Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Climate Gadfly's Job

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Climate Gadfly's Job

Article excerpt

Americans are obsessed with the economy. Gadflies like Al Gore do a service by reminding them that the problem of climate change isn't going away.

A lot has changed in the five years since Al Gore won an Oscar for his documentary film "An Inconvenient Truth" and a Nobel Peace Prize for his dramatic warning about the dangers of climate change.

Back then concerns over climate seemed to be winning hearts and minds. The question was shifting from "Should we do something about climate change?" to "How are we going to do it?"

Then came 2008 and the Great Recession. Priorities shifted again. Passing US legislation to curb climate change, already a tough sell, became a costly nonstarter.

In recent decades, when the Gallup poll asked Americans whether they would favor protecting the environment, even if it harmed economic growth, they said "yes." In 1991, 71 percent to 20 percent favored protecting the environment - even if it meant slowing economic growth.

That flipped in 2008, except for a brief period immediately following the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill last year. Today 54 percent to 36 percent favor economic growth, even if it harms the environment.

On Sept. 14 Gore launched his "24 Hours of Reality" Internet broadcast on climate change into the headwind of that changed public mood. The man who was once an international celebrity is more a gadfly now, an annoying reminder of a problem that many Americans have shoved to the back of their minds.

The 24-hour series of events and videos that took place around the globe drew a considerable audience: 8.6 million viewers, according to Gore's Climate Reality Project, which sponsored the event.

It wasn't enough to change the political equation. What to do about climate change will stay off the political menu for now, especially since the action is all on the Republican side as that party determines who'll face President Obama in 2012. …

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