Al Gore and the Search for the Climate Change Swing Vote
When an Inconvenient Truth hit the big screen in 2006, it seemed to mark an inflection point in our posture towards the impact of human activity on the climate (‘OK…we have a problem, but we can solve this!’)
But these days, it feels more like 2006 was the ecological version of the Prague Spring — with skeptics now rolling over climate science like the Soviet tanks snuffing out the Czech’s democratic reforms of 1968. Or maybe it’s more like comparing the hope-filled Obama campaign of 2008 to the reality of Washington, circa 2011.
On Wednesday, Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project started another run at winning hearts and minds, with a 24 hour convince-a-thon. The Mission of the organization is to “bring the facts about the climate crisis into the mainstream and engage the public in conversation about how to solve it.” 24 Hours of Reality is described as “a worldwide event consisting of a new multimedia presentation created by Al Gore and delivered once per hour for 24 hours, representing every time zone around the globe.” Gore’s position is that “The deniers may have millions of dollars to spend, but we have a powerful advantage. We have reality.”
Continuing to deliver the message is important. Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be enough open-minded swing votes listening. Extreme weather events feature prominently in the Project’s message, but those who doubt the connection between emissions based on human activity and the climate are unlikely to be convinced that the weather can be influenced by the deforestation/intensive-agriculture/fossil-fuel/volatile-chemical/over-consumption storm that has contributed to rising CO2 (and CO2 equivalent) levels. In fact, a recent Yale study found that only 20% of Tea Party members believe this connection exists (and only 36% of non-Tea Party Republicans.) More alarming is that 85% of Tea Partiers consider themselves well-informed on climate change, and more than half are not interested in more information. Let’s face it…they will not be convinced.
Concern about the climate is actually down across the board, so perhaps Gore’s efforts will at least bolster ‘the base.’ But it’s clear that there’s an ideological battle going on, and progress is going to continue to be slow until this becomes a uniting rather than dividing issue. So rather than waiting for irreversible disaster to hit, or attempting to convert naysayers, or keeping this in the political arena, maybe it would be better to focus on areas of common interest, and simply get to work.
The Yale study revealed that the public supports alternative energy across the board (which has not always been the case), and we all seem to agree that dependence on foreign oil is deeply uncool. So let’s keep supporting these efforts, and working on improving the economics and mainstreaming of alternatives. Most people tend to like old growth forests, whether in the name of tourism, biodiversity, or climate….does it matter which motivation drives interest in conserving them? Coal is dirty, so why not focus on clean air rather than emissions as a good reason to wean ourselves from it? And as I have posted before , over two billion people rely on the very inefficient use of basic biomass (primarily firewood and charcoal) for cooking and heating. This needs ot be addressed as a health and poverty issue as much as an environmental one.
I don’t know if this approach will be enough… but it’s a start. It certainly beats waiting around for a political solution, and I think that’s something we can all agree on.
You can watch the Climate Reality Project 24 videos here
Photo from Tom Raftery via flickr creative commons