Al Gore on The Future
Al Gore is worried about David Cameron. Watch the interview here. When I put it to him, without naming names, that some political leaders in Britain were starting to row back on the climate change agenda he jumped straight at the Prime Minister. He said there had been such “hopeful signs” at the start of the Cameron years, but now he has “worries” that the PM has been listening to certain “influences” in his party.
I talked to him days after a study from respected climate scientists in Norway suggested the extent of climate change was not turning out as bad as some claim. But Gore has no doubt of his position, and confidently explains why those in the Conservative party who want to balance the climate change agenda against how much it costs are deeply mistaken.
I put to him the words of the Chancellor George Osborne at Conservative party conference : “We’re not going to save the planet by putting our country out of business”. Al Gore describes the position as “seriously misinformed”, arguing “It is short-sighted to believe that the future of business and the future of the environment are in conflict”.
His new book, The Future, might reasonably be accused of biting off a bit more than any man could chew. The six key drivers of global change is what he will tell you it is about. In very abbreviated form, these are globalisation, the internet, shifts in global power, the unsustainable use of global resources, biotechnology and the threat from climate change.
It is a surprisingly easy read. Gore writes like a journalist rather than academic or politician – with accessible and crisp language, lots of facts and quotations. Much of it feels quite familiar but it is nonetheless enjoyable and useful to find it drawn together, packed with examples and figures – whether or not you agree with where Gore is coming from.
Gore has suddenly become even more phenomenally rich than he was before. He has sold Current TV to Al-Jazeera, taking the oil and gas money with thanks. Is this odd from a man who lambasts the US media for being bought by oil and gas special interests who oppose the climate change agenda? There is no hypocrisy, he claims. And no problem in lecturing the world about sustainability and reforming capitalism when he is so personally rich. He believes in rich people paying more tax than they do now.
I asked him about his now repeated claim to be a “recovering politician”. “It’s a joke,” claims Al Gore. But the former Veep is not known for his wit. Why did he use the language of addiction and drug abuse, I wondered. Was it because politics is a bad thing to be avoided? At the age of 65 he’s running out of time to return to politics, but he clearly can’t quite close the door.
His biggest problem, were he ever to return to frontline politics, might be confronting what people will actually vote for. Years of lecture tours, adulation and the Nobel prize leave him warning us about things in the future as if we have no idea the dangers are there.
But is it really that people don’t know the threat from climate change? Or believe human behaviour can make a difference? Or is it that they can’t face the consequences of confronting it, like smokers who know they should quit but can’t quite pluck up the will power? Perhaps they just don’t think reducing human pain in the future is worth the sacrifice in their own lifetimes.
Al Gore did not say which camp he thinks David Cameron and George Osborne fall into. Ultimately, a US Democrat criticising British Conservatives is not surprising. But if you think back to that Cameron photo shoot with the huskies in 2006, we do seem to have sledged a way since then.
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