Al Gore

The former US Vice-President is becoming increasingly hysterical about climate change

Environment Overrated US Politics

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. 

This was but the first of Gore’s blunders. Clinton’s administration did nothing to build support for Kyoto in its last three years in office, and Gore hardly mentioned global warming in his 2000 presidential campaign, which he nonetheless lost by lurching to the populist Left on economic issues. (President George W. Bush was not as big a gift as is
often imagined, however. Bush delayed the global warming bandwagon, but he never took the additional small steps that would have eventually stopped it.)

Losing the 2000 election freed Gore to pursue his mission from a position of great prominence. He has been a whirlwind: flying in a private jet to speak at thousands of events; organising pressure groups and propaganda campaigns, raising tens of millions of dollars; lobbying leaders around the world. And there was the prospect of becoming a billionaire from green investments.

The exertion may be admirable, but the humbug Gore is peddling is not. In order to maintain momentum, he makes ever more hysterical and unscientific claims. He says that global warming is happening even faster than predicted: the global mean temperature has been flat for the past decade. He continues to warn of 20 feet of sea level rise in the near future and has recently talked about 220 feet: the mean estimate of sea level rise in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report is 14 inches by 2100. Dozens of other discrepancies between the science and Gore’s science fiction could be noted.

While the epigraph to his new book, Our Choice, makes clear that the choice he offers is life or death, Gore has had to drop “sacrifice, struggle and a wrenching transformation” as the solution. Now he claims that it will be easy to replace “expensive dirty energy” with “free clean energy” in a decade. The technology is already here. The costs will be negligible. Millions of green jobs will be created. All that’s lacking is the political will. Gore is wrong in every particular, including the last. The only thing keeping global warming alarmism going is political will.

Gore has entered an alternative reality that would be pathetic were it not a menace to human flourishing. What does he have to show for it? Even the EU now admits Kyoto has failed. Completing a new treaty this month in Copenhagen to succeed Kyoto has been put off for at least a year. Cap-and-trade legislation has stalled in the US Senate. As public concern over global warming continues to fade, Gore is going to have to reconcile himself to the bitter good news: global warming is not the end of the world.