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The Al Gore Climate Curse

Opinion | February 4, 2013

There are many titles oft bestowed upon Al Gore: filmmaker, climate activist, Nobel Peace Laureate, Vice President, presidential nominee—all true and well-deserved. Mr. Gore has dedicated much of his political career and beyond to solving climate change and its numerous geographical, political, economic, and humanitarian consequences. As the first international figure to loudly and profoundly educate the public on the dangers of global warming in the widely acclaimed film, An Inconvenient Truth, he brought climate change into the homes of Americans and into the mailboxes of their politicians. An honorable and necessary message, yes, but not one that has proven to be as beneficial to the environmental cause as Mr. Gore’s political background would suggest. To you, Mr. Gore, we say thanks, but no thanks.

Let’s be clear—Mr. Gore’s message of the importance of understanding and combating climate change has always been based in scientific fact. If anything, the message of exigency he delivered in his famous PowerPoint presentation in 2006 has proven to be modest. Gore and his team of scientists predicted the number of hurricanes weighing in as Category 4 and 5 would rise proportionately with the rising sea temperature at the Equator. A recent study at MIT published in Nature Magazine has produced evidence that this relationship is more likely exponential. Furthermore, a popular statistic often linked to Gore’s presentation is that the 10 hottest years on record had all occurred within the 14 years prior to that year—2006. In 2011, 10 of the hottest years on record had all occurred within the previous 11.

But don’t panic! I’m not here to instill a dull, nagging urgency that you’ll sense until you finish this article, then forget about, then feel guilty about forgetting about when you see this magazine under your bed in a few weeks. I’m not telling you that YOU can make a difference by signing an online petition (you can’t). I’m here to tell you that Al Gore’s entire mission was a failure and has upset the environmental cause.

Having dedicated the first 53 years of his life to politics, Mr. Gore knows as well as anyone the power of hate in America. Having spent the 53rd year of his life weathering the category 5 shitstorm of the 2000 presidential election, he also knows as well as anyone the power of politics to divide. In light of this knowledge, it was blindingly irresponsible to bring global warming to the public forum from a mouth that has espoused such divisiveness in the political sphere. Like most issues, Global Warming is much too fragile to be left to politicians to solve.

Global climate change is not at its core a political issue. It is a human issue. The storms, droughts, rising ocean levels, heat waves, cold snaps, and famines tied to climate change are not red and they are not blue. And yet in 2011, only 48% of self-identified Republicans reported believing climate change exists while 85% of self-identified Democrats did. Global climate change was mentioned exactly zero times in the course of all three presidential debates between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, the first time for the issue to be absent since 1984.

This political environmental divide should never have been born. Perhaps if the issue was partnered originally with an environmentally pragmatic Republican (there are surprisingly several, with a particularly genial tip of the cap to Massachusetts’ own former Senator Scott Brown), environmental progress and the creation of green technologies would not have been as beaten back and obstructed by conservative stubbornness in Washington.

In light of Mr. Gore’s most recent accolade—the sale of his Current TV network to Al Jazeera for a staggering $500 million with a personal 20% stake in the network—it is hard not to criticize this most ardent capitalist for a flawed, divisive, and apparently lucrative plan to bring global warming to the American public. Honorable and true though his message is, Mr. Gore has proven his inability to play the game of politics as it must be played. Ironically, had he remained mum on the issue, it may have never ballooned to the political taboo it is today, and bipartisan progress towards a cleaner environment may not be the distant dream we know it to be. It may have been possible, too, for Mr.Gore to have remained what he once was: a quietly respected and sincere activist for the most important human issue of the 21 century.