Former vice-president expects backlash from environmentalists against Trump and hopes Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will join fight.
The urgent threat of climate change means there is “no time to despair” over the election of Donald Trump, according to former vice-president Al Gore, who hopes that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will join an escalated climate campaign against the president-elect.
The president has a cordial relationship with his successor, who questioned his birthplace and whom he called ‘unfit’ and ‘unprepared’ to enter the Oval Office
Gore told the Guardian he remained hopeful Trump would reverse some of his positions on climate change but predicted an unprecedented backlash from environmentalists over the next four years.
Trump, who has called climate change a hoax, has pledged to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord, dismantle the Clean Power Plan, slash renewable energy funding and somehow prop up the ailing US coal industry.
His advisers have also advocated cutting climate research at Nasa and completely exiting the international climate effort.
Gore said such threats mean there will “likely be a huge upsurge in climate activism. I’m encouraged that there are groups that are digging in to work even harder. Those groups working in the courts are even more important now; those organizing on campuses are even more important now.
“My message would be that despair is just another form of denial. There is no time to despair. We don’t have time to lick our wounds, to hope for a different election outcome.
“We have to win this struggle and we will win it; the only question is how fast we win. But more damaged is baked into the climate system every day, so it’s a race against time.”
Gore said he hoped Obama and Clinton, who was defeated by Trump in the 8 November 8 despite winning the popular vote by more than 2.6m ballots, will join in the effort to call for action to combat dangerous climate change.
“I would hope they do get involved. They both have the right positions on climate change and in his second term president Obama did a really excellent job in highlighting the climate crisis,” he said.
It’s not naive or Pollyanna-ish to express hope that some of Trump’s statements won’t turn into policies
Gore has devoted himself to the climate issue since his failed presidential bid in 2000 – in which he won 500,000 more votes than George W Bush – most notably through the film An Inconvenient Truth and more recently via his advocacy group the Climate Reality Project.
He said he was “very concerned” by how pro-fossil fuel interests surround Trump but remained optimistic that the president-elect could be engaged with on climate change.
“Presidents can be vulnerable to the headstrong opinions of appointees and a few appointees can take the ball and run with it before a new president can undo the damage,” Gore said. “So that concerns me, of course.
“But it’s still premature. It’s not naive or Pollyanna-ish to express hope that some of his statements won’t turn into policies after the inauguration.
“Trump has said that he has an open mind to the Paris agreement. I frankly don’t know how open his mind is. Until hope is foreclosed, it’s worthwhile to see if there’s an opportunity to build green infrastructure, for example, or eliminate fossil fuel subsidies based on market-based competition.
“Regardless of what he does, a sustainable energy revolution is under way.”
Despite an abrupt end to the El Niño climate event, which causes warm temperatures across much of the world, 2016 is still on track to be the hottest year on record. Arctic ice retreated to its second smallest extent on record during the summer, with winter regrowth occurring at an unusually sluggish rate.
The United Nations has warned that global greenhouse gas emissions must be radically cut within the next four years if the world is to avoid disastrous heatwaves, sea level rise and displacement caused by runaway climate change.
Gore’s Climate Reality Project is hosting its sixth annual 24 Hours of Reality broadcast, starting on Monday evening. Each hour of the 24-hour live event will focus on climate change in one of the 24 largest national emitters of carbon dioxide in the world.
Broadcast across various TV channels and Facebook, the event will feature politicians and celebrities including Ryan Reynolds, Jon Bon Jovi and Gisele Bundchen.