In a scorching, 7000-word article in the coming issue of Rolling Stone, Al Gore savages mainstream media for its incompetent reporting of climate change and roasts President Barack Obama for failing to advance policies against global warming any more quickly than his woeful predecessor.
Gore is clear, quotable and uncompromising in stating his own case:
“Here is the truth: The Earth is round; Saddam Hussein did not attack us on 9/11; Elvis is dead; Obama was born in the United States; and the climate crisis is real. It is time to act.”
But after making the case for reality in climate reporting - and crediting Obama for some early efforts - Gore says this:
“But in spite of these and other achievements, President Obama has thus far failed to use the bully pulpit to make the case for bold action on climate change. After successfully passing his green stimulus package, he did nothing to defend it when Congress decimated its funding. After the House passed cap and trade, he did little to make passage in the Senate a priority. Senate advocates — including one Republican — felt abandoned when the president made concessions to oil and coal companies without asking for anything in return. He has also called for a massive expansion of oil drilling in the United States, apparently in an effort to defuse criticism from those who argue speciously that “drill, baby, drill” is the answer to our growing dependence on foreign oil.”
The implications for U.S. credibility in the global conversation is obvious, Gore argues:
“During the final years of the Bush-Cheney administration, the rest of the world was waiting for a new president who would aggressively tackle the climate crisis — and when it became clear that there would be no real change from the Bush era, the agenda at Copenhagen changed from “How do we complete this historic breakthrough?” to “How can we paper over this embarrassing disappointment?”
Not to say, “we told you so,” but it’s worth recalling that Obama’s position on climate change has long been unconvincing. In 2007, the DeSmogBlog served the then-presidential candidate with a SmogMaker Award for his failure to take a stronger position in favour of good climate policy and, especially, against coal. We said, “Barack Obama may not be the worst offender among the spinmeisters, but he’s the biggest disappointment.”
And we were flayed for saying it across the internet. Friends and allies responded in outrage that we were holding Obama to an unrealistic standard and, counterproductively, attacking the candidate whose climate position was most progressive.
So we apologized.
That now looks like a mistake. The environmental and scientific communities’ tendency to be polite, supportive and tame when dealing with their “allies” in the White House and Congress have left those allies with the impression that there is no political cost to doing nothing - even as the Republican “mainstream” takes ever more stupidly radical positions in response to the Tea Party ravers and campaign-funding lobbyists. If the climate conversation is inane - perhaps insane - some of the blame surely falls on those of us who have held our tongues in the face of disappointment. If the people of America and the world have been left standing on a busy intersection with their backs to the traffic, it’s because we have failed to shout the warning. We certainly have failed to offer fierce and constructive criticism to those of our political “friends” on whom we rely to make matters better.
As Gore points out, President Obama has let dust gather on the Bully Pulpit. It’s not clear whether that’s because Obama doesn’t want to be mistaken for a bully or because he truly thinks there will be no political cost for ignoring his timid base.
Gore, much to his credit, has taken the second option off the table. He says:
“Here is the core of it: we are destroying the climate balance that is essential to the survival of our civilization. This is not a distant or abstract threat; it is happening now. The United States is the only nation that can rally a global effort to save our future. And the president is the only person who can rally the United States.”