An Inconvenient Truth

AL GORE TELECONFERENCE

Sponsored by Moveon.org, June 11, 2006

transcribed by Tracy Marks


Note: A few ďunnecessaryĒ words and attributions of names/location in regard to the questions asked were not transcribed.

 

 

ELI of MOVEON: Mr. Gore, thank you so much for joining us and congratulations on the success of the film.

 

GORE: Thank you so much, Eli and to all the Moveon members who are seeing the movieÖI hope you will continue to do that and I hope you will contact your senators and members of the US House of Representatives to convince them to help solve the climate process This is really the most serious crisis weíve ever faced. As I said before, the only thing missing is political will, but that is a renewable resource. And one way to renew it is by arming yourself with facts and informationÖÖand thatís what the movie and the book An Inconvenient Truth are all about.

 

The basic situation that has created this crisis is that we have changed the relationship between human civilization and the planet in a relatively short period of time, and thatís due to a number of factors. Weíve quadrupled the population on the planet in just a hundred years and weíve magnified the power of our technology thousands of times over. That has led to a lot of positive benefits but also a lot of unintended harm.

 

We are a bit like a bull in the china shop at this point and our ability to do harm to the earthís ecological system has really shot far out in front of the recognition of our civilization as a whole in regard to what we are doing. And the most vulnerable part of it is the thin shell of atmosphere which we are filling up more now with global warming pollution which traps much more heat in the atmosphere. All the consequences flow from that. But learning about it and learning how to be part of the solution to it, and then becoming politically active regardless of your political party or ideology, to help get a solution - thatís really the main point.

 

QUESTIONER: Letís walk through the history of how you got to how you got back to giving your presentation after the 2000 electionÖ


GORE: I started putting together a slide show back in 1999, using props to make a talk on stage about global warming intermittently since I first organized the first hearings in Congress in the 1970s. And as the information continued to confirm what a few scientists had long felt and now confirmed by the consensus of the global scientific community, the sense of urgency that those of us who have been following it feel has continued to climb. I gave the slideshow with kodak slides and a carousel and that expanded to three carousels.

 

After the 2000 race when Tipper and I moved back to Nashville and I gave my slideshow at Middleton StateUniversity and consolidated the slides into one carousel, they were all backwards and it was quite embarrassing.Ö.And Tipper said afterwards, ďBy the way, Mr. Information Superhighway, we have computers now in the 21st century. You should use computer graphics.Ē And I did, and not too long after that I joined the board of Apple and learned to use their wonderful program Keynote and now Keynote 2. That made it so much easier to update the slide presentation quickly.


I started rearranging the order of the slides every time I gave it, and I was giving it several times a week Ė overall Iíve given it more than thousand timesÖ. and itís been much more intensive in the past few years. And it got to the point that I noticed it was connecting with audiences a lot more effectively. And more of the evidence became available that connected the dots more vividly.

 

Then I gave it in Los AngelesÖ. and several movie industry people were there and they asked me about making it into a movie. I was skeptical but the conversation continuedÖÖ andIím glad I listened to themÖ.Thatís where the movie came fromÖ..And the book is also based on the slideshow although it has more material and some different material.

 

QUESTIONER: Weíre already getting questions from our members. What initially compelled you to take on this project?

GORE: When I was an undergraduate in college, I by good fortune had a teacher who was the first person to ever measure co2 in the earthís atmosphere. Professor Roger Revelle, a legendary scientist who conceived of the experiment in the 1950s began measuring co2 in 1958, along with Charles David Keeling whom he hired.

They made daily measurements out in the Pacific from the top of MaunaLoa. After the first several years of measurements, in the 1960s he shared them with the small class I was attending.

 

It was evident right away that this trend was quite dramatic. He forecast what it would cause if the pollution wasnít raised in. I just kind of assumed that this would be taken care of. People would see it, understand it, take action - and they didn't. And they didnít.

 

In the following decade when I went to Congress I helped organize those first (hearings) and had professor Revelle as the keynote witness and I thought that would galvanize a response. but it didnít.Iíve been trying to tell this story for thirty years. And I said earlier,my own personal sense of urgency grew steadily as the scientific consensus became ever firmer. Now itís as strong as you ever get in the form of a scientific consensus, the debate is over among the scientists, and the only question now is whatís it going to take to convince the politicians in both parties to listen to what the scientists have to say and start taking action to solve the problem.

 

ELI: That segues perfectly into the question Ė Why do you think itís so difficult to get people to take this issue so seriously?

