Al Gore’s Decade of Dignity

No one deserved it more.

This Thursday marks the tenth anniversary of Al Gore and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their trailblazing work in attempting to prevent the planet from being set ablaze due to carbon pollution. The Gore/IPCC win drove climate deniers nuts–a very short drive indeed.

Gore’s win was the highlight of a long journey for the former Vice President, who was the victim of the second biggest Presidential heist in recent United States history–only to become a national hero as the man who stole the White House from him became a national villain. When Bush and Gore met in the White House one month after the latter’s Nobel Prize win, the stench of Bush’s jealousy must have been overwhelming.

The right’s outrage over Gore’s win was laughable, though Paul Krugman noted at the time that such outrage was borne of an inability to prove Gore wrong:

What is it about Mr. Gore that drives right-wingers insane?

Partly it’s a reaction to what happened in 2000, when the American people chose Mr. Gore but his opponent somehow ended up in the White House. Both the personality cult the right tried to build around President Bush and the often hysterical denigration of Mr. Gore were, I believe, largely motivated by the desire to expunge the stain of illegitimacy from the Bush administration.

And now that Mr. Bush has proved himself utterly the wrong man for the job — to be, in fact, the best president Al Qaeda’s recruiters could have hoped for — the symptoms of Gore derangement syndrome have grown even more extreme.

The worst thing about Mr. Gore, from the conservative point of view, is that he keeps being right. In 1992, George H. W. Bush mocked him as the “ozone man,” but three years later the scientists who discovered the threat to the ozone layer won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. In 2002 he warned that if we invaded Iraq, “the resulting chaos could easily pose a far greater danger to the United States than we presently face from Saddam.” And so it has proved.

Ten years ago, Gore’s influence was so strong that even some Republican presidential candidates had to grudgingly acknowledge that he was right. Ten years later–in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Jose and Hurricane Maria, storms powered by the carbon pollution Gore urged us to limit–his predictions about the severity of the climate crisis have been violently verified.

Climate deniers aren’t the only ones left embarrassed by Gore. Remember the 2000 Presidential campaign, when the Fourth Estate decided to depict Gore as a boring, humorless, untrustworthy hack and George W. Bush as a fascinating, friendly, moderate maverick? As the 2000s dragged on, some of those reporters and pundits had to eat their words, and the taste was quite bitter. Gore was so obviously more qualified than Bush–a statement the mainstream press so obviously refused to make due to fears of the “liberal bias!” slur. Bush was the beneficiary of false balance; his ignorance was given as much weight as Gore’s intellect. The Fourth Estate made a mistake back then…and made the exact same mistake, for the exact same reason, sixteen years later.

These days, Gore often says that extreme weather events now do so much damage that watching nightly-news coverage of such events is like taking “a nature hike through the Book of Revelation.” Looking at the apocalyptic images of post-Maria Puerto Rico, one cannot disprove the former Vice President’s claim. One cannot disprove any of Gore’s claims about the threat carbon pollution poses to the hopes of a stable and peaceful planet for our children and grandchildren. This is why Gore and the IPCC so richly deserved that award. As for climate deniers? Gore said it best at the 1992 Democratic National Convention: it is time for them to go.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.