TODAY   |  January 29, 2013

Al Gore: Political partisanship ‘at an all-time high’

The former vice president talks about the challenges of tackling climate change amid the “antagonism” in the political world today, saying “there’s been a lavishly funded, well-organized effort” to convince people of falsehoods about climate change.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> 8:18 now from the digital revolution to the crisis of global warming , former vice president al gore has never shied away from the tough issues. he is sharing his new book "the

future: six drivers of global change ." welcome.

>> good to be here.

>> "new york times" says this is unfiltered gore in all his wonky glory and say, quote, in the classroom of life he will always be the kid whose hand is up.

>> oh, dear.

>> fair?

>> oh, dear. oh, i hope not. but i've always been fascinated by the task of trying to look over the horizon and see what's coming at us. and i have indulged that passion extensively in this book.

>> you write a lot about climate change and global warming and the way we view our planet. it is an issue that has shaped your life. i want to talk to you about some polling. if you talk to americans, about four in five people in this country believe that climate change is happening, global warming is real and it's going to present a problem. but there's a group inside that large group , and it's not an insignificant group, and they don't believe that climate change is manmade or exacerbated by humans. does that surprise you?

>> well, in a way, no, because there's been a lavishly funded, well-organized effort to convince -- to try to convince people of falsehoods. and it's the same thing --

>> by the way, the people in that group would say the same of the other group.

>> yes, i understand. but it's -- what's different is this is a corporate-funded exercise. large carbon polluters have business plans that depend upon them being able to use the earth's atmospheres, an open sewer. science linking cigarette smoking to lung cancer is not believable, same people.

>> the challenge of global warming unfortunately has led to an almost tribal division between those who accept the overwhelming scientific consensus and the evidence of their own senses, and those who are bound and determined to reject it. the ferocity of their opposition is treated as kind of a badge, signifying their membership in the second group and antagonism toward the first. given that dynamic, what are the hopes for real change ?

>> well, that's sort of a basic trait in human nature , that all of us are vulnerable to. in times past when we have made leaps forward, to solve problems and create a brighter future, we've found ways to overcome that natural tendency to group up and fight one another. partisanship and antagonism in our politics today is near an all-time high. and it does need to be mitigated. i think we need to get corporate money out of politics. i think we need to diminish the role of special interests , and i think that would help.

>> after years of calling people's attention to this issue -- now we've seen superstorm sandy and tornadoes and drought and extreme temperatures, do you feel vindicated?

>> well, i wish that i had been wrong. and i wish that the scientists whose message i was carrying had been wrong. it's not about me. it's about us and what we do to safeguard our future. and, by the way, as i point out in this book, climate change is one huge problem, but we have other challenges. the advanced automation that's coming with artificial intelligence and robotics is really who wihollowing out the middle class . crossing the boundaries between species and forcing us to realize we're in charge of evolution now. i won't list all of the others but we have the obligation to the future to make intelligent choices in the present that will give our kids a bright future the way previous generations did for us.

>> since i have you here -- and i haven't had a chance to talk to you since a lot of changes occurred in your own life. it was 2010 when you and mrs. gore, tipper, decided to separate. that created controversy, i don't know if you were aware of it, or allowed yourself to listen in, but talking about relationships that end after years and years. were you surprised by the attention you received?

>> well, it's a very personal, private thing. but we made a mutual agreement after 40 years of marriage. we're doing great, by the way.

>> how is the relationship -- how would you describe the relationship today?

>> warm. we had the children and grandchildren for christmas. and we have regular family gatherings. life is good.

>> when you heard so many people say they were such a great team, the word team was always used in describing the two of you. was it hard to listen to other people weigh in on your personal life ?

>> well, i didn't listen to too much of that. but we have a good relationship, and our family is strong and that's what matters.

>> let me end on a matter of politics. you were the last sitting vice president to go on and run for president. you lost an election they'll write about for decades. joe biden seems to be kicking the tires for a run in 2016 . is he the guy, in your opinion, that can lead the democratic party forward and the nation forward?

>> i'm going to resist getting drawn into this.

>> come on, try.

>> i love joe and there are others who, no doubt, will run. i do genuinely believe that just a week after we inaugurated president obama , it's premature to get into the horse race .

>> have you watched television news? come on. this is what we do.

>> i know, but that's also part of something we need to challenge. we went through 2012 with 60% of the country in drought, superstorm sandy, $110 billion of climate disasters and not one journalist anywhere in the u.s. asked any question during the debates about the biggest issue we're facing, the climate crisis . now the horse race stories are easy to write. and it's just a template that we get into. it's totally understandable. but we need to really dig in, in our democracy, the way we used to and grapple with the problems that face us.

>> let's end on that note. former vice president al gore , nice to have you. come back more often.

>> i would love to.

>> we appreciate it very much.

>>> we're coming up with tommy mott mottola after your local