The surest sign that Al Gore is overrated is that his rivals in the global warming debate have been thanking their lucky stars that he leads the alarmists. This may surprise the intellectual elites who lionise him. Gore is wildly popular — at least in all the fashionable places. High-priced tickets for his appearances sell out quickly. The movie of his slide show, An Inconvenient Truth, won an Oscar, and in 2007 he was made Nobel Peace laureate.
Nonetheless, Gore is a definite and growing liability to the global warming movement. That's largely because he decided some years ago that being a political leader, even President, was not enough. He must be the messiah who will save us from impending climatic apocalypse.
Gore's apocalyptic hankerings first became apparent when Earth in the Balance was published in 1992, just months before Bill Clinton picked him as his vice-presidential running mate. In it, he catalogued multiple environmental crises caused by over-population, over-consumption and technology gone mad. Already, Gore had found the means to accomplish his saving mission: "We must make the rescue of the environment the central organising principle of civilisation." Gore is so oblivious to the abominations of totalitarianism that the sinister implications of that phrase, "central organising principle", didn't cross his mind.
He didn't doubt that remaking the world to conform to his mission wasn't going to be easy. "Minor shifts in policy, marginal adjustments in ongoing programmes, moderate improvements in laws and regulations, rhetoric offered in lieu of genuine change-these are all forms of appeasement, designed to satisfy the public's desire to believe that sacrifice, struggle and a wrenching transformation of society will not be necessary."
But despite this rhetoric, Gore, as VP, was still the cautious, moderate Southern Democrat. That changed with the Kyoto Protocol, which gave Gore his first opportunity to begin the wrenching transformation of society. UN negotiations were deadlocked when President Clinton sent him to Japan in December 1997. Gore capitulated to the EU and concluded a deal highly disadvantageous to America's economic interests. That this was a huge mistake was obvious immediately. The chances that the Senate would ever ratify Kyoto were nil. Yet the only way that a global regime of dramatic cuts to the use of coal, oil and gas (which combined provide 80 per cent of global energy) can ever possibly succeed is if the US leads the way.