Video: Gore: Modern GOP leadership denies global warming issues

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    >> maddow joins us. i sat down with former vice president al gore to talk about climate change . his new book, "our choice," and sarah palin . today in an op-ed in "the washington post " palin is escalating his attack on the copenhagen sum i. palin calls it junk science and writes the agenda driven policies being pushed in copenhagen won't change the weather.

    >> global warming den ires persist in this era of real. the entire north polar ice cap , which has been there for most of the last 3 million years, is disappearing before our eyes. 40% is already gone. the rest is expected to go completely within the next decade. what do they think is causing this? the mountain glaciers in every region of the world are melting. many of them at an accelerated rate, threatening drinking supplies. and drinking water supplies. and agricultural water supplies . we have these record storms, droughts, floods, fires, and tree deaths in the american west . climate refugees beginning now, expected to rise to the hundreds of millions unless we take action. these effects are taking place all over the world. exactly as predicted by the styneses who have warned for years that if we continue putting 90 million tons of global warming pollution into the atmosphere, every day, the accumulation is going to trap lots more heat, raise temperatures, and cause all of these consequences that are already beginning.

    >> one of the things that she has written recently on facebook is that this is doomsday scare tactics, pushed by an environmental priesthood that makes the public feel like own an suv is a sin against the planet.

    >> well, the scientific community has worked very intensively for 20 years within this international process and they now say the evidence is unequivocal. 150 years ago this year was the discovery that co2 traps heat. that is a principle in physics. it is not a question of debate. it is like gravity. it exists.

    >> if it is so unequivocal, i have to ask you about the leaks of those e-mails. even today tom friedman talks about them massaging the evidence. why would they feel the need to hype the evidence if it is so unequivocal? some scientists, i should say.

    >> i don't think they did. i haven't read all of the e-mails that were stolen there from -- the most recent one is like ten years ago. and what they have done is they have snatch ad few phrases completely out of context. i will give you an example. one of the off-quoted phrases has to do with the scientists saying that a particular study isn't good science and shouldn't be included in the -- international report. well, that was their view. they exchanged it privately. the study was included, fully aired, discussed, the weak points were analyzed. what -- the other points were analyzed. so it is an example of how these private exchanges had been blown out of proportion, taken out of context. and misrepresented.

    >> at the same time, there is an economic impact. it is harder to persuade a lot of people, lot of americans, unemployed. facing the effects of this recession. that the up-front costs of doing something about global warm ring worth it. no doubt that there are, you know, overwhelming economic benefits down the road. but how do you persuade people in the middle of a recession that this should be their immediate priority.

    >> for one thing, when the world went into the recession, interest rates were already so low that the only economic policy tools that government has had to try to simulate the economy was to have stimulus spending. and the need to build new infrastructure to accommodate the shift away from imported owl on which we have a growing dangerous dependence pushed many countries, including the u.s. to devote a substantial part of that stimulus to a green stimulus. now we have the opportunity to create millions of good new jobs in making this transition. just the retrofitting of homes. with better windows and lighting and insulation to save money on their energy bills and put millions of people to work and in local communities in jobs that cannot be outsourced. building the smart grids, building the solar, wind, renewable energy systems, planting trees. these are all job creators that help to stimulate the economy and produce sustainable growth.

    >> even if the net job creators nationally, there are going to be areas in the rustbelt, mish let's say, where there is a net loss from the effects of doing something, making a commitment and spending billions of dollars to help poor countries adjust, commitments being expected of the president and of the united states government at cop enhagen.

    >> the jobs started a long time ago with the outsourcing to other countries for a variety of reasons. and including the cheaper labor costs . it is not -- not because of the response of global warming . the response to global warming can bring jobs back. i will give you an example. there's this company called cardinal fasteners in ohio that is very proud to have made the bolts for the golden gate bridge and the statue of liberty . they had hard times . now they are -- hiring people back, making bolts for windmills. and these wind farm insulations. the governor of michigan, governor grant hoholm is one of the most vigorous advocates of bringing jobs back into the rustbelt areas hard hit years ago. but now the hope for a renaissan renaissance, putting people to work and building new renewable energy insulation.

    >> as you know in our choice, there is a real partisan divide when it comes to people's attitudes. pew poll you cite say college democrats believe humans are responsible.

    >> it may be the tendency for people to follow their perceived political leaders and the leadership of the modern republican party has really gotten into global warming denier posture flunked some people. but it should not be a political issue. it really is a moral issue. it speaks to the responsibility of the present generation to take steps to safeguard those generations yet to come. because this has now reached the level where if we were not to act, the consequences already beginning at a low level are predicted to reach catastrophic levels unless we take steps to prevent it from happening.

    >> there's been, according to the pew research , a 20% job in the number of people in the last year. since 2008 , 71% believed that humans contributed to global warming and now it is only 51%. do you attribute to that to the economic hard times and people focusing inward?

    >> i think that result dove tails with the first one you cited because when you look inside that study, virtually 100% of those who changed their opinion were conservative republicans. and the -- this should be a bipartisan issue. it used to be. and the -- the extreme partisan partisanship we have seen in recent years, i think has affected the way our country has responded to this. now, beneath the surface, there have been a lot of republicans, a lot of people that used to be skeptics actually moving towards an acceptance of this science and a determination to do something about it. lindsey graham , for example, from south carolina , is one of those republicans in the senate who is now saying look, the evidence tells us we have really got to take action. a lot of -- in the faith based community. a lot of fundamentalist groups are now saying, you know, the earth is lord's and fullness thereof and we have an obligation to be good stewards of the planet. and -- so -- i see signs of optimism and hope, even though in an economic recession , naturally when you ask people to list their priorities, they are going to place a higher priority on the immediate economic situation.

