Al Gore is calling out President Obama for his lack of leadership on the environment, saying the White House has failed to “make the case for bold action on climate change.”
The ex-Veep’s criticism is part of a lengthy Rolling Stone essay out Wednesday that recounts how the climate change movement faltered after coming so close to achieving its legislative goals in 2009.
“[Obama’s] election was accompanied by intense hope that many things in need of change would change,” Gore says. “Some things have, but others have not. Climate policy, unfortunately, is in the second category. Why?”While Gore writes that he has “enormous empathy” for the problems Obama inherited, from a weak economy to two raging foreign wars and a broken Senate, he accuses Obama of timidly ceding the stage to climate deniers and failing to make green issues a to priority. He credits Obama with getting off to a strong start, citing his backing for cap and trade legislation in the House, his appointment of environment-friendly officials to key posts, and his strong message on the necessity of moving past coal and oil. But the climate change bill died in the Senate and Gore writes that Obama failed to produce meaningful results elsewhere as the Democrats’ brief time in control of Congress slipped away.
According to Gore: “President Obama has thus far failed to use the bully pulpit to make the case for bold action on climate change. After successfully passing his green stimulus package, he did nothing to defend it when Congress decimated its funding. After the House passed cap and trade, he did little to make passage in the Senate a priority. Senate advocates — including one Republican — felt abandoned when the president made concessions to oil and coal companies without asking for anything in return. He has also called for a massive expansion of oil drilling in the United States, apparently in an effort to defuse criticism from those who argue speciously that ‘drill, baby, drill’ is the answer to our growing dependence on foreign oil.”
With control of Congress gone, Obama has primarily looked to the EPA as the key driver of the White House’s climate policy. The agency is working to set new emissions standards on utilities and the White House has threatened to veto attempts by Congress to curtail their authority.
Obama, while the most notable target in the piece, isn’t the only one to come in for criticism. Gore spends considerable time excoriating the media for elevating science peddlers on the right, for example. He’s also upset with the Republican presidential field’s complete turnaround on the issue, with a number of major candidates who once acknowledged climate science and even supported significant action reversing themselves in recent years. In an apparent dig at Tim Pawlenty, who called his support for cap and trade legislation a “mistake.” Gore writes that “at least one has been apologizing profusely to the deniers and begging for their forgiveness.”
TPM reached out to the White House for comment on Gore’s op-ed and will post their response.