Gore turns back on politics and stars in new role as environmental hero

There is usually nowhere for a beaten US presidential candidate to go but since his demoralizing defeat to George W. Bush in 2000, Al Gore has reinvented himself as an ecological statesman with the hope of rescuing the world from the onset of global warming. The latest leg of Gore’s world tour to promote the documentary based on his book about the deterioration of the environment «An Inconvenient Truth» brought the ex-vice president to Athens yesterday. These days Gore has swapped the politicking of Washington for the international stage, where his documentary has been equally successful as in his homeland. Despite the rave reviews and the Oscars, Gore remains absolutely clear that being president of the USA is still the best way to influence international events. «There is not a position that even approaches that of president in its ability to affect the course of events, so I have deep respect for those who choose to remain in the political process,» he recently told British newspaper The Guardian. This is a political process that left Gore broken after his controversial defeat to Bush amid recriminations over how he let victory slip through his fingers. It also left the Democrats as a party uneasy with itself. Gore withdrew, regrouped and came out fighting. In some ways he chose an easier arena in which to perform since consensus is gradually starting to build around the view that global warming needs to be tackled immediately. In many ways, however, Gore chose an awkward field on which to fight his battle, as he has to take on intransigent governments, selfish industries and uninterested members of the public. But Gore’s persistence means that he is now galloping along what was until recently a quagmire of polluting businesses and hired interest groups that challenged the belief that humans are headed toward self-destruction. «I’ve learned a few things over the last six or seven years that I didn’t necessarily expect to learn but I’m glad I did,» Gore told The Associated Press this month. Captive audience «An Inconvenient Truth» has helped to establish as fact the evidence which shows that global warming is a real threat to the world. The Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans and last year’s searing temperatures in the USA have helped to provide Gore with a particularly receptive audience in his homeland. Some scientists have challenged the details of Gore’s argument but few have been able to convincingly argue against the overall premise that the planet is in desperate need of repair and that the healing process needs to begin right away. There are few «global-warming deniers,» as Gore calls them, left who are willingly to publicly fight their corner. This year, the UN’s top scientific panel warned that climate change had already begun and would have a potentially catastrophic impact on poor countries. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confounded skeptics by saying that the cost of tackling greenhouse gas emissions would not adversely affect the global economy and that the technology for achieving it was already available. The European Union vowed last month to cut its carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2020 based on 1990 levels. Long battle In 2004, climate change did not feature on the agenda of the G8 meeting in the USA. But it dominated last week’s G8 talks in Germany. However, the fact that agreement on an ambitious plan to halve emissions by 2050 was not reached, largely because of the refusal of Gore’s old adversary George W. Bush to concede ground, shows how far environmental campaigners still have to go. «Nothing happened,» Gore admitted. «They’re still on dead center and it’s mainly because of Bush blocking it.» Although Gore is not alone in criticizing the US president on his climate policies, or lack of them, his position is somewhat undermined by the fact that the USA failed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol when Al Gore was vice president under Bill Clinton from 1993 to 2001. Gore has become increasingly vociferous in his opposition to the US president and has taken time out of his climate change campaign to write a book called «The Assault on Reason.» It is an all-out attack on Bush and his administration, focusing on the war in Iraq. «Reason, logic and truth seem to play a sharply diminished role in the way America now makes important decisions,» Gore writes. The book has fueled speculation that Gore intends to stand as a candidate in the next presidential elections. Activists have for several months been running a campaign to «draft Gore» into the contest. However, Gore does not appear interested in returning to the political arena. It seems that reinventing himself again as a Washington bruiser is not something that appeals. «I’ve fallen out of love with politics,» he told The Guardian. «I miss some things but there is a lot I don’t miss at all.» During his speech in Athens yesterday, Gore likened the choice we are faced with today to the 300 Spartans going into battle at Thermopylae, up against a formidable enemy but willing to fight to the death for their cause. «This is our generation’s Thermopylae,» he said. «This is our time to act.» His campaign to stop climate change is certainly a tall order but Gore is displaying the charisma and leadership skills that critics said were absent from his presidential campaign in 2000. But as his struggle continues, Gore may find that he needs to reinvent himself again, this time as the ancient warrior king Leonidas and use similar reserves of strength to win his battle. [email protected]

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