Al Gore. Photograph by Graeme Robertson
“I’ve done a Christian [-based] training program; I have a Muslim training program and a Jewish training program coming up, also a Hindu program coming up. I trained 200 Christian ministers and lay leaders here in Nashville in a version of the slide show that is filled with scriptural references. It’s probably my favourite version, but I don’t use it very often because it can come off as proselytising.”
Nobel winner adapts fact-based message to reach those who believe they have a moral duty to protect the planet in Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis
Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth sequel stresses spiritual argument on climate
by Suzanne Goldenberg
Al’s Gore’s much-anticipated sequel to An Inconvenent Truth is published today, with an admission that facts alone will not persuade Americans to act on global warming and that appealing to their spiritual side is the way forward.
In his latest book, Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis, the man who won a Nobel prize in 2007 for his touring slideshow on disappearing polar ice and other consequences of climate change, concludes: “Simply laying out the facts won’t work.”
Instead, Gore tells Newsweek magazine in a pre-publication interview, that he has been adapting his fact-based message – now put out by hundreds of volunteers – to appeal to those who believe there is a moral or religious duty to protect the planet.
“I’ve done a Christian [-based] training program; I have a Muslim training program and a Jewish training program coming up, also a Hindu program coming up. I trained 200 Christian ministers and lay leaders here in Nashville in a version of the slide show that is filled with scriptural references. It’s probably my favourite version, but I don’t use it very often because it can come off as proselytising,” Gore tells Newsweek.
Gore’s book arrives at a time of intense international scrutiny of America’s moves on the environment ahead of an international meeting on global warming at Copenhagen, now just more than a month away.
It draws on the scholarly approach Gore developed for Inconvenient Truth. Since 2007, the former vice-president has been calling experts together from fields ranging from agriculture to neuroscience to discuss possible solutions to climate change.
The book draws on 30 such “solutions summits”, as well as Gore’s countless telephone conversations with scientists at America’s best institutions. According to the book’s press release, “Among the most unique approaches Gore takes in the book is showing readers how our own minds can be an impediment to change.”
New polling last month showed a steep decline in the numbers of Americans who share Gore’s sense of urgency in acting on climate change.
The book aims to reach those Americans by familiarising readers with emerging alternative energy sources, such as geothermal, biomass and wind power, as well as the possibilities of making cleaner coal power plants, and developing a more efficient and responsive “smart” electrical grid.
Gore also explores how deforestation, soil erosion, and the rising world population are multiplying the effects of rising greenhouse gas emissions.
Much of the material was developed through the series of brainstorming sessions organised by Gore. Since 2007, the former vice-president has been calling experts together to discuss possible solutions to climate change. He has also held countless telephone conversations with scientists at America’s best institutions.
“He is one of the only politicians that takes the time to actually talk to scientists who are producing the cutting-edge stuff and he comes in with questions. He doesn’t ask us how our results impinge on a particular policy he actually asks about science,” said Gavin Schmidt, a climatologist at Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who spoke to Gore along with colleagues four or five times for the book. “Nobody that we have dealt with has ever taken as much time to understand the subtlety of the science and all the different complications and what it all means as Al Gore.”
Those conversations led Gore to politically inconvenient conclusions in this new book. In his conversations with Schmidt and other colleagues at the beginning of the year, Gore explored new studies – published only last week – that show methane and black carbon or soot had a far greater impact on global warming than previously thought. Carbon dioxide – while the focus of the politics of climate change – produces around 40% of the actual warming.
Gore acknowledged to Newsweek that the findings could complicate efforts to build a political consensus around the need to limit carbon emissions.
“Over the years I have been among those who focused most of all on CO2, and I think that’s still justified,” he told the magazine. “But a comprehensive plan to solve the climate crisis has to widen the focus to encompass strategies for all” of the greenhouse culprits identified in the Nasa study.
The former vice-president has been working behind the scenes to try to nudge the White House and Congress to move forward on a 920-page proposed law to cut America’s greenhouse gas emissions and encourage its use of clean energy sources like solar and wind power.
On Saturday, he told the German newspaper, Der Spiegel, he was “almost certain” Obama would attend the negotiations. The White House has so far refused to make a commitment.
But Gore has also been confronted with almost daily fresh reminders of the difficulties of prodding Americans to action.
The proposed legislation has set off a ferocious debate about the costs of dealing with climate change – with conservative Democrats and Republicans saying reducing America’s use of oil will deepen unemployment and hurt average American families.
Republicans in the Senate have threatened to boycott a session today that had been called to move forward a draft of a 920-page proposed law to deal with climate change.
Progress on the bill is seen as crucial to getting a binding deal at Copenhagen. Barbara Boxer, the chair of the Senate’s environment and public works committee, said yesterday she was ready to move ahead without any Republican participation.
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