Former Vice President Al Gore has settled into new office space in
Green Hills with a refurbished strategy on how to spread the word on
In a building certified for its advanced
energy-efficiency features that include a rooftop garden and solar
panels, he has set up a small studio to broadcast his message.
what he has to say is stronger than ever - blasting oil and coal
companies and others who he says dismiss scientific evidence to the harm
of future generations.
"It's abundantly obvious with this new
lineup in the Congress that the political system is temporarily
paralyzed, so we have to go to the grassroots and convince as many
people as possible of the reality of what's going on," he said last
He leaned forward in his chair in the naturally lit room, a photograph of distant galaxies
behind him. Down a hallway, gum wood salvaged from the bottom of the
Tennessee River had been used to face a wall where his books translated
into a variety of languages stood.
"The reality is the floods are
getting bigger," he said, his eyes locked on the listener. "The
downpours are getting bigger. The droughts are getting deeper and
longer, and we're seeing this all over the world."
shifted from rallying support to pass legislation to try to stem climate
change - an effort that resulted in a near miss in Congress - to an
emphasis again on reaching everyday people.
The move has come as
critics who insist warming of the planet is not a problem have barraged
the public with their view through talk radio shows, op-ed pieces and
Over the past year, he merged the nonprofit,
Nashville-based The Climate Project - known for training individuals to
give presentations to civic and other groups - and his Alliance for
Climate Protection into The Climate Reality Project, in Washington, D.C.
first action is Sept. 14-15, when the Nobel laureate and author will
host "24 Hours of Reality" to give a live, round-the-clock, global look
at what is happening with climate.
The Nashville flood and
unprecedented rainfall in May 2010 are featured in a slideshow along
with floods in Pakistan that displaced 20 million people, Russian
drought and fires that killed 50,000 and resulted in grain shortages,
and drought in the Southwest this year that at one point resulted in
fires in 252 of Texas' 254 counties.
The event, streamed online in one-hour segments at climaterealityproject.org,
will begin at 7 p.m. Central time in Mexico, moving around the globe to
such locations as Tonga, Cape Verde, Jakarta and London and ending in
New York City. The presentations will be given in 13 languages,
depending on the location, with Gore leading the final one.
Hero or reviled?
Gore, a hero in many circles, has for decades been a lightning rod for his environmental stances.
one time, any notion that global warming was taking place was generally
denied by critics. More and more they accept the fact but say it's not
of great consequence.
The Heartland Institute,
with headquarters in Chicago, has constantly opposed Gore, who proposes
cutting pollution to stem climate change and turning more to
James Taylor, managing editor of environment
and climate news there, called Gore and his latest plan "amusing in the
best light and disturbing in the worst light," saying it's fomenting
There's actually been a decrease in strong tornadoes, as
well as the frequency and severity of droughts and hurricane strikes in
the United States, Taylor said. Also, he said, flooding has not
While the planet is warming and people are a
contributor, it has "definitely been beneficial to humans and is likely
to be so for decades to come," he said.
Crop production has increased and forests have grown more lush, he said, adding also that more people die from cold than heat.
news and weather channels focus on the extremes, which adds to the myth
of a climate crisis, he said. And a report that 97 percent to 98
percent of climate scientists are united on the issue is skewed.
a professor of law at Vanderbilt University and director of the Climate
Change Research Network, sees the situation differently.
are complex issues," he said. "Somehow we have to have a national
discussion, not just people listening to what they want. We need to
return the discussion to the science."
He cited the study last year
in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, saying that 97
percent to 98 percent of climate researchers actively publishing in the
field agree with the main conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change: that most of the "unequivocal" warming of the average
global temperature over the second half of the 20th century is because
"If 97 doctors told you that you had a heart condition
and three told you they weren't sure, would you act as if you had a
heart condition?" Vandenbergh said.
"Doing nothing is a very clear policy choice."
similar effort to discredit scientific evidence took place when it
first began to come to light that tobacco could be harmful and
addictive, he said.
Partisan battles play a role
Gore sees many detractors as sowing doubt to stop action, and says the recession had an impact, too.
opponents of change have tried to make it partisan," Gore said. "The
lobbyists and corporate contributors are calling a lot of shots now."
That includes coal and oil interests who are taking the narrow, self-interested view, he said.
of millions of dollars are spent on misleading ads and
pseudo-scientific studies," he said. "There are four anti-climate
lobbyists in Washington for every single member of Congress.
have scared a lot of politicians, and progress is very difficult now
until enough people make it clear that we've got to deal with this."
amount of heat-trapping gases released each day into the planet's
atmosphere has risen to more than 90 million tons, according to U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency data.
The United States became the
greatest nation in history by making better decisions than others, Gore
said, "by searching out the best available evidence and discussing it
and applying the rule of reason and reasoning together."
In recent years, that's not always happening, he said, pointing, for one, to invading Iraq after 9/11.
of the American people had been given the impression that Saddam
Hussein had attacked us on 9/11. That was wrong. We should have stayed
in Afghanistan until we got Osama bin Laden when we had him cornered the
"That's only an example of how things can go wrong if
you don't search for the truth and have an honest acceptance of what
the best evidence shows."
Spreading the word
Since 2006, Gore's group has trained more than 3,500 people here and
in other countries to give presentations about the effects of carbon
dioxide and other greenhouse gases that spew from power plants, vehicles
and other sources, and the climate changes that can result over time.
half of the presenters are still involved in giving talks and an
additional 30 percent are taking part in related activities, said
Sabrina Cowden, a Nashvillian and director of presentations for the Gore
Bobbie Nicholson of Penrose, N.C., who trained in
Nashville in 2007 and has given about 25 presentations, is one of the
latter. She didn't find the group's move to lobby for law changes
something she cared for.
The 69-year-old retired college chemistry
teacher said, also, that there are limits to the organizations wanting
presentations in her immediate area, but she's found another route
toward the same goal.
That includes promoting energy audits on homes and offices, so energy waste is reduced.
29, of Nashville has continued to give presentations to school groups
and others but said they've dwindled to three to five a year.
too, didn't find the lobbying push appealing, but is pleased to still
receive weekly updates from Gore's group with information he can pass on
and use in his work as a sustainability consultant.
Gore has mobilized people around the world and given hope and a way to take action that is invaluable, he said.
"It's a restless feeling when you can't do anything," he said.
He described what it was like to stand at Riverfront Park last year and watch floodwaters rise.
"It's a horrible feeling," he said. "He's given people an outlet, the information to try to do something, not just sit back."