Few figures in the climate change debate are as polarizing as former Vice President Al Gore. His fans and his enemies are equally rabid, and his 2006 film An Inconvenient Truth is still probably the most-referenced document on climate change in history. In the last few years, Gore’s global warming work has mostly been channeled into a nonprofit he oversees called the Climate Reality Project, which organizes rallies and educational events.
This week, that group held its annual “24 Hours of Reality” marathon of live-streamed videos and appearances by Gore and other celebrities to raise funds for climate action. The event took place in New York City, which is gearing up for a series of meetings and protests in advance of the biggest climate summit of the last five years, to take place Tuesday at the United Nations. Gore took a break from the broadcast to chat with Climate Desk’s Inquiring Minds podcast, offering his views on everything from President Obama’s climate polices and the role of the tea party in US politics to his hopes for a strong international climate treaty.
Gore said that Obama hasn’t yet gone far enough in his efforts against climate change, but that he nonetheless admires “what the president has done.”
“In his first term I expressed some considerable concern about what I thought he was failing to do,” Gore said, adding that after the demise of cap-and-trade legislation in the Senate, “there was not the kind of energy and activity that I felt was appropriate.” But Gore credited Obama for shifting course dramatically in his second term, and for going around the “logjam” in Congress by instructing the EPA to issue “historic regulations” on carbon emissions from power plants.
Gore did criticize some of Obama’s policies, including the president’s “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, which Gore described as the “prevailing code for ‘let’s keep burning fossil fuels.'”
“But it’s not fair to just take those things out of context without looking at the totality of his policies,” he added. “And the totality of what he’s doing now in his second term is really historic.”
Gore expressed skepticism about the fracking boom. He said he opposed the use of natural gas as a bridge fuel—something the Obama administration has supported—”until and unless they demonstrate the ability to stop the methane leaks at every stage of the process, particularly during fracking.” (Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that some scientists argue can negate the climate benefits of burning natural gas instead of coal.) And he added that the increasing cost-effectiveness of solar and wind power was already posing a “threat to the viability of natural gas as a source of energy in the marketplace.”
You can hear Gore’s comments in full on this week’s episode of our Inquiring Minds podcast, below, and see the highlights of his comments in our exclusive video above.