 

GORE: Itís a great question. I think there are three or four parts to the answer. Number one Ė This new relationship between the human species and the planet is something that weíre not prepared for. Nothing in our history or culture prepares us for the fact that we actually are now the largest force of nature. And realizing that is the first step in taking responsibility for the new role we play.

 

Second of all, the old clichť, ď Denialís not just a river in EgyptĒ is a humorous way of expressing the psychological truth. And with something painful thing about, the natural human response is to keep it on armís length and not think about it.

 

Third, the gulf between science and the rest of us was described a long time ago by the writer C.P. Snow when he wrote about the two cultures and the increasing specialization of scientific research has widened that gulf and itís just difficult now for scientists who thrive on uncertainty communicate with a political system that is paralyzed by uncertainty.


And finally, there has been a cynical effort to manipulate the publicís perception of this crisis. A few large polluters Ė some of the fuel companies, some of the utilities have behaved very irresponsibly, I would say immorally by hiring these pseudo-scientists to crank out almost every day phony scientific studies that have the sole purpose of trying to confuse people into thinking that the crisis is not serious. Because of that gulf I spoke about earlier, itís easier for them to manipulate the publicís perception of science than it should be.

 

Itís very similar to what happened with the tobacco companies after the surgeon generalís report linking smoking cigarettes to lung disease, hired these pseudo scientists to contend that there was no consensus on the harmful side effects of smoking. Very immoral, very cynical, very unethical, but it had an impact on slowing down and preventing so far the formation of a widespread political consensus that crosses ideological lines. This is what we need because this is really a moral issue and not a political issue.

ELI: Going back to the politics for a moment Ė how can we compel governments to act effectively, in coordination and as a matter of urgency? How are we going to get the current administration to change its ways on this issue?

 

GORE: Thereís good new and bad news. The good news is that the rest of the world at least in the industrial world has already agreed to a treaty that providesa framework for joint action and the US and Australia are the only two countries that have not joined and ratified that treaty. The bad news is that the U.S., our country, has not only refused to join the treaty but has been pushing in the opposite, the wrong, direction. The Bush/Cheney administration has been really about as bad as could possibly be on this.

 

But the difficulty in getting a political consensus crosses party lines. We need to create a sense of urgency at the grassroots level. Iíve been at this for a long time and based on my experience I am totally convinced that the only way to get past the tipping point where the political system responds is by changing the minds of the American people not just on the science and just on the facts but on the sense of urgency that people feel about this. It is a moral and ethical issue.

 

What do we tell our children decades from now, if they ask us why didnít you act? The science was absolutely clear. You just had Exxon-Mobil and a few polluters trying to confuse you. Couldnít you see through that when the future of all human civilization was at stake.What were you thinking? Were you asleep, where you hypnotized, were you distracted, whatís the deal here?


I do want to have an answer to that question before itís ever asked. I donít want for those of who are alive right now in a position to do something about this to have to say years now, We knew it, we had the knowledge, but we couldnít get it together to act. I just refuse to believe thatís going to be the answer. But it has to come at the grassroots level.

 

ELI: Two questions that kind of go together. What do you suggest in order to get young people involved in this issue, since theyíre ones who have to pay the priceÖ..How do you get people like me who are too young to vote do something to prevent global warming?

 

GORE: I like both questions. And the first part of the answer to both is: Arm yourself with the knowledge. Go to the movie. Read the book. Go to climatecrisis.net. Find out how you can be part of the solution rather than contributing to the problem.

 

But also bear in mind that often in Americaís past that it has been young people who have led the way to the dramatic changes that older people didnít feel were possible.

 

I rememberÖ. when the Civil Rights movement began, it was young people who went to sit in at lunch counters here in Nashville Ö. young people largely in the demonstrations and activities that helped to bring about the Civil Rights movement. And not

only by being physically present, not only be taking action, but

in another more powerful way.

 

They confronted their parents and elders and the older people they worked withÖ and looked them straight in the eye and confronted them with the knowledge that they armed themselves with and

asked them very sincerely to explain why they believed what was morally wrong in that case to segregate people according to race and have rank discrimination against African Americans. And the elders couldnít give them a straight answer, couldnít look them straight in the eye.

 

Thatís the role that young people can most play now. You have the facts on your side, you have what Gandhi called the truth force (satyagraha)Ö. The truth force is perhaps the most political force in the world.

 

When you learn the facts and armyourself with the knowledge and marry that to the force of your conscience and wield that truth force in moving people to change their minds urging people to change their minds. Young people can lead the way to creating this sea (?) change that will lead the way to a solution to this climate crisis.

 

 

ELI: Could you talk about how peak oil is tied into global warming

and what people can do about these crisis?

