al gore climate change

Lay off Al Gore, would ya?

For decades, Al Gore has been condemned as a hypocrite, spoofed as a nerdish geek, and written off as a failed single-issue pol. It's time to recognize he's been right about nearly everything.

On a steamy June day in 1988, NASA scientist James Hansen testified before a U.S. Senate committee on the likelihood of climate change and its impacts.

The hearing, chaired by then-Senator Al Gore, marks the first time that climate change received major attention in U.S. media. Axios took measure of Hansen's—and by extension, Gore's---predictions 30 years on in 2018. Their conclusions were distressingly accurate.

So stark were the projections from Gore's hearings and a battering of real-time environmental disasters in the Amazon, Chernobyl, and elsewhere, that Republicans re-cast their election strategy. George H.W. Bush, they vowed, would be known from coast-to-coast as "The Environmental President."

Senator Gore had a busy 1992, releasing his Enviro-opus Earth In the Balance, a book that hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list. The book hit stores just as Gore left to lead the U.S. delegation to the U.N.'s Earth Summit at Rio de Janiero. Later that summer, Bill Clinton named Gore as his vice presidential running mate.

Ozone Man 

Gore, like much of the Amazon, was on fire. The "Environmental President" moniker from Bush's first term wouldn't play well against an environmental rock star.

So the GOP chose to go back on the eco-attack against Gore. In late October, with polls suggesting a likely Clinton-Gore victory, the "Environmental President" unleashes an odd attack: "You know why I call him Ozone Man?"

Bush said. "This guy is so far out in the environmental extreme, we'll be up to our neck in owls and outta work for every American. He is way out, far out, man."

Six years earlier, the Reagan-Bush Administration had scored a rare environmental victory by helping to lead the world's nations to ratify the Montreal Protocol. The Protocol is held up as the reason the annual polar ozone holes haven't spread and may, in fact, be re-closing.

Media scrutiny 

In January 2004, more than three years after losing the most contentious presidential election in U.S. history, Gore blasted President George W. Bush as a "moral coward" who is "wholly owned by the coal, oil, utility and mining industries."

Just as Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" went viral , his critics went mainstream. ABC News reporter Jake Tapper was among those who headlined Gore's home utility bills, while leaving the reasons in the small print—both Gore and his wife Tipper's thriving home businesses and the oppressive 24/7 home security needs of an ex-vice president.

The Gores later spent six figures to solarize their home and make it more efficient. Few saw the need to follow up or amend their reporting, including Tapper, who is now a top CNN anchor.

In October 2007, Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were announced as the co-winners of the Nobel Peace Prize.

In 2009, a British judge ruled that there were "nine specific errors" in Gore's film. He also called the film "broadly accurate" and okayed its screening to UK school kids.

"Nine errors" grabbed headlines. The story had a week's worth of legs; "broadly accurate" was played down, if mentioned at all, in stories like this one.

Putting his money where his mouth is 

After a relatively quiet decade in which Gore stuck to his message and built a sizable fortune—more than $200 million—investing in clean energy. It's also won him conflict-of-interest accusations, but no legal consequences, for putting his money where his mouth has always been.

With his appearance at this week's COP26 climate summit, it's time to lay off Al Gore and at least grudgingly recognize how consistently right he's been.

Peter Dykstra is our weekend editor and columnist and can be reached at pdykstra@ehn.org or @pdykstra.

His views do not necessarily represent those of Environmental Health News, The Daily Climate, or publisher Environmental Health Sciences.

Banner photo credit: Al Gore delivers speech denouncing the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in 2019. (Credit: VCU Capital News Service/Katja Timm)

Food, feed and fuel: global seaweed industry could reduce land needed for farming by 110m hectares, study finds

Scientists identify parts of ocean suitable for seaweed cultivation and suggest it could constitute 10% of human diet to reduce impact of agriculture.

Sunrise in the woods

Get our Good News newsletter

Get the best positive, solutions-oriented stories we've seen on the intersection of our health and environment, FREE every Tuesday in your inbox. Subscribe here today. Keep the change tomorrow.

When will we hit peak fossil fuels? Maybe we already have

Kingsmill Bond, energy analyst and author, describes the circumstances that hastened the transition of the electricity sector—plus four reasons he’s optimistic about our planet’s future.

Google empowered climate crisis deniers
Steve Rhodes/Flickr

Google let Daily Wire advertise to climate crisis deniers, research shows

Exclusive: Data shared by the Center for Countering Digital Hate shows that Ben Shapiro’s news site paid for climate crisis denial search term ads.

greenwashing in fashion
UK in Italy/Flickr

'Vegan,' 'sustainable': How to spot greenwashing in fashion

Virtuous proclamations and campaigns from clothing brands can often amount to greenwashing, or in some cases, “clearwashing,” where the information doesn’t tell consumers much.
heavy metals in baby food
pixydust8605/Flickr

How do heavy metals like lead get in baby food?

The problem begins at the farm where plants draw toxins from the soil. There’s no washing them away.

A copper mine could advance green energy but scar sacred land

Tribal groups are fighting an Arizona project whose backers say increasing the supply of copper, crucial to batteries, would reduce fossil-fuel use.

As the Colorado River shrinks, Washington prepares to spread the pain

The seven states that rely on the river for water are not expected to reach a deal on cuts. It appears the Biden administration will have to impose reductions.
From our Newsroom
oil and gas wells pollution

What happens if the largest owner of oil and gas wells in the US goes bankrupt?

Diversified Energy’s liabilities exceed its assets, according to a new report, sparking concerns about whether taxpayers will wind up paying to plug its 70,000 wells.

Paul Ehrlich

Paul Ehrlich: A journey through science and politics

In his new book, the famous scientist reflects on an unparalleled career on our fascinating, ever-changing planet.

oil and gas california environmental justice

Will California’s new oil and gas laws protect people from toxic pollution?

California will soon have the largest oil drilling setbacks in the U.S. Experts say other states can learn from this move.

popular stories 2022

Our 5 most popular reads from 2022

A corpse, woodworking dangers, plastic titans ... revisit the stories that stuck with our readers this past year.

Pittsburgh environmental

What I learned reporting on environmental health in Pittsburgh in 2022

For a lot of people, 2022 felt like the first “normal” year since 2020. It didn’t for me.

Stay informed: sign up for The Daily Climate newsletter
Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers. Delivered to your inbox week days.