Photo: Center for American ProgressTuesday, Al Gore launched a new campaign that will involve, among other things, a new name for his climate change group: the Alliance for Climate Protection will henceforth be known as the Climate Reality Project. I chatted with him about it Monday and got a rundown on the thinking behind it.
All of the group’s efforts will be devoted to spreading the truth about the climate crisis and the solutions to it, making use of the thousands of slideshow presenters that Gore has trained over the last few years. It sounds like the group’s political lobbying will more or less fall by the wayside.
The project will kick off on Sept. 14-15 with a “24 Hours of Reality” event, the first of several global events. There will be one hour of presentation and discussion airing at 8:00 p.m. in each time zone around the world, one time zone at a time. Each one will center on a new presentation from Gore, but will vary by region to focus on climate change’s local effects and the solutions that have taken hold locally. It will culminate in a presentation by Gore in NYC. The entire thing will be streamed live online.
Two things are interesting to me about Gore’s new effort. First, Alex Bogusky — the advertising wunderkind behind the anti-smoking Truth campaign — is going to be centrally involved in the new campaign. (He did work for the Alliance too, on its campaign against “clean coal,” but it sounds like he’s going to play a much larger role in this new effort.) Bogusky has quit the big ad agency he helped start (Crispin Porter + Bogusky) and has been seeking out more civic-minded work. He is, depending on who you ask, either one of the most brilliant, cutting-edge stars of the advertising world or a kind of a douche. Climate change is one of the most resolutely square subjects on the planet; thus far it has resisted all attempts to make it edgy or funny or hip. What will happen when Bogusky meets climate? Will he be able to do for it what he did for smoking? Or will he come out of this looking douchey, as so many others have after attempts to hipify climate?
Second, it seems that Gore is explicitly rejecting the now-trendy notion that it’s no longer cool to talk about climate. Lots of people say these days that we should be talking about an energy challenge, or energy as a national security issue, or energy as a jobs issue. Talking about climate, it is often alleged, is divisive, fruitless, dreary, and vaguely old-fashioned. Everybody knows that can never work.
Gore obviously disagrees! He acknowledges that climate is not the only message. “This is a symphony and not a solo,” he told me. He agrees that the national security and economic messages are crucial to the effort, but “if the centrality of climate is excised, then the overall message is weakened.” Without climate, he said, the other lines of persuasion can be defeated or perverted. After all, “the carbon polluters and the deniers and their ideological allies are going to attack green jobs; they’re going to shift the national security argument to the exploitation of coal, tar sands, and shale.” Without climate as an anchor, the economic and security arguments can’t gain the traction they need. In short, “it’s important to reiterate the centrality of this challenge.”
I know others will disagree and Gore’s new effort will come in for the same ankle-biting as everything else he does. But all the fancy new messages and strategies bouncing around these days haven’t gotten any traction either. As always, I find myself admiring Gore’s sheer doggedness. He’s going to explain this f*cking problem to you people as long as he has to for you to hear it. It hasn’t worked yet, but neither has anything else, and in the long run, my bet is always on persistence over cleverness.
What do y’all think?