    >> you met with president obama this week. and he is, of course, going to head to copenhagen . green peace and natural allies are very upset, really critical of what the administration is doing. saying that there should be a binding agreement now, not just these targets which are lower than the targets the clinton/gore administration proposed in 1997 . we seem to be moving backwards. what can you say of the administration about doing more from your perspective?

    >> well, within one month of taking office, president obama made a major investment in the green stimulus program. he has accomplished major improvements in auto efficiency. his epa has issued a binding regulation requiring the reduction of co2 even if legislation does not --

    >> this week.

    >> is not passed. yes, but that began early in the administration and took this amount of time for the administrative procedures act to be followed. another regulation requires public reporting of all co2 emissions by major emitters covering 85% of the co2 emissions in the u.s. he has succeeded in passing this legislation in one house of congress. and the sponsors say they now have the votes to pass it early next year in the senate. i hope that they are right. he cannot be expected in my opinion, to make commitments that go beyond what the congress is willing to approve. we -- we have seen that before. that doesn't work out very well. so yes, the reductions are lower than they should be. and the treaty that hopefully results next year will be weaker than it should be. but it is a crucial first step. and putting a price on carbon and beginning the process of adjusting to a low carbon economy can build on its own momentum. what we have often seen is that when we americans say look, we got to reduce pollution, business -- some businesses complain about it but almost every time it is turned -- it turned you on to be easier and cheaper and accomplished faster and they -- gain confidence and then we go farther.

    >> you are an old hand at washington politics. you know the house from your years there, the senate. was it a mistake to do health care first because now everything else is backed up behind health care . and who knows when the senate will get to this? how can you expect china and india to make commitments? you can't pressure them until the senate acts.

    >> the old cliche is hindsight is 20/20. had they known health care would take the entire year and possibly more, maybe there would have been some different calculations. but i have not criticized the president for trying to do several things right at the beginning of his administration. because i know that the mandate of the new president is much stronger and more powerful at the beginning of the administration. and he was elected having made a number of pledges and wanted to follow through on them. so i'm pleased he's consistently made the climate crisis one of his top three priorities and has continued to speak about it. i would always like to see more done on this issue. but i give the president credit for really changing the mood and bringing about a change in the u.s. position.

    >> you cite interesting psychological data. what is it about the way we think that makes it so difficult for people, for many people, obviously not everyone, to accept the facts as you see them?

    >> well, it is an unprecedented challenge. and because the impacts of global warming are distributed globally, the crisis masquerades as a distraction and because the length of time between causes and consequences is longer than we are used to dealing with, it gives us the illusion that we have the luxury of time. neither of those things is true. but when we respond to threats immediately and take action right away, it is usually to threats that we are hard-wired to respond to. the kinds of things that our ancestors survived. on this one, we have to use our reasoning capacity and set long-term goals based on our deepest values. the good news is that the experts, you know, neuroscience and psychology and all of that, reassure us we definitely have the capacity to do that. we did it with nato and we did it with the marshall plan and a number of things. it is more difficult, it require as conscious choice and requires full communication about why we are setting out on this course. and we have to stick to it. so it -- it does require leadership and determination.

    >> more of our interview coming

NBC News and msnbc.com
updated 12/9/2009 2:27:25 PM ET 2009-12-09T19:27:25

A former vice president and a former vice presidential nominee are engaged in a public battle over climate change, a tiff sparked by Sarah Palin's op-ed in Wednesday's Washington Post and furthered by Al Gore's rebuttal on MSNBC.

In a piece titled "Copenhagen's Political Science," the former Alaska governor charged that "leading climate 'experts'" have "destroyed records, manipulated data to 'hide the decline' in global temperatures, and tried to silence their critics by preventing them from publishing in peer-reviewed journals."

Gore bit back during an interview with NBC's Andrea Mitchell to air Wednesday afternoon. The former presidential candidate said "the deniers are persisting in an era of unreality. The entire North Polar ice cap is disappearing before our eyes ... what do they think is happening?"

Palin was referring to correspondence between some of the world's leading climate scientists. The e-mails were recently stolen from Britain's University of East Anglia and leaked on the Internet.

Skeptics of man-made global warming say the e-mails prove that scientists have been conspiring to hide evidence about climate change.

Last week, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri, said the issue raised by the e-mails was serious and would be looked at in detail.

Palin also took to Facebook to allege that concerns over global warming are "doomsday scare tactics pushed by an environmental priesthood."

Gore said Wednesday that the scientific community has worked intensively on the issue for twenty years. "It's a principle in physics," he told Mitchell. "It's like gravity, it exists."

Palin said she's personally witnessed "the impact of changing weather patterns." But she said that "while we recognize the occurrence of these natural, cyclical environmental trends, we can't say with assurance that man's activities cause weather changes."

"This scandal obviously calls into question the proposals being pushed in Copenhagen," added Palin in The Washington Post. "Our representatives in Copenhagen should remember that good environmental policymaking is about weighing real-world costs and benefits — not pursuing a political agenda."

She added that, in light of the e-mail controversy, President Barack Obama should boycott the upcoming climate change conference in Denmark. "Without trustworthy science and with so much at stake, Americans should be wary about what comes out of this politicized conference," said Palin.

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Gore attributed the partisan divide over climate change to the leadership of the modern Republican party, which he feels has adopted a stronger stance on denying global warming.

Gore emphasized that climate change should be a bipartisan issue. "It used to be," he said.

He cited Lindsey Graham as one example of a Republican leader who accepts the science.

NBC's Andrea Mitchell and Michelle Perry contributed to this report.

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