Al Gore Thinks Trump Will Lose and Climate Activists Will Triumph

Source: By Cara Buckley, New York Times • Posted: Monday, April 15, 2024

Mr. Gore spoke at a climate leadership conference hosted by his nonprofit organization.

A portrait of Al Gore in a dark suit.
Al Gore in September. “The crisis is still getting worse faster than we’re deploying the solutions,” he said. “If we gain more momentum, we’ll begin to gain on the crisis itself.”Calla Kessler for The New York Times

Former Vice President Al Gore was in New York City over the weekend for a leadership training convened by the Climate Reality Project, his nonprofit organization.

On Saturday, before thousands of attendees, Mr. Gore highlighted mounting climate perils but also spoke of progress. He slammed fossil fuel companies for ramping up plastics production and promoting technology to suck carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which he called “utterly preposterous.”

Afterward, Mr. Gore explained in an interview why he was not surprised that major oil and gas companies have walked back their pledges to decarbonize. And he said he believed that former President Donald J. Trump would lose his campaign to return to the White House. Here are excerpts from that conversation, edited and condensed for clarity.

Oil and gas companies recently gathered in Houston for the industry’s annual conference. Many of the major companies have walked back their promises to decarbonize. In Houston, the head of Saudi Aramco said the “fantasy of phasing out oil and gas” should be ditched.

I don’t think their pledges were sincere in the first place. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there was this pinch in Europe’s access to fossil fuels which translated into a crunch and in demand elsewhere in the world. There was a sudden surge to try to replace the Russian supplies. That had a global impact on the price of fossil fuels, and on the profits of the large companies.

When they got a taste of these higher windfall profits, they came under pressure from their investors to capitalize while the getting was good. So they just decided en masse to abandon their pledges and just go forward, without regard to what they had pretended to be doing in the past. I think it was always a fraud. It remains to be seen whether they are going to be able to walk back their pledges without incurring significant damage politically and in the business community.

What does that mean for the need to stop burning fossil fuels, which scientists say is imperative?

We have to change the laws and policies. We must stop subsidizing. We have to put a tax on carbon, as we have already put a tax on methane. So-called carbon border adjustment mechanisms rising up elsewhere in the world offer a pathway to do that.

Former President Donald J. Trump has made it clear he would dismantle President Biden’s climate policies and promote fossil fuels. If he wins in November, what would that mean for the fight against global warming?

First of all, I refuse to accept the hypothetical. Trump’s not going away. I don’t think he’s going to win.

Why?

I think that the long political tail of inflation is going to be attenuated by November. I think that the increasing economic strength and America’s job market is going to continue to give benefits to President Biden. Trump is vulnerable to making more mistakes as the pressure on him increases. You see him flailing a bit on the questions related to choice. I don’t portray myself as a skilled political analyst, that’s not my forte. But the number of months between now and the election is, to use a cliché, a lifetime in politics. I would way prefer to have Biden’s political position right now than Trump’s.

And the climate impact, if you’re wrong?

If Trump were to be elected, I think that the favorable trends in renewable energy, battery storage, electric vehicles, green hydrogen, circular manufacturing, regenerative agriculture, sustainable forestry, would all continue to move in the right direction. However, the momentum from what they’re doing now will not get us to where we need to be.

We need skilled and determined leadership from the White House in the United States in order to accelerate progress. The crisis is still getting worse faster than we’re deploying the solutions. If we gain more momentum, we’ll begin to gain on the crisis itself.

We’re here at your Climate Reality conference, which trains people around the world to push for climate solutions in their communities.

At this point, it’s 3.5 million members worldwide.

The story of David and Goliath aside, given the huge profits that the fossil fuel industry has been realizing, is there a mismatch between the companies and climate activists?

We don’t have just one David, we have 3,000 Davids here at this training. And there are millions around the world. If you look at all the groups that are doing this work, it is the largest grass roots movement in the entire history of the world, and it is continuing to build.

I draw an analogy between this movement and the abolitionists, women’s suffrage, civil rights, etc. With all of those movements, when the central issue was really crystallized as a choice between what is clearly right and just, and what is clearly unjust and wrong and deadly and dangerous, then the outcome becomes foreordained.

I bet on humanity. I believe that in spite of the well known limitations we all have, and our vulnerabilities to pettiness and greed, and all of the things that can go wrong, we also really and truly have a capacity to rise above those limitations, as we have demonstrated in times past. We are capable of this. And the ability of the special interests, in this case the fossil fuel polluters to dominate laws and policies, is going to come to an end.