If you read Juliet Eilperin’s great rundown in the Washington Post, you know that today marks the launch of a massive PR effort from Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection.

Gore has concluded that U.S. politicians will continue to be timid on climate change until the public demands otherwise. “The simple algorithm is this: It’s important to change the light bulbs, but it’s much more important to change the laws,” he said. “The options available to civilization worldwide to avert this terribly destructive pattern are beginning to slip away from us. The path for recovery runs right through Washington, D.C.”

To that end, the Alliance is launching the “we” campaign, a $300 million, 3-year campaign to shift public opinion and create a sense of urgency commensurate with the problem, along with a sense of “solvability” — that is, a sense that we can beat it. The campaign’s goals are audacious: mobilizing 10 million volunteers through TV ads, print ads, and social networks.

Gore has famously put his money where his mouth is, putting all profits from An Inconvenient Truth, his salary from Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, and the cash from all the awards he’s won toward the ACP campaign. Private donors will pony up the rest.

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Cathy Zoi, CEO of the ACP (and leader of a similar effort which led to the political flip in Australia recently), spoke with a small group of bloggers today about the details and thinking behind the campaign.

Their research has found that there’s only about 18% of people in the U.S. who are opposed to climate change action on ideological grounds (Romm’s “deniers and delayers”). That leaves over 80% reachable. Around 9-10% are activists, people who get it and are engaged. Around 35% are taking some small actions, though their understanding is shaky. The rest are what Zoi called “fearful and confused” — they don’t really get what global warming is, what causes it, or how to address it, but they’re acutely aware that it’s a huge problem and it stresses them out.

The ACP will keep measuring the public on this. Their ambitious target is to move the needle — they want 70% of the public to get the “urgency and solvability” of the problem and make it a top-three voting issue.

The campaign will involve three key pieces:

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The first, which rolled out today, is the invitation. Here’s the ad, called “anthem,” narrated by William H. Macy:

The second phase is about eliminating partisanship from the climate question. The ads will feature “unlikely alliances” like Pat Robertson with Al Sharpton and Nancy Pelosi with Newt Gingrich.

The third piece is online mobilization — 20-25% of the ACP’s money will go to interactive online advertising and social networking. There will also be individual alliances with community-based groups: unions, the Girl Scouts, faith communities, etc. The website will be geared to offer different messages and routes to involvement for different groups.

I had three questions for Zoi.

First, would the ACP be recommending particular policies or legislation? She said the initial focus is simply on bringing people up to speed, but eventually there would be more of a policy push. (She mentioned that in Australia, the public’s understanding increased faster than they expected and they were able to turn to policy and politics in time to affect the election, but she didn’t know if the same would hold true in the U.S.) In particular she mentioned a moratorium on new coal plants without CCS, a large boost in funding for renewables, and, of course, a mandatory cap on carbon.

Secondly, I asked if the framing would remain Problem-Solution, or whether the messaging would shift to focus on the enormous economic opportunity that may be passing us by. She said Yes (enthusiastically) and noted that the campaign would move in that direction in the third phase, after the partisanship component. She said the economic angle could be an even bigger asset given the current economic troubles in the U.S.

Third, I asked when, if ever, they were going to ask someone from the business community or the Republican party to publicly shame the coal industry for it’s well-funded efforts to slow action on climate change. She said people don’t really understand the whole coal and “clean” coal component yet. But, I said, people understand corporate efforts to thwart environmental progress, right?

At this point both she and Gore aide Kalee Kreider, also on the call, were audibly squirming. Obviously there was something they wanted to tell me about, but couldn’t yet. They said there was “something in the works,” but they had to wait until it was farther along to announce it. They said the ACP would not only be running its own ads but would be “supporting efforts from other players.” The “hint, hint” was implied. Guess we’ll have to wait a bit to find out what this is, but it sounds promising.

Anyway, this will be fascinating to watch and I’ll be updating you folks regularly. Stay tuned.

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