Former Vice President Al Gore, now one of the world’s leading climate activists, endorsed Joe Biden’s White House bid this week, declaring that choosing the presumptive Democratic nominee over President Donald Trump is “not rocket science” and “not a close call.”
“This is the clearest most definitive choice in a national election that the United States of American has ever faced, especially for people who care about the climate,” Gore told The Associated Press.
Gore, 72, didn’t rehash his 2000 presidential election loss to President George W. Bush, by a razor-thin margin tilted partly by third-party progressive Ralph Nader. But Gore alluded to the similar threat Biden faces from some young activists and progressives — including among climate activists — who are lukewarm about his candidacy.
“If there is any person in America who cares about the climate crisis and has any doubt whatsoever about the importance of voting for Joe Biden this November, I want to emphasize to that person in as strong a way as I possibly can: This is not complicated,” Gore said. “This is not rocket science. This is not a close call.”
He said it was imperative to defeat Trump, “the anti-climate president and the face of climate denial worldwide.”
Gore’s endorsement came on the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day. The two men, who served together in the Senate before their respective vice presidencies, appeared together later Wednesday on a split-screen online live stream from their respective homes, Biden in Wilmington, Delaware, and Gore in Nashville, Tennessee. “Beating Trump won’t end climate change, but it’s a critical first step,” Biden said, arguing that Trump isn’t just refusing to act but is “eviscerating” existing regulations that mitigate the crisis. Gore told AP that Biden has asked him to “engage in an ongoing dialogue” to “strengthen his climate platform considerably.” He declined to get into the specifics of his policy discussions with Biden or his campaign aides, but he said Biden already has the right focus and has expressed a willingness to make climate action his “top priority.”
Biden last summer unveiled a $5 trillion, decade-long plan to combat the climate crisis; $1.7 trillion of that total would come from the government, the rest from the private sector. Biden’s plan falls short of the Green New Deal advanced by some Democrats, especially in the timeline he envisions for eliminating carbon pollution from the economy.
Biden calls for tax breaks, direct spending and more aggressive federal regulations. He’d start with reversing many actions of the Trump administration, which has rolled back a range of Obama administration efforts on energy and the environment. Biden would add an aggressive push on the world stage, using U.S. political and economic muscle to limit emissions from other nations, including China.
Gore supports the efforts of Democrats pushing the Green New Deal on Capitol Hill. But he also calls it an “aspirational” plan that likely wouldn’t clear Congress in one sweeping act. Much more likely, he argues, is a series of actions that flow from an administration prioritizing the overall issue.
Gore was adamant Wednesday that the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting flurry of emergency spending measures shouldn’t derail climate as the top national priority. Rather, he said, the economic fallout highlights the need.
“We need to speed things up by putting tens of millions of people to work in every community in this country” doing everything from installing solar panels and retrofitting buildings to overhauling agriculture practices, Gore told AP. “It will be the biggest boost to sustainable economic growth that we’ve ever had.” In their online event, Gore and Biden compared the dynamics of the climate debate to earlier movements, such as those that lead to the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage and, most recently, marriage rights for same-sex couples.
“You look at all of those social revolutions, and they all have one thing in common: They seemed impossible,” Gore said. “But they kept on going and they crossed a threshold where, finally, the majority of people said, oh, ok, I get it. This is about justice. This is about fairness. This is about a bright future.”
As for his own future, Gore made clear in the AP interview that his days in government remain finished.
“I’m not looking for any job,” he quipped. “I gave at the office.”
Gore’s public profile, both during his long political career and since, has been defined by his advocacy on environmental issues and the climate crisis.
As a young congressman in the early 1980s, he stood out for holding hearings on global warming before it was a routine part of public discourse. As vice president, Gore helped craft the Kyoto Treaty — a forerunner of the Paris Agreement of 2016 that Biden was involved in crafting — but watched the U.S. Senate refuse ratification, just as Trump has scoffed at the Paris deal.
Since leaving the vice presidency in 2001, Gore has won the Nobel Peace Prize for his activism and an Oscar for his documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.”