Gore Blasts Obama for Caving in to Carbon Lobby
Gore Criticizes Obama for Record on Climate
The New York Times, June 24, 2011
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Al Gore sharply criticized President Obama as lacking leadership on climate change in a magazine essay published online Wednesday, saying his policies had been little more effective than those of President George W. Bush.
In the 7,000-word article in Rolling Stone, Mr. Gore said that Mr. Obama clearly understood the threat to the planet posed by global warming and that he had appointed a number of committed environmental advocates to key positions.
But Mr. Gore said that in the face of well-financed attacks from fossil fuel industries and denial and delay from Republicans in Congress, Mr. Obama had failed to act decisively to alter the nation’s policies on climate change and energy.
Addressing climate change on national and international levels will require forceful American leadership, Mr. Gore said.
“Yet President Obama has never presented to the American people the magnitude of the climate crisis,” he wrote. “He has simply not made the case for action. He has not defended the science against the ongoing, withering and dishonest attacks. Nor has he provided a presidential venue for the scientific community — including our own National Academy — to bring the reality of the science before the public.”
A White House spokesman defended Mr. Obama’s record in a written statement.
“The president has been clear since Day 1 that climate change poses a threat domestically and globally, and under his leadership we have taken the most aggressive steps in our country’s history to tackle this challenge,” said Clark Stevens, a White House press officer.
Under Mr. Obama, Mr. Stevens said, the United States has spent billions of dollars on clean-energy technology, imposed tough new emissions standards for cars and trucks and taken the lead in international talks on climate change.
Mr. Gore’s extended outburst of frustration signals a public turning point for him, and perhaps for other environmental advocates who have been quietly seething for months over what they view as the administration’s timidity.
Mr. Gore, who shared a Nobel Peace Prize for his climate advocacy, praised some of the president’s actions, including the new vehicle standards and the investments in green technology. But in recent months he has told friends that the president has been too passive on climate change and has not been sufficiently supportive of Lisa P. Jackson, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, who has tried to advance greenhouse gas regulation against stiff Congressional opposition.
Much of Mr. Gore’s essay is devoted to criticism of the news media as failing to report accurately on the scientific consensus that climate change is real and that it is most likely caused by human activities. He said the media had been cowed by an aggressive lobbying and public relations campaign financed by the oil, gas and coal industries, or had presented ideological entertainment in the guise of news reporting.
Mr. Obama has tried to move the country away from fossil fuels, and has made the connection between oil imports and national security, Mr. Gore wrote.
“But in spite of these and other achievements, President Obama has thus far failed to use the bully pulpit to make the case for bold action on climate change,” he said. “After successfully passing his green stimulus package, he did nothing to defend it when Congress decimated its funding. After the House passed cap and trade, he did little to make passage in the Senate a priority.”
Paul Bledsoe, a former energy aide in the Clinton White House and now senior adviser at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said: “I entirely disagree with Gore here. Obama has consistently made a compelling case for climate action based on the science and has fought in Congress and internationally for robust policies to cut emissions and promote clean energy. The administration’s failing on climate has in fact been political.”
Mr. Gore also turned to public officials of both parties. “Many politicians, unfortunately, also fall into the same two categories: those who cheerlead for the deniers and those who cower before them,” he wrote. “The latter group now includes several candidates for the Republican presidential nomination who have felt it necessary to abandon their previous support for action on the climate crisis; at least one has been apologizing profusely to the deniers and begging for their forgiveness.”
Mr. Gore does not name them, but Mitt Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts; Jon M. Huntsman Jr., a former governor of Utah and ambassador to China; and Tim Pawlenty, a former governor of Minnesota, have backtracked on their support for state and federal action to address global warming.
Near the end of the article, Mr. Gore acknowledged that he might be hobbling a president trying to do the right thing in a difficult environment.
“All of his supporters understand that it would be self-defeating to weaken Obama and heighten the risk of another step backward,” he wrote. But he said he felt compelled to speak out because the stakes were incalculable.
“The climate crisis, in reality, is a struggle for the soul of America,” Mr. Gore concluded, using the voice of prophet and teacher that he has assumed on this topic for more than 20 years. “It is about whether or not we are still capable — given the ill health of our democracy and the current dominance of wealth over reason — of perceiving important and complex realities clearly enough to promote and protect the sustainable well-being of the many. What hangs in the balance is the future of civilization as we know it.”