Al Gore gives a voice to the intense discontent of the environmental community in the current issue of Rolling Stone magazine, where he criticizes President Obama’s record on addressing climate change in a 7000 word essay.
Obama came into office with a promise to address climate change, and Gore points to the dozens of small steps his administration has taken to move beyond the denial of the Bush administration. But he has missed the boat on the using his bully pulpit:
"President Obama has never presented to the American people the magnitude of the climate crisis," he says. "He has not defended the science against the ongoing withering and dishonest attacks. Nor has he provided a presidential venue for the scientific community … to bring the reality of the science before the public."
Gore acknowledges the unprecedented challenges Obama has been dealing with since he took office and expresses enormous empathy for him: the Great Recession; two seemingly interminable wars; an intractable Republican opposition whose only interest is ensuring his failure; a badly broken Senate that is just about paralyzed by filibusters and is completely controlled by the oil and coal industries; a contingent of nominal supporters in Congress who are indentured servants of the same special interests that control most of the Republican Party; and a ferocious, well-financed and dishonest campaign poised to vilify anyone who dares offer leadership for the reduction of global-warming pollution.
In spite of these obstacles, Obama managed to include the strongest support for clean energy in US history in the stimulus package; implemented historic improvements in fuel-efficiency standards for automobiles; and instructed the US EPA to move forward on regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.
He appointed many excellent men and women to key positions, and they, in turn, have made hundreds of changes in environmental and energy policy that have helped move the country forward slightly on the climate issue, Gore says.
During his first six months, he clearly articulated the link between environmental security, economic security and national security – making the case that a national commitment to renewable energy could simultaneously reduce unemployment, dependence on foreign oil and vulnerability to the disruption of oil markets dominated by the Persian Gulf reserves. And more recently, as the issue of long-term debt has forced discussion of new revenue, he proposed the elimination of unnecessary and expensive subsidies for oil and gas.
Here are more excerpts from Gore’s essay:
Polluters and Right Wing Ideologues are trampling over the "rules" of democratic discourse. "They are financing pseudoscientists whose job is to manufacture doubt about what is true and what is false; buying elected officials wholesale with bribes that the politicians themselves have made "legal" and can now be made in secret; spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year on misleading advertisements in the mass media; hiring four anti-climate lobbyists for every member of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
"This script, of course, is not entirely new: A half-century ago, when Science and Reason established the linkage between cigarettes and lung diseases, the tobacco industry hired actors, dressed them up as doctors, and paid them to look into television cameras and tell people that the linkage revealed in the Surgeon General’s Report was not real at all. The show went on for decades, with more Americans killed each year by cigarettes than all of the U.S. soldiers killed in all of World War II.
This time, the scientific consensus is even stronger. It has been endorsed by every National Academy of science of every major country on the planet, every major professional scientific society related to the study of global warming and 98 percent of climate scientists throughout the world. In the latest and most authoritative study by 3,000 of the very best scientific experts in the world, the evidence was judged "unequivocal."
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 also called for a massive expansion of oil drilling in the United States, apparently in an effort to defuse criticism from those who argue speciously that "drill, baby, drill" is the answer to our growing dependence on foreign oil.
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."
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 President has reality on his side. Here is the truth: The Earth is round; Saddam Hussein did not attack us on 9/11; Elvis is dead; Obama was born in the United States; and the climate crisis is real. It is time to act.
Those who profit from the unconstrained pollution that is the primary cause of climate change are determined to block our perception of this reality. They have help from many sides: from the private sector, which is now free to make unlimited and secret campaign contributions; from politicians who have conflated their tenures in office with the pursuit of the people’s best interests; and – tragically – from the press itself, which treats deception and falsehood on the same plane as scientific fact, and calls it objective reporting of alternative opinions.
All things are not equally true. It is time to face reality. We ignored reality in the marketplace and nearly destroyed the world economic system. We are likewise ignoring reality in the environment, and the consequences could be several orders of magnitude worse.
Here’s Gore’s Essay: