If you went to visit Al Gore at his farm in Tennessee, you might find him monitoring the 33-panel solar array on his 100-percent renewable-energy house, tooling about in his Tesla, checking on the 16,000 trees he has just planted to capture more carbon dioxide, or looking at the hot-air balloon the Koch brothers periodically fly over his property to make fun of him.
Gore, who's currently promoting An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, in theaters Aug. 4, the follow-up to his Oscar-winning climate-change documentary, has traded designs on elected office for a life devoted to advocating for green energy.
I talked to him about his new movie, his crusade, and his critics.
I think it's a joke about hot air.
I wrote a book called The Assault on Reason about how political thinking has evolved during the shift from print to broadcasting and now to cable and the internet. But I'm optimistic, and I believe there are self-correcting mechanisms already being put in place that may yet redeem online media.
And I think there's a reaction to that, and you see it in the popularity of documentaries. It's one of the only forms of media where people can sit in a communal environment and listen and watch for 90 or 100 minutes to a thoughtful presentation of ideas. I think that's one reason why documentaries are entering a golden age.
We have a saying in Tennessee: If you see a turtle on a fence post, you can be pretty sure it didn't get there by itself. When you run across provable falsehoods on climate, you can be pretty sure that didn't just happen. Large carbon polluters have invested a lot of money advancing their agenda. But there's a new participant in the debate, and it's Mother Nature. Severe climate-related weather events have become much more common and destructive. People are connecting the dots.
Even if you don't use the phrase global warming, you nevertheless have to deal with the reality of things that are happening in your town or your district or your state. You hear politicians use the phrase weird weather instead of global warming. Or they just focus on the practical advantages of green energy, like the cost. It's one of the real bright spots we highlight in the documentary. Renewable energy is now so much cheaper.
Yes. The idea of clean air is something everybody can get behind.
We have made those arguments to him, and others. And I really thought there was a good chance he would come to his senses. I was wrong. I haven't talked to him since his speech about [opting out of] the Paris agreement [to curb carbon emissions], and I don't know that there is any realistic possibility that he will change his mind. I don't know how his mind operates. I hope somebody else can succeed with him where I wasn't able to, but I'm not going to hold my breath. We're going to work around him. The rest of the world has doubled down on the Paris agreement. And even in this country, you have business leaders and political leaders who have since stepped up to say, "We're going to do it without Donald."
I offset and double offset all of my travel.
That's actually a good idea. I will do that.