Former Vice President Al Gore picked himself up after his controversial presidential election loss to George W. Bush in 2000 and became an internationally respected champion for the climate. But convincing President-elect Donald Trump of the urgent need to act on the climate crisis could be Gore’s greatest challenge yet. Gore is extending an olive branch to Trump and pledging to do everything he can to “work with him and his administration to ensure that our nation remains a leader in the global effort to meet this challenge.”
Many in the environmental community are in despair about the prospect of a Trump presidency. Trump has promised to withdraw the US from the Paris climate agreement, scrap President Obama’s Clean Power Plan and Climate Action Plan, roll back environmental regulations and increase dirty energy.
Despite all the doom and gloom, Gore is staying upbeat. “President-elect Trump said he wanted to be a president for all Americans,” Gore wrote. “In that spirit, I hope that he will work with the overwhelming majority of us who believe that the climate crisis is the greatest threat we face as a nation.”
Gore isn’t the only climate activist who plans to work on persuading Trump to take climate action. The Independent reports that the Sierra Club and American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) are preparing campaigns to change Trump’s views, which are currently dismissive of the imminent threat global warming poses to human civilization and the natural world. Dr. Rush Holt, chief executive of the AAAS, told The Independent that the financial costs of doing nothing on climate could perhaps convince Trump to reconsider pulling out of the Paris climate deal, saying that “maybe he [Trump] would respond to arguments of dollars and cents.”
But every indication so far is that Trump is going to be a disaster for global efforts to mitigate climate change. Not only does Trump want to exit from the Paris climate agreement signed by nearly 200 nations that went into force earlier this month, but fossil fuel executives and climate skeptics are set to take key roles in his administration. Trump has tapped climate denier Myron Ebell to oversee the Environmental Protection Agency transition (Trump has stated that he wants to abolish the EPA) and is considering Sarah Palin, a vocal proponent of oil and gas drilling, and Forrest Lucas, co-founder of oil products firm Lucas Oil, for interior secretary.
If Gore isn’t successful at convincing Trump of the catastrophic consequences of climate inaction, perhaps the Pentagon can get through to our next commander in chief. The US military calls climate change a “threat multiplier” and is integrating climate change into its national defense strategies. The Pentagon is prioritizing climate change partly because of concerns that it could create conditions that foster extremism and terrorism – an issue that Trump said he wants to address. Former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel wrote in the forward to the Pentagon’s 2014 climate report that “while scientists are converging toward consensus on future climate projections, uncertainty remains. But this cannot be an excuse for delaying action.”