RIDER ON THE STORM
Al Gore remains one of the world’s most divisive figures. Rosemary Neill meets the environmental evangelist as he prepares to release his second film
Al Gore is wearing a typical ex-politician’s ensemble: immaculately pressed suit, white shirt and tie in a sensible shade of blue. Look down, however, and you see it — the startling break with convention: Gore’s calflength Texan cowboy boots, with inlaid stitching and sculpted tops. Like Barnaby Joyce’s Akubra, they telegraph his non-urban roots.
The Australian’s photographer clocks those boots and asks the former US vice-president and Nobel Peace Prize winner if he will put his feet on a stool so she can snap him in a relaxed pose. Before he can answer, two minders erupt with a sharp “No!’’ It’s OK, it seems, for the world’s best-known climate evangelist to seem approachable and relaxed — but not too relaxed.
Review caught up with Gore when he visited Australia last month to speak at the Ecocity World Summit and spruik his new documentary, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. Directed by Jon Shenk and Bonni Cohen, the film is a fly-on-the-wall account of Gore’s environmental campaigning and the follow-up to the Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth — which centred on Gore, played up the perils of global warming and proved a lightning rod for climate change activists and sceptics alike.
Gore says he reappears, centrestage, in An Inconvenient Sequel because “it was a good time to revisit where we are and communicate the very hopeful message that … we now have the solutions to the climate crisis, and they’re affordable. … The second thing that’s happened over the last decade is that climate-related weather events are far more numerous and far more destructive.’’ He says 14 of the hottest 15 years have been recorded since 2001, and that 2016 was the hottest year on record.
Released next week, An Inconvenient Sequel presents Gore as a messianic figure on his globe-straddling climate crusade. He walks on a glacier in Greenland as ice “explodes’’ from heat, and trades his boots for wellies as he sloshes through Miami streets inundated by high tides. He also visits the 2015 Paris climate conference and Georgetown, “the reddest city’’ in Texas, which has switched to 100 per cent renewable energy because it is cheaper there than coal-fired electricity.
Gore, who lives in Nashville, projects an aura of old-fashioned southern graciousness — he thanks me several times for talking to him, and later asks about my family background, guessing it is Irish. While it’s part of a seasoned politician’s schtick to show interest in the questioner, it’s still disarming coming from a man who almost won the 2000 US presidential election.
Reflecting the tenor of the new film, he is upbeat about renewables, arguing wind, solar and battery technology will be as significant as the Industrial Revolution. “Electricity from solar and wind in most places is now cheaper than
GORE WAS ACCUSED OF BEING HYSTERICAL AND EVEN COMPARED WITH HITLER’S PROPAGANDA CHIEF JOSEPH GOEBBELS