Our Nobel prize-winning former vice president has a must-read 7000-word essay in Rolling Stone, “Climate of Denial: Can science and the truth withstand the merchants of poison?”
Gore discusses climate science and the link to recent record-smashing extreme weather events, of course. And he makes clear the stakes are too high to become disillusioned by our flawed political system, “What hangs in the balance is the future of civilization as we know it.”
What I will focus on here are his blistering critique of Obama, his even tougher take on the media, and the “five basic ways” individuals can make a difference. Let’s start with the president:
President Obama has thus far failed to use the bully pulpit to make the case for bold action on climate change. After successfully passing his green stimulus package, he did nothing to defend it when Congress decimated its funding. After the House passed cap and trade, he did little to make passage in the Senate a priority. Senate advocates — including one Republican — felt abandoned when the president made concessions to oil and coal companies without asking for anything in return. He has also called for a massive expansion of oil drilling in the United States….
During the final years of the Bush-Cheney administration, the rest of the world was waiting for a new president who would aggressively tackle the climate crisis — and when it became clear that there would be no real change from the Bush era, the agenda at Copenhagen changed from “How do we complete this historic breakthrough?” to “How can we paper over this embarrassing disappointment?”
… Yet without presidential leadership that focuses intensely on making the public aware of the reality we face, nothing will change. The real power of any president, as Richard Neustadt wrote, is “the power to persuade.” Yet President Obama has never presented to the American people the magnitude of the climate crisis. He has simply not made the case for action. He has not defended the science against the ongoing, withering and dishonest attacks. Nor has he provided a presidential venue for the scientific community — including our own National Academy — to bring the reality of the science before the public.
No argument here (see The failed presidency of Barack Obama, Part 2). Gore continues:
Here is the core of it: we are destroying the climate balance that is essential to the survival of our civilization. This is not a distant or abstract threat; it is happening now. The United States is the only nation that can rally a global effort to save our future. And the president is the only person who can rally the United States…
The truth is this: What we are doing is functionally insane. If we do not change this pattern, we will condemn our children and all future generations to struggle with ecological curses for several millennia to come.
Predictably, the media has jumped on Gore’s criticism of Obama.
ABC News Politics has run the AP story with its headline, “Gore Faults Obama on Global Warming.” The lede: “Former Vice President Al Gore is going where few environmentalists — and fellow Democrats — have gone before: criticizing President Barack Obama’s record on global warming.”
Memo to ABC News and the AP: Obama has been widely criticized by environmentalists.
But what is particularly absurd about this story is that it never mentions that Gore launches an even more blistering and detailed attack on the media! In fact, that’s how Gore’s essay begins — by comparing the mainstream media today to the referees of professional wrestling (!!):