Former vice president Al Gore visited Houston on Wednesday to kick-off a tour in battleground states where he plans to boost voter turnout and rally people against the ongoing climate crisis.
“Democracy has never been more at risk in the modern history of the U.S. than it is today,” Gore told students at Texas Southern University, urging them to register to vote. “We have an attorney general who is the gravedigger for the rule of law. We have a neo-monarchist. We have a threat to the survival of representative democracy that calls for a response– and that response is essential in order to get the solutions to the climate crisis that are desperately needed.”
Gore’s message is quite different than much of the state’s leadership, from the governor’s office to its U.S. Senate delegation, which doesn’t believe in man-made climate change. Most tellingly, the GOP-led Texas Legislature ignored several climate change-related bills last year that would have allowed the state to study and plan for climate change.
“Every movement has met a long series of no’s, has been faced with the specter of despair. But in every single one of them, the moment that young people joined the cause, the moment young people got seriously involved, that’s when the victory started to take shape,” Gore said to cheering students. “So you tell em’, if anybody ever thinks that we as human beings don’t have the political will to move toward justice– political will is itself a renewable resource.”
Gore, the former vice president of Bill Clinton, ran for president in 2000 and centered action on climate change as a major aspect of his campaign. His environmentalist work eventually netted him the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, which he shared with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the U.N. scientific body that has estimated humanity has roughly a dozen years to rapidly begin to tackle climate change or else risk long-lasting and irreversible damage to Earth’s ecosystems.
His visit to Texas comes days after House Republicans pushed a legislative climate change package with some admittedly positive steps, like tax credits for carbon capture. Nevertheless, the bill still lets fossil fuel companies, which are responsible for 71 percent of all global emissions, off the hook. Ironically, the legislation faces opposition by its own party, and if it somehow managed to get out of the Democratic-led House, it would most certainly be knocked down by President Trump who believes climate change is an outright hoax and once said Gore should be stripped of his Peace Prize because of an unusually cold 2010 winter at one of his golf clubs.
While Republicans debate a doomed milquetoast response, Democrats last year already passed a climate action bill that aims to commit the U.S. to the emission reduction goals of the Paris Agreement, with the specifics of how the U.S. plans to reach them being played out on the presidential stage.
The latest University of Texas-Texas Tribune polling shows two-thirds of Texas registered voters believe climate change is happening.
Photo Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for New York Times