AL GORE WAS THE American Vice President during the Clinton years, and went on to stand against George W Bush in America’s 2000 Presidential race. If you believe pud-loving activist Michael Moore, Gore was robbed of victory in the dodgiest vote-rigging scandal in Western history, but six years later, the 58-year-old Democrat has devoted his life to educating people about the impending – terrifying – effects of global warming. He has delivered a lecture on the subject more than 1,000 times, and now a film of it is about to hit the cinema. Al served in Vietnam, his wife is the loudmouthed Tipper Gore, and he once ludicrously claimed he invented the internet. He’s backtracked since, mind....
First things first, Mr Gore: could you beat George W Bush in a fist fight?
Ha ha! Well, it’s certainly tempting to contemplate that question. But I think, as the vernacular would have it, I’m going to, “Not go there”.
Okay – so what about this film, then? We saw it and cried a bit…
All of us have a role to play – global warming is the great moral challenge of our time, and everyone should be armed with knowledge about the threat we face. The movie is intended to give you everything you need to know about the climate crisis and how we can solve it.
What’s the big panic?
Well, the leading scientists that best understand this crisis are now saying that we may have as little as ten years before the process of degradation and chaos in the climate’s behaviour would be irretrievable. