In a BBC Radio interview today, former Vice President Al Gore says he was not surprised by the UK poll finding that 56% of people believe scientists are still questioning climate change.
Gore states: “The same findings apply to the United States and many countries around the world.
There’s money in pollution, Jim, and some of the carbon polluters that are not among the responsible companies, the ones that don’t want any change to threaten their profits have actually been spending a good bit of money to sow this confusion…”
Here’s the full transcript:
Host: As we’ve been hearing this morning there’s some new polling evidence that suggests that many people aren’t really yet convinced that the problem is the crisis that many political figures say it is. Well no one makes the case for the crisis more passionately than Al Gore. The former American Vice President was in London and he’s in the studio with us now. Good morning.
Host: Are you surprised that even after all that has happened in this country or in your country over the last two or three years, and the growing consensus in the scientific community that there are people who say, quite sincerely, presumably to pollsters, that ‘we’re still not sure.’
Gore: I’m not totally surprised, no. The same findings apply to the United States and many countries around the world. There’s money in pollution, Jim, and some of the carbon polluters that are not among the responsible companies, the ones that don’t want any change to threaten their profits have actually been spending a good bit of money to sow this confusion and they have found a fertile ground simply because none of us like to think about something that involves painful contemplations like the climate crisis.
Host: …and sacrifices.
Gore: And sacrifices. That’s correct. Although, the word sacrifice is one that should be used carefully, simply because most of the changes needed to solve the climate crisis are ones that will save us money and make our lives better.
Host: Well it was interesting, you were with the Prince of Wales last night and he was talking at his business in the community awards and he was talking about deforestation and arguing that, that is a crisis that needs to be tackled. But it can be tackled with benefits as well as costs. It’s a message that sometimes sounds to good to be true, that it’s win-win.
Gore: Yes that’s correct and people instinctivly resist a message like that, but you did a great job incidently, I was quite impressed with the business leaders across the spectrum who showed up, and people from the media, it was quite an event.
At the Live Earth concerts we will have a request that everyone attending take a seven point pledge. One of them is incidentaly to plant new trees and join with others in preserving and protecting forests. An expected 2 billion people are going to be in the audience worldwide on Saturday., including the audience at Wembley and the broadcast and internet coverage worldwide.
Host: One of things that you’ve been suggesting is that China, who’s got a huge problem, stands to lose a lot with the effects of global warming, but is thought by everyone in the west, anecdotally, to be miles behind the curve, is going to change it’s policy and it’s going to become a country at the vanuguard of this. Now, there are a lot of people that listen to you saying this and say, ‘it’s gone to his head, everyone has watched his film and he thinks he’s converted the Chinese, and he’s wildly optimistic, and it ain’t going to happen.’ What makes you think that it might.
Gore: Well, I don’t think I’m naive or overly optimistic and I have no illusions about the difficulty of getting the change we need in China, and in my own country by the way. But I do see signs that this change is underway.
In China, the dynamism and growth there is leading them to build a lot of new coal plants, but their leaders are now keenly aware of the risk China itself faces from the climate crisis. For instance, the melting of the ice that serves as their drinking water, for all those 1.3 billion people. These and other threats have captured their attention. I believe that we do have an excellent chance of persuading China to be part of a new treaty that will be negotiated beginning this December.
Host: Those are the talks in Bali.
Gore: That’s correct. And the Live Earth concert this Saturday is designed to capture the attention of people all over the world, including in China. One of the 8 large concerts is in Shanghai. And it will be broadcast throughout China.
Host: So what’s your encapsulation of the nature of the challenge now? It’s clear that there are still people that need to be convinced, most scientists are convinced, though not all. Many businesses are convinced in a way that they weren’t 4 or 5 years ago. But people have a natural skepticism about politicians that predict doom just around the corner.
Encapsulate for those skeptics where the challenge lies now. What is the challenge?
Gore: Well, the relationship between humanity and the earth has been utterly transformed in a very short period of time. We have seen the quadrupaling of the human population in less than one century. And even more importantly, the technologies we routinely use around the world are thousands of times more powerful that anything our grandparents had.
And we rely in the main on carbon-based fuels for this boom worldwide and as a result we are putting 70 million tonnes of C02 every single day into the very thin shell of air surrounding our world. And that traps more heat from the sun. John Tindle, the British scientist a century and a half ago proved conclusively that that’s what happens, the C02 traps the heat.
All you have to do is look at the ice melting at the North Pole, at the South Pole, at the mountain glaciers and look at the other changes that the scientists have long warned us would begin to occur, if we did not reign in this heat-trapping pollution worldwide.
So, since C02 is the exhaling breath of the industrial civilization we really have to quickly insist on much greater energy efficiency and the trapping of the harmful global warming pollution that’s causing this damage.
Host: You’re in this country at the moment where there’s new evidence of a terrorist threat and people are assailed by that prospect on the one hand, by the prospect of doom in Europe and in terms of climate change on the other. Now, politically you realize that as somebody who has held high office and has run more often than most, that facing people with that kind of conundrum, what is more important, is a terrible thing for a political system to deal with let alone an individual voter.
What do political systems in the west, forget about China, need to do to bring the immediacy of those twin problems together? Because that’s what you believe needs to be done.
Gore: Absolutely, we don’t have to pick and choose what’s important because we have the capacity to tackle two problems and more at the same time, and both need to be addressed. I must say I am very impressed with the way your new Prime Minister Gordon Brown has handled this latest threat and I am also impressed with the way he has focussed on the climate crisis here.
You have the great good fortune of having an opposition party that is also focussed on the climate crisis. And so, unlike in my country in the United States, it’s not considered as a political football, because it shouldn’t be. So that’s the mature and determined leadership approach to this. And business, as I mentioned before, as I saw last evening, the business leaders here across the spectrum in the United Kingdom addressing this.
I think that’s an example and I wish that my own country were responding as the United Kingdom is responding. But we still have to get the word out and that’s what the Live Earth concerts are all about this Saturday worldwide.
There’s a clock ticking, the scientists warn us we could actually have as little as ten years in which to make fairly significant changes in order to reign in this heat trapping pollution, lest we give to our children a planet that is so severely degraded, the chances of retrieving the favored climate balance would be lost. We can’t allow that to happen, we won’t allow that to happen, but building awareness not only of the crisis but also the solutions to it, is the urgent task at hand. And that’s what these Live Earth Concerts, including the one at Wembley, are all about on Saturday.
Host: Al Gore, thanks very much.