Al Gore on the next president, being vegan and Pruitt’s fate

Source: Robin Bravender, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, April 26, 2018

Former Vice President Al Gore being interviewed by E&E News deputy editor Robin Bravender. Photo credit: Patrick Ryan.

Al Gore thinks there’s a solid chance the next president will sign a climate change bill.

The former vice president and longtime global warming crusader is predicting a U-turn on climate policy after President Trump leaves the White House. Gore thinks the next president could swiftly get the United States back into the Paris climate agreement and enact sweeping climate legislation, which has stumbled in Congress dating back to Gore’s career on Capitol Hill from 1977 to 1993.

Gore spoke to E&E News yesterday about the early global warming hearings, how he became a vegan and why he thinks EPA chief Scott Pruitt will be fired.

You’re credited with convening the first climate change hearing in the House. How did that happen?

I was elected in 1976. … When I went in for the organizing session, I asked, ‘OK, what’s going on with global warming?’ Crickets, basically. … I convinced [House subcommittee] Chairman [John Moss (D-Calif.)] to let me organize the hearing on climate, global warming. I invited my professor from college, Roger Revelle, who was the mentor who really inspired me to get into this in the first place. I never imagined it would take over my life.

Are you surprised this many years later that Congress still hasn’t taken action on climate change?

Yeah, I am. Not now, not anymore, but I was, yeah. Congress has changed. … The influence of big campaign contributors and lobbyists has really distorted the way Congress is supposed to operate. It’s badly broken. It can be repaired, but it will take some time.

Do you think there’s a chance that under the next president, there might be climate legislation?

Yes. I don’t think we’re that far from having a governing majority in the Congress on climate. … There is a big shift coming, and the generational change with more of these Gen X voters, Gen Y voters coming into the electorate, I think that there’s a very real possibility of climate legislation. We lost by one vote back in 1993. … I really think that the Waxman-Markey bill could have passed if Obama had not been spending all of his political capital on health care in the first year in office. I think we were very close. In any case, that’s all my way of saying we’ve been fairly close for a while now, and I think that in a new Congress, we definitely can pass legislation.

You think the U.S. might get climate legislation and go back into the Paris accord after the 2020 election?


That’s a very different reality.

Yeah, very different. Even the election this year is still a long way off, so it’s a fool’s errand to predict what’s going to happen, but it sure does feel like a wave is building, certainly this year. And if Trump survives for the 2020 election and if he runs again, both of those things are uncertain. And a third uncertainty if he survives Republican primaries in 2020 — [Ohio Republican Gov.] John Kasich, maybe some others. I could be wrong, but I kind of feel like there are a lot of quiet voters out there just waiting for a chance to render a verdict on what they’ve been experiencing for the last 14 months. It’s nuts. Of course he retains a lot of support. The day Nixon resigned, 35 percent of the people supported him, so you’re always going to have that. But I think the balance is shifting pretty powerfully.

Who would you like to see on the ticket for Democrats?

I’m not going there.

What qualities do you think they should have?

Strong support of solutions for the climate crisis.

Do you think climate will play any sort of role in that election?

I do. I think the grass-roots movement is powerful enough to demand that, especially in the Democratic primaries and I think in the general election also.

Do you think what the Trump administration is doing can be repealed by the next administration?

I think they’ve turned out to be capable of less damage than I feared they would be. They’ve made so many procedural and legal mistakes that what they have quote-unquote accomplished is not completely accomplished and a good bit of it is likely to be undone in the courts, in other fora. But they’re doing some damage for sure, not least at the EPA and the Interior Department.

Do you think Trump will fire Scott Pruitt?

Well, my ability to predict what Trump is going to do is de minimis. I thought that he would fire him two or three weeks ago, but … the big grifters depend on the little grifter, and they’ve told Trump, “Don’t fire him, don’t fire him, don’t fire him.” But I think it’s gotten to an intolerable level, even for this White House, so having acknowledged my inability to predict what he will do, I will nevertheless answer your question by saying yes, I think that he’s probably not long for this job.

When you went to Trump Tower in 2016, Trump seemed to be asking for outside input on climate change. Do you think he was open to that at the beginning?

I thought he was open. I had reason to believe he was open, but he turned out not to be. The same is true on most policies. He did change on a few things early on, but then he stopped. He’s got quite a network out there on almost every policy area. There must be some kind of grifters’ Tinder out there where they connect with one another. They’re all connected up.

Are you still a vegan?

I am.

Is that because of climate change?

No. Initially I decided to try it to see what it was like, and I felt better and just decided to continue it.

What’s your favorite beverage?

I used to drink diet soda, but I haven’t had one in several years. They’re bad for you. So now unsweetened ice tea.

Does climate change keep you up at night?

Anybody who deals with the climate crisis has an occasional internal struggle between hope and despair, but I always come down on the side of hope, and as a result, no, it doesn’t keep me up at night at all. I sleep well.

This interview has been edited and condensed.