With his 2006 documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, former U.S. vice president Al Gore drew public attention to the threat of climate change. This July, An Inconvenient Sequel opens in theatres. Gore, 69, says the stakes are higher now but the solutions are clearer.
What do you think the public misunderstands about climate change?
I think the overwhelming majority of the public understands very well that climate change is an extremely important challenge, that human beings are responsible for it, and that we need to act quickly and decisively to solve it. The most persuasive arguments have come from Mother Nature. Climate-related extreme weather events are now so numerous and severe that it’s hard to dismiss what’s happening. But even those who don’t want to use the words “global warming” or “climate crisis” are finding other ways to say, “Yes, we’ve got to move on solar, wind, batteries, electric cars, and so on.” We have so much at risk.
Why have such sharp political divisions emerged over climate change?
There’s an old saying in Tennessee: If you see a turtle on the top of a fence post, you can be pretty sure it didn’t get there on its own. A determined minority—with active financial support from a few large carbon polluters—has held up progress for quite a while. They have used lobbying power and the threat of financing primary opponents, using the same techniques we saw in the past with Big Tobacco to falsely create doubt. All of us are vulnerable to what psychologists call denial: If something is uncomfortable, it’s easier to push it away, to not engage. But the solution is to listen and approach people on the basis of where they are.
What gives you hope for the future?
There are so many people working around the world on this that I am extremely optimistic. It would certainly be helpful to have policies and laws that speed up our response. But market forces are working in our favour. Solar, wind, and other technologies are getting cheaper and better. More cities and companies are pledging to go 100 percent renewable. I believe the sustainability revolution is unstoppable.
Header Image: PHOTOGRAPH BY CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON, MAGNUM PHOTOS