The last 24 hours or so should have seen a massive worldwide campaign for climate action, exposing the fallacies of the sceptics, those funding the deniers. A video would be downloaded and watched by millions, and Facebook and Twitter filled with nothing else for the key hour in each timezone.
Or so Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project hoped. But interest in it seems to have been pretty minimal, even among dedicated environmentalists. The Guardian newspaper website, which can normally be relied upon to pick up anything remotely significant, did mention it. But not in the Environment section, and attributing it to Reuters – so essentially just reprinting the press release.
What went wrong? Not, I think the quality or truth of the presentations, which seem to have been excellent with a selection of well-informed local speakers. But it seems to me this outcome was completely predictable, and the whole thing was a bad misjudgement on the part of Al Gore and those who advised him.
One reason is that pronouncements from on high seem to be increasingly less helpful. Pretty much everyone seems to have decided in favour or against climate change (or that they don’t care either way) on the basis of all the coverage over many years now. We need to find new ways of campaigning, and ways to help those who do want to take action to do so. (Topics covered here and elsewhere at length.) Another worldwide event is coming this month: 350.org’s Moving Planet which seems better placed in these regards: grass-roots based, focussing on action, and partnered by many other significant organisations.
The other, unfortunately, is the involvement of Al Gore himself. For all the good he has done in being one of the first US politicians to spot the issue of climate change and to campaign on it, he has become something of a toxic brand. Opponents criticise him for asking us to spend money we can ill afford. He can “go green” easily out of his considerable wealth, but even after having done so, with his multiple houses and frequent air travel, his carbon footprint easily exceeds that of the average American, let alone the per capita figure we would need to get CO2 emissions under control.
Whatever the truth of these allegations, he must know how he is perceived. A gesture towards cutting his considerable levels of consumption would go an enormous way to restoring his credibility. And indeed might help move the debate from climate change alone to the general sustainability issues we know are key.