This weekend when theaters nationwide begin showing “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,” former Vice President Al Gore’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning documentary on climate change, Miami appears as a key supporting cast member.
Gore last visited South Florida in 2015 as part of a training session for his Climate Reality Project that encourages grassroots activism by presenting the slide show that also helped win him a Nobel Peace Prize. The session happened to coincide with a king tide, giving Gore, and a pair of documentary filmmakers trailing him, the perfect opportunity to showcase the perils of rising seas on Miami Beach’s submerged roads.
After breathtaking views of the arctic’s melting polar ice caps, the documentary pivots to soggy South Florida, where Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine takes Gore to see four new massive pumps, part of a half-billion dollar fix to keep the city dry.
“Kind of hard to pump the ocean,” Gore says as dirty storm water sloshes over the tops of his rain boots.
When he returned to South Florida this week to promote the new movie, Gore sat down with the Miami Herald to answer questions about the Sunshine State, the future of climate policy in a Trump presidency, criticism over his polarizing presence and how it felt to be cast as Rocky, circa Rocky II, who director Jon Shenk said was “battered and beaten and you can’t help but root for him to make a comeback.”
What follows are edited excerpts from this week’s interview:
“The Sunshine State should be taking way more advantage of the solar power that’s usable here to get much lower electric bills. Solar jobs in the U.S. are growing 17 times faster than other jobs. A lot of those jobs ought to be created here in South Florida but of course the fossil fuel-burning utilities kind of control the Legislature and certainly the governor. So it’s hard to make progress.”
On President Donald Trump and their talks at Trump Tower and the White House before Trump pulled out of the Paris climate deal:
“A plurality of people who voted for Trump wanted us to stay in the Paris Agreement and a big majority of Republican voters wanted us to stay in, not to mention two-thirds of the people generally in the U.S. So his approach of just attending to his hard-core base is I think the reason he did that. But with these carbon polluters whispering in his ear, and orchestrating people calling him and saying ‘get out, get out,’ I think that’s what happened. ...”
“I haven’t talked to him since his decision. As I mentioned, I had good reason to believe he would stay in, so I was surprised when he made the announcement. I now believe, absent some circumstances that are unforeseeable right now, there’s very little chance of him changing his mind. Maybe somebody else could make more headway with him than I did, but I doubt that, too.”
On criticism that Gore, and the movie, will act as a polarizing force:
“My role in the first movie actually increased bipartisanship a lot. What changed was when Barack Obama was elected, it was in the midst of the financial crisis. People got worried, understandably, about the economy. But that’s the moment when the Koch brothers financed the Tea Party and started driving a wedge to create this partisanship deliberately. And any Republicans who break ranks, they would threaten them, to run a primary opponent and give lots of money to a far right primary candidate to scare them back in line. And so that’s what really caused the partisanship.”
On being Rocky:
“I haven’t heard that. … All I know is the 10-year anniversary seemed like a good time to check in and ask the audience for permission to tell them what’s new. And there’s a lot new. The two main things being that climate-related extreme weather events are way more numerous and worse and, number two, the solutions are here. But the content of the movie was determined by the directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk and that’s a good thing too, because in my mind I’m younger and have darker hair and a lot of those scenes would have never made it into the movie.”
On why he frames climate policy as a moral choice:
“The entire future of human civilization is at risk and the longer we wait to take meaningful action the higher those risks are. And what moral right do we have to subject all future generations to the growing danger of chaos and disruption and a diminished future? But even before you get to that point, just look at the effect it’s having on us now. And everywhere in the world the harshest impact is on poor people.
When I was growing up I had a teacher, who was actually the headmaster of the school, who said we all face the same choice over and over again in life between the hard right and the easy wrong. I found that to be true. And that’s what this is for us.”