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Despite Climate Change Setbacks, Al Gore 'Comes Down On The Side Of Hope'

When it comes to convincing climate change deniers, Al Gore says, "Mother Nature is more persuasive than the scientific community."
Claire Harbage
When it comes to convincing climate change deniers, Al Gore says, "Mother Nature is more persuasive than the scientific community."

Former Vice President Al Gore helped shape the conversation about climate change with An Inconvenient Truth. Now he's back with a sequel — called An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, due out next month -- and it follows Gore as he continues the crusade he made famous with that first film.

The movie shows Gore standing in Miami floodwater, flying over imploding boulders of ice in Greenland and in Paris — trying to push the climate agreement over the finish line.

President Trump, however, promised last month to undo that victory when he announced plans to pull the U.S. from the Paris climate accord.

"I did my best to convince him to stay in the Paris agreement," Gore tells NPR's Steve Inskeep in one of two recent Morning Edition interviews. "And I thought that there was a chance he would come to his senses, but I was wrong."

Still, Gore is hopeful about reversing the effects of global climate change.

"[O]ne of the big differences between today and a decade ago is that we do have the solutions now," he says. Renewable energy like solar and wind electricity, he says, have evolved just like other technologies such as mobile phones and TVs so that "when production scales up they come down even faster in cost."

Interview Highlights

On recutting the movie to address President Trump's withdrawing of the Paris climate accord

We always anticipated that we could not end the movie until we realized who was going to win the election and what would happen thereafter. And I will tell you that when President Trump made his announcement that the U.S. will pull out of the Paris agreement I was deeply concerned that other countries might use that as an excuse to withdraw themselves. But I've been gratified that the entire rest of the world has doubled down on their commitments to the Paris agreement and that here in this country so many governors and mayors and business leaders have stepped up to fill the gap and say "We're still in Paris." And I really think, and the scientists think now as well, that we have an excellent chance of meeting the commitments that former President Obama made in the Paris agreement regardless of what Donald Trump says.

On whether he thinks Trump believes in human-caused climate change

I don't know. I have heard him say different things. I've heard him say in public things that would lead you to believe that he doesn't believe in it. But the scientific community has been virtually unanimous for a couple of decades and now there's a new participant in the debate: Mother Nature. The other big change from 10 years ago is that these climate-related extreme weather events are way more common — unfortunately way more destructive. Here in the U.S. we've had 11 once-in-a-thousand-year events in the last seven years. Last year was the hottest year globally ever measured. The second hottest was the year before, the third hottest was the year before that. And Mother Nature is more persuasive than the scientific community.

On those who dismiss climate change science because they've lost faith in experts

I think that one cause of this populist authoritarianism that we've seen not just in the U.S. but in Poland and Turkey and the Philippines and in Hungary ... is that the expert blueprint for globalization that has been touted for quite some time has caused those who feel left behind to feel real anger that middle-income wages have stagnated for decades and I think that generalized anger at how things are going extends over into a vulnerability to listen to demagogic claims that the scientific community doesn't know what it's talking about when they warn us of the climate crisis.

Al Gore: Climate Change Issue Will Be A 'Much Bigger Political Plus' For Democrats

On climate change's role in the 2016 election for Hillary Clinton

I know the events I did for [Hillary Clinton] in the 2016 election evoked a powerful response. I didn't see any other events that were devoted to climate so maybe I missed that.

I think that a lot of national politicians are told by their pollsters and experts that they ought to focus on other issues, but I think that's changing quite a bit. And I think that the partisan divide is now fading on climate, I really do.

I think the Democratic Party should focus much more on [climate change]. And I believe that's beginning to happen. If you look at Jerry Brown in California, Jay Inslee in the state of Washington, Andrew Cuomo in the state of New York and many others, we're now beginning to see a surge of interest in people who want to get away from the fossil fuel utilities, they want energy freedom, they want energy choice, and I think it will be a much bigger political plus in the years to come.

Editor Ed McNulty (@McNultyEd) and producer Dave Blanchard (@blanchardd) of Morning Edition and Web producer Heidi Glenn contributed to this story.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
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