GORE: Well, peak oil is connected because the rapacious consumption of all the easily recoverable reserves along with the coal reserves is responsible for filling up the earthís atmosphere with all this co2 global warming pollution that is causing the global warming climate crisis. But just as in somebodyís personal life or family, if you see a crisis develop, there are often many elements that are all connected. And in this case, weíre borrowing huge amounts of money from China to buy huge amounts of oil from the most unstable region in the world, bringing it back here and burning it in a way which destroys the habitability of the planet. Thatís not a good pattern. We need to change that pattern altogether.

 

By shifting to more renewable forms of energy, by

By making much more effective use of conservation and efficiency, we will avoid the worst effects of the climate crisis and weíll avoid the worst economic consequences of peak oil. Peak oil is the prediction that we are nearing if we have not already reached, a point at which at least half of the recoverable reserves at a particular price range have been recovered, so itís a downhill slope after that, and the angle of the slope has huge consequences for the rising cost of that resource and for the economics effects of that rising cost.

 

As someone once said, The Stone Age didnít end because we ran out of stone. And the age of oil is not going to end because we ran out of oil. The beginnings of a mismatch between supply and demand, with rising prices -and itís still above $70 a barrel this week - will trigger a recognition in the economic realm that we have got to shift.

 

ELI: Ö.What has to happen for you to run in 2008? We are getting a bunch of people asking that.

 

GORE: Iím not planning to be a candidate again. I donít have any

I have no intention to run again. I havenít made a Shermanesque statement. Iím very grateful for people who do encourage me butI donít want to create any false expectations. And the reason is that I was in politics for a quarter century and in elective office for longer than that, andhave run four national campaigns. I think that my talents and experiences are really and truly best focused on trying to change the whole political environment so that whoever does run for President in both parties will confront an electorate that is aroused and demanding solutions on the climate crisis. I know from having served in the national government for a long time that this crisis is so difficult that the only way it is going to be solved is by changing the publicís mind. And I actually think thatís the most important task and thatís why Iím devoting myself to it.

 

Eli: Ö.If you could control and prioritize legislative action, what actions would you advocate as the first priority in combating global warming?

 

GORE: I think the US ought to join the world community as a member of the treaty. The successor to the Kyoto protocol is being negotiated right now. I think that ought to be accelerated. Itís going to be tougher than the Kyoto Protocol. We should be at the table, we should be a member of the group drafting the treaty. Once we are part of the global treaty that is designed to solve this crisis, we will be able to use market forces as an ally in driving the allocation of capital toward to the most efficient ways of reducing the global warming pollution. I think thatís extremely important. And I think that we need to have accurate market signals of how costly global warming pollution is for our planet and for the future.

 

ELI: Whatís the most important thing youíd like to see us doing if you donít pull any punches or make any assumptions about what we can or cannot (do)?

 

GORE: I think that we ought to eliminate the subsidies for oil and coal. Right now weíre artificially enhancing the amount of global warming pollution by subsidizing, and thereís a whole list of subsidies that ought to be eliminated. I personally believe Ė Iíve long argued this and know itís not feasible - but I think we should substitute a new source of revenue for the payroll tax and havebasically a co2 tax that would be revenue-neutral - it wouldnít be a tax increase, but exactly the same amount. Rather than taxing individual labor in employment taxes, we would substitute the exact amount in co2 taxes.

 

There are a whole series of initiatives like that that are not politically feasible right now. Itís impossible to imagine our politicalsystem suggesting a proposal like that. But expanding the limits of whatís possible is the main challenge and once we do and once the politicians in both parties start looking for the most effective solution, then things that seem unfeasible today will seem imperative tomorrow.

 

ELI What can individuals do in their personal lives to help?


GORE: Great question. Gandhi, of course, said Ēbe the change you want to see in the world.Ē

 

My wife Tipper and I made a decision a couple of years ago to become whatís called carbon neutralÖ. What it means is that you reduce the co2 that comes from the activities in your life as much as you can and then you purchase or engage in offset to offset all the rest of it. We plant lots of trees, but we donít rely on that - we participate financially in specific verifiable audited projects that sharply reduce co2 in an amount that completely offset and more to reduce co2 in the amount use that weíre responsible for.

 

There is web site climatecrisis.net set up in conjunction with the movie and book will show you a carbon calculator that empowers you to figure out what exactly your impact individually on this crisis is and it will give you a way to be part of the solution in your own life. I strongly recommend that.


I remember years ago, there was a nuclear freeze movement and I was working on a very complex arms control plan and I felt very strongly about it, and it actually did some good. And I wasnít in favor of nuclear freeze at the time.

 

But I look back on that period now and realize now that my ability to pursue a more complex solution would have been impossible except for that grassroots nuclear freeze movement. And I think that a grassroots carbon freeze movement could have a galvanizing effect now. And I think that as more people become aware of the crisis you will see more individuals and businesses and schools and other institutions become carbon-neutral.


I did want to also to mention that Tipper and I are giving 100% of the profits that we receive from the movie and the book to this new bipartisan nonprofit educational institution that will put all that money into enhancing awareness of the climate crisis and solutions to the (problem).

 

ELI: I heard President Bush cavalier response of ďdataĒ when asked if he intended to see your film. Have you heard any response officially or through a backchannel?

GORE: No, I havenít. I have offered to go to the White House and present my slideshow personally and present the movie personally and talk off the record outside of public view, whatever I can do to increase the odds that the President and Vice President will change their minds on this issue. If I can figure out to engineer that, I would do almost anything to get them to change.


Because the leading scientists now are saying that we may have no more than 10 years. And the idea that we can wait 2 Ĺ years of that ten with so much at stake is just unacceptable. I actually do think that thereís a better than 50/50 chance that Bush and Cheney will be forced to change their minds before they leave office, but sooner will be better than later.

 

ELI: AmenÖ.Do you think that the film can be shown in public schools throughout the country?

GORE: I would love that. The theatrical releaseÖ will continue through the summer, and then there will be a dvd version. I donít know the exact date. Paramount Classics will make that decision, the distributor. Probably in September, in time for school.

 

Also, I am going to begin a training program in September here in Nashville to train a thousand people to give my slideshow in their own voices, mixing and matching with music of their choice if they want. Larry Lessig is helping with the limited use license.

 

I will give regular weekly updates with new slides so that people can show it in slideshows and rotary clubs and neighborhood parties. I want to do whatever I possibly can to get it out. I love the idea of it being shown in schools. Some classes have been going in groups to the movie theaters. In the fall, I hope it will be in public schools.


ELI: Let me interject that weíll let folks know when the dvd is coming out so that people on the call can rush out and get it and donate it to their local schools or show it to their friendsÖ. Is there a way that people can get involved in that if they are interested?

They can send a letter to my office in
Nashville, 2100 West End avenue, Nashville, Tennessee 37205. Thatís the best way to do it. Iím sorry that I donít have a web site thatísÖ.we need to set something up.Iíll get back to you. We need to set up onlineÖ.if youíre willing to put that up on your network, that will save people the problem of snail mail.

 

ELI: Weíll keep people on the call postedÖ.One last question- Whatís the next step for you after the movie to further this cause?

GORE: I donít know. The training program, as I mentioned. Iím continuing to give the slideshow. Iíve added lots of slides that are not in the movie. I wouldnít go back and change the movie in any way because it has all the central points and most important points.

 

But thereís even more new troubling information. For example, today as everyday we put 25 million tons of co2 directly in the ocean. Definitely apart from warming that comes from co2 in the atmosphere, that enormous volume built up over decades now has changed the ph level of the ocean and made the ocean much more acid. Thatís an example of new messaging in the slideshow thatís not in the movie. So Iím going to continue that.

 

As more people become aware of the crisis and join in urging their senators and representatives to solve the crisis, and again I hope your members will do that, I will be shifting more of my attention from raising the alarm to elaborating on the specific solutions. The solutions are outlined in the movie and book already, but as the awareness grows, then Iím assuming that the appetite for more specificity and detail for solutions even if not considered politically feasible now, will emerge and I will spend more time on that.

 

I want to solve this climate crisis and move our country past the tipping point to the extent that I can, the rest of the world, so we solve this crisis. Any suggestions that your members have on how I can most effectively do that, I would welcome them. I donít know what the next step is. Giving away the slideshow so people can get trained is a kind of a threshold for me and then I will be looking for new and hopefully more effective ways of communicating about this and solving this crisis.

 

ELI: Ö.Leadership is so important and the stand you have taken in the last years and decades and also with this movie is so important and so sorely needed. And for myself and Iím sure for all the folks on the line, we just really appreciate it, so thank you so much for joining us tonight and for everything you are doing.

 

GORE: Thank you Eli, and I just want to add one word. Contact your leaders in Washington, but contact them at the state level and at the local level too. It makes a big difference when cities independently ratify the Kyoto Protocol and when businesses decide to change their position. Moveon has done an extraordinary job. To you, Eli, and to everybody inMoveon who has played a part in this, I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. It really means a lot.

 

 

 

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