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Gore Launches Ambitious Advocacy Campaign on Climate

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By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 31, 2008

Former vice president Al Gore will launch a three-year, $300 million campaign Wednesday aimed at mobilizing Americans to push for aggressive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, a move that ranks as one of the most ambitious and costly public advocacy campaigns in U.S. history.

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The Alliance for Climate Protection's "we" campaign will employ online organizing and television advertisements on shows ranging from "American Idol" to "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." It highlights the extent to which Americans' growing awareness of global warming has yet to translate into national policy changes, Gore said in an hour-long phone interview last week. He said the campaign, which Gore is helping to fund, was undertaken in large part because of his fear that U.S. lawmakers are unwilling to curb the human-generated emissions linked to climate change.

"This climate crisis is so interwoven with habits and patterns that are so entrenched, the elected officials in both parties are going to be timid about enacting the bold changes that are needed until there is a change in the public's sense of urgency in addressing this crisis," Gore said. "I've tried everything else I know to try. The way to solve this crisis is to change the way the public thinks about it."

Private contributors have already donated or committed half the money needed to fund the entire campaign, he said. While Gore declined to quantify his contribution to the effort, he has devoted all his proceeds from the Oscar-winning documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," the best-selling companion book, his salary from the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers and several international prizes, such as the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, which add up to more than a $2.7 million. Paramount Classics, the documentary's distributor, has pledged 5 percent of the film's profits to the group, and some of the money raised through the 2007 Live Earth concerts will help the campaign, along with Gore's proceeds from an upcoming book on climate change.

While "An Inconvenient Truth" urged viewers to fully inflate their car tires and to install compact fluorescent light bulbs to combat global warming, Gore said he is now focused on ensuring that the United States enacts a national carbon emission cap and ratifies a new global pact on climate change in the next three years.

"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."

The new effort comes at a time when the three remaining major party presidential candidates -- Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) -- have all endorsed federal limits on greenhouse gases, virtually ensuring that the next occupant of the White House will offer a sharp break from President Bush's climate policy.

All three have discussed global warming with Gore in phone calls over the course of the past few months. While McCain backs a more modest plan than that favored by the Democrats -- he supports a 60 percent reduction in greenhouse gases from 1990 levels by 2050, compared with Obama and Clinton's vow of an 80 percent cut during that period -- the presumptive Republican nominee emphasized during a recent stop in Chula Vista, Calif., that he had pushed for a federal cap-and-trade system before either of his opponents came to the Senate.

"Neither have proposed legislation or played any public role during their time in the Senate," McCain said, sidestepping the fact that Clinton and Obama both back climate legislation, up for a Senate vote in June, that he has yet to endorse.

Gore, who backs a 90 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by mid-century, said that while he's "encouraged" that the remaining candidates back mandatory limits on greenhouse gases, they still need to be pushed: "What happens after the election will depend on whether or not we win enough hearts and minds in the country as a whole."

And former Rep. Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-N.Y.), a board member of the two-year-old alliance, said the candidates' commitment to a cap-and-trade system does not negate the fact that the majority of Americans fail to see climate change as a compelling political issue.

"Most Republicans, along with most Democrats, are focused almost exclusively on Iraq, the war against terrorism and the economy," Boehlert said. "That leaves little room for anything else."


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