I have a confession to make: While watching the Oscars—and after initially snickering at Al Gore’s massive frame (at first I thought Gore’s head had been attached to Rosie O’Donnell’s body)—I was actually kind of moved by Gore’s plea for lower energy consumption. An odd feeling came over me (was it liberal guilt?) during Melissa Etheridge’s passionate rendition of “I Need to Wake Up,” and I began to kind of admire Al Gore. I thought, “Even if I disagree with him on the issues, I can really respect him—or anyone for that matter—for standing up for what he believes.”
For a mean-spirited, anti-environmental conservative like me, it’s pretty embarrassing that I succumbed so easily to liberal rhetoric. Several days later, however, I was brought back to reality, and I learned the same lesson I’ve learned time and again: don’t trust that liberal rhetoric. (For those of you who are liberals, that was a joke.)
At the end of Gore’s movie (and also while Etheridge was singing at the Oscars), the screen was filled with “tips.” It starts off by asking, “Are you ready to change the way you live?” and continues to say “You can even reduce your carbon emissions to zero.” My favorite “tip” is “Tell your friends to see this movie,” which barely beats out “Vote for leaders who pledge to solve the climate crisis.” (Who would that be?)
Apart from Gore’s nauseatingly unabashed self-promotion, he also urges people to walk, ride bikes, and use mass transit. I would like to add “Use commercial airlines rather than private jets” to this list. Gore might want to jump on that bandwagon because I think the rest of us proletarians are ahead of him on this. I’m sure it would be inconvenient for Gore to fly commercially; he would surely be recognized, and perhaps he’d have to buy an extra ticket for his bodyguard. But then again, Al, are you ready to change the way you live?
On top of this, a Tennessee group found that Gore consumed more electricity in one month than the average American consumes in one year. Gore defenders point out that, as Time reports, “to balance out other carbon emissions, the Gores invest money in projects to reduce energy consumption.” Gore further claims that this means he lives a “carbon-neutral lifestyle.” Regardless of one’s feelings about carbon offsets—and many have criticized them as ineffective—Gore can certainly reduce his carbon emissions further to lead a “carbon negative lifestyle.” Put simply, he can always strive to do better.
Liberals are right to point out that the debate about global warming is not about Al Gore. Even if he’s a hypocrite, that doesn’t mean he’s wrong. On the other hand, Al Gore is, for better or worse, the public face of the movement to stop global warming. More than conservatives, liberals should be critical of Gore, because his hypocrisy is hurting their (his) cause. This hypocrisy may lead many Americans to dismiss him, and other environmentalists, as liberal elites who want the bourgeoie to change their lifestyle while they sit idly by. If liberals are right, however, this indifference could lead to catastrophe.
In the end, the most important thing when it comes to global warming is to be realistic. Hyperbole and alarmist rhetoric will not help, but neither will simply dismissing fears of global warming. Liberal columnist Ellen Goodman says, “Let’s just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers, though one denies the past and the other denies the present and future,” but this is a horrible mistake. Even if most scientists are on Gore’s side of the issue, that, in and of itself, does not mean that he is right. History is filled with examples where the minority is proven right over the vast majority. We must continue to have a substantive debate about global warming inside and outside the scientific
In the meantime, Al Gore should start leading by example; he should follow his own advice. Not just for the sake of appeasing conservatives like me, but for the sake of advancing an issue that he believes in.
Oh, and also, if you want to help solve the climate crisis, tell your friends to read this column.