In a 7,000-word essay featured in Rolling Stone’s July edition, former presidential candidate and famed environmentalist Al Gore censured the American government and news media for failing to combat big business and right-wing lobbyists who blur the facts about global warming.
The essay, aptly dubbed “Climate of Denial,” likens the debate surrounding climate change to a scripted wrestling match, with the media acting as referee. Gore paints the dispute as a “tag-team match, a real free-for-all,” pinning “Science and Reason” against “Poisonous Polluters and Right-wing Ideologues.”
But he argues that the match is not even, with media scrutiny aimed at scientists who support global warming, rather than negate it, for fear of losing conservative viewers. He specifically calls out Fox News, a popular right-wing news station, for distorting facts and “cheerleading” the creation of doubt about climate change.
“A Fox News executive, in an internal e-mail to the network’s reporters and editors that later became public,” wrote Gore, “questioned the ‘veracity of climate change data’ and ordered the journalists to ‘refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question.’”
Gore went on to blame the consumerism involved with news and politics for protecting the interests of the wealthy, rather than the public. Needing supporters to create a financial backbone, news networks and political candidates alike rely on big business for contributions. Smaller groups representing the average American often get pushed aside.
“Almost every group organized to promote and protect the ‘public interest’ has been backpedaling and on the defensive,” he said. “By sharp contrast, when a coalition of powerful special interests sets out to manipulate U.S. policy, their impact can be startling — and the damage to the true national interest can be devastating.”
Yet while the majority of Gore’s essay focuses on the news media, he also takes on politicians, particularly President Barack Obama, who kowtow to pressure from big business lobbyists.
Though he lauds Obama for appointing strong environmental advocates to crucial federal offices and for publicly connecting environmental security to national security, Gore criticizes the president for failing to lead the nation against climate change.
“President Obama has never presented to the American people the magnitude of the climate crisis,” said Gore. “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.”
However, the Obama camp has not been silent facing these accusations. In response to the criticism, White House press officer Clark Stevens defended Obama’s record and tactics 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 Stevens.
Despite the sharp disapproval Gore aims at media and government, he ends on a positive note, telling concerned readers how to combat climate change. He advises citizens to advocate the truth about climate change, to make informed consumer choices, to join environmentalist organizations, and to pressure local news channels, papers, and politicians to resist special interests’ intimidation.
And finally, he counsels, “don’t give up on the political system. Even though it is rigged by special interests, it is not so far gone that candidates and elected officials don’t have to pay attention to persistent, engaged and committed individuals. President Franklin Roosevelt once told civil rights leaders who were pressing him for change that he agreed with them about the need for greater equality for black Americans. Then, as the story goes, he added with a wry smile, ‘Now go out and make me do it.’”
Photo Credit: wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/File:Al_Gore_at_SapphireNow_2010.jpg