gap report, which found several major countries including the U.S. are falling short of their emissions reduction targets.

And last week the White House released the country's fourth National Climate Assessment, warning climate change could cause hundreds of billions of dollars in economic damage to the country in the coming decades. President Trump dismissed the 1,656-page report's dire conclusions, telling reporters on Monday, "I don't believe it."

Gore says Trump's statements and his rollbacks of environmental regulations are making it harder for the world to prevent the worst effects of climate change. But in one way, Gore says Trump has made it easier for climate activists to organize.

"Donald J. Trump is now the face of climate denial," Gore says. "I think it is making it easier for people who associate him with the nonsensical views that he articulates to re-examine the facts."

Interview Highlights

On whether we've made a lot of progress as a planet since the first "24 Hours of Reality" eight years ago

"As the late economist Rudi Dornbusch once said, 'Things take longer to happen than you think they will, and then they happen faster than you thought they could.' And we're seeing exponential change now in renewable electricity generation, electric vehicles. We are seeing the beginnings of that exponential progress in energy storage and sustainable agriculture and forestry, and even in manufacturing, in areas like the making of steel and concrete, although these sectors of the economy have a lot more work that's needed. What we really need are changes in policy to accelerate these positive developments that have begun."

On how big of a problem it is that President Trump says he's not a believer in man-made climate change

"It's certainly a problem when he tries to dismantle the Clean Power Plan and the auto-mileage improvements, and eliminates the study of particulate pollution, which is a deadly health threat connected to the pollution that is generated along with global-warming pollution. And it's a problem when he says to the rest of the world he wants us to pull out of the Paris [climate] agreement.

"We're getting closer and closer to one of these political tipping points where public opinion changes significantly. We saw that in the civil rights movement, earlier, the women's suffrage movement, in recent years in the fight for gay and lesbian rights."

Al Gore, on addressing climate change in the U.S.

"But there is another dynamic underway: Donald J. Trump is now the face of climate denial. His is the voice of climate denial, and for the minority in the country that still invests their hopes and faith and trust in Donald Trump, they're not likely to be a part of the solution to the climate crisis for some time yet anyway. But for the two-thirds and more who are signaling that they have had enough of Donald Trump, I think it is making it easier for people who associate him with the nonsensical views that he articulates to re-examine the facts and to say, as some conservative columnists have done recently, 'Whoa, wait a minute — we've taken another look at this climate crisis and it's an existential threat. We've got to do something about it.'

"I'm hopeful that the Trump years will be over sooner rather than later, at the very least that he will not have a second term and that the groundwork will have been laid for a dramatic improvement in our policies to accelerate progress."

On feeling optimistic that things are moving in the right direction on tackling climate change

"Well let me be clear: I began by saying the problem is getting worse at a rate faster than we're making progress on the solutions. But we're gaining momentum and we're getting closer and closer to one of these political tipping points where public opinion changes significantly. We saw that in the civil rights movement, earlier, the women's suffrage movement, in recent years in the fight for gay and lesbian rights. When these moral issues are revealed to be a binary choice between what's right and what's wrong, public opinion can shift pretty quickly.

"In this case, Mother Nature is speaking up pretty powerfully with the tragic fires in California — not only the ones earlier in November, but also earlier in the year, Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas, Hurricane Michael a year ago, Hurricane Harvey. The list of catastrophes that are clearly linked to climate — and linked to climate in the minds of the public — are persuading more people than any of us who are advocates for solving the climate crisis could hope to do."

On whether there's anyone right now who could defeat Trump in 2020

"The experiment with Trumpism is not going very well in the minds of most people. In science and medicine some experiments are terminated early for ethical reasons — I don't know that that will happen with Donald Trump, but I do think that the blue wave that gained almost ... at least 39 seats and probably 40 seats for the Democrats a week ago Tuesday is a very hopeful sign, and Donald Trump's numbers have deteriorated. As for Democratic challengers, I'm not very good on the horse-race predictions. I think that it's probably still too early to try to pick out winners and losers in that competition."

"The list of catastrophes that are clearly linked to climate — and linked to climate in the minds of the public — are persuading more people than any of us who are advocates for solving the climate crisis could hope to do."

Al Gore

On what he thought when he saw there was another recount in Florida this year, nearly two decades after the recount there during the 2000 presidential election

"How do you spell PTSD, boys and girls? I got lots of emails and phone calls from close friends in Florida who certainly told me that it was not a happy experience to go through. And more seriously, it is truly astonishing that after 18 years, they have not been able to come up with a system that is more reliable and more honest. It also should be shocking to all of us as Americans that voter suppression is still being pursued relentlessly by Republican operatives and officeholders like the former secretary of state of Georgia, and in Mississippi and in many places — that's just un-American and it's time for that to stop.

"On the positive side, I will say that there were some voter-approved initiatives to deal with the gerrymandering problem and to have fairer and more equitable ways to draw the lines of congressional districts, and we saw the dramatic results of an early change in that process in Pennsylvania this year."

On whether the Supreme Court has moved further to the right

"Yes, but I certainly agree with the chief justice in his pushback against Donald Trump when he said, 'We cannot allow ourselves as Americans to define judges as Republican judges or Democratic judges.' The rule of law is the bedrock of all of our liberties in the U.S. We should all take care not to undermine the rule of law — particularly when we have a president right now who shows no shame in regularly undermining the rule of law. So I think that in spite of the fact that the Republicans in the Senate prevented even a hearing for [President Obama's Supreme Court nominee] Merrick Garland and then rammed through a nominee that had tremendous opposition, I think that we have to maintain respect for the judiciary and for the rule of law."


Chris Bentley produced and edited this interview for broadcast, and adapted it for the web with Jack Mitchell.

This segment aired on November 29, 2018.

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Jeremy Hobson Twitter Co-Host, Here & Now
Before coming to WBUR to co-host Here & Now, Jeremy Hobson hosted the Marketplace Morning Report, a daily business news program with an audience of more than six million.

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