Al Gore: Obama hasn’t made case for ‘bold action’ on climate

Al Gore says President Obama has failed to make the case for aggressive steps to battle climate change despite some gains, such as major auto-efficiency improvements and pushing to kill oil-and-gas industry subsidies.

Gore’s criticism is part of a broad 7,000-word essay in Rolling Stone in which he blasts a complacent media, politicians cowed by polluter cash and other factors he says are hindering action on climate change despite overwhelming scientific evidence.

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The former vice president notes that Obama has confronted myriad obstacles and says he still managed to make some progress, including green initiatives in the stimulus law and appointment of officials who have “made hundreds of changes in environmental and energy policy that have helped move the country forward slightly on the climate issue.”

But Gore adds:

[I]n 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.

His essay says Obama “has never presented to the American people the magnitude of the climate crisis,” and “simply not made the case for action” nor defended climate science against “ongoing, withering and dishonest attacks.”

Gore’s criticism goes far beyond his major April speech on climate change, in which he steered clear of criticizing the White House directly at a time when some green advocates are disappointed with several administration decisions and what they call a lack of political muscle devoted to climate issues.

The new criticism of Obama’s willingness to use the power of the presidency comes at a critical time.

Capitol Hill Republicans and some Democrats are pushing to block or delay federal climate change rules, while a Supreme Court decision this week created major barriers to using the courts to force emissions cuts from polluting industries.

Gore’s essay — which also serves as a call to arms for grassroots action — skewers what he calls a broken, TV ad-reliant political system that gives outsize influence to well-funded business lobbies, including industries that are funding what he calls disinformation campaigns about climate science.

(The essay, in fact, is subtitled "Can science and the truth withstand the merchants of poison?").

He writes:

In the new ecology of political discourse, special-interest contributors of the large sums of money now required for the privilege of addressing voters on a wholesale basis are not squeamish about asking for the quo they expect in return for their quid. Politicians who don't acquiesce don't get the money they need to be elected and re-elected.

Gore takes aim at the press, noting it is failing to properly “referee” a dispute between “science and reason” on one side and “poisonous polluters and right-wing ideologues” on the other.

Gore — citing the high stakes of the upcoming election — notes that he hasn’t given up on Obama, writing that it would be “self-defeating to weaken Obama and heighten the risk of another step backward.”

“Even writing an article like this one carries risks; opponents of the president will excerpt the criticism and strip it of context,” he writes. “But in this case, the President has reality on his side. The scientific consensus is far stronger today than at any time in the past. 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.”

This post was updated at 10:31 a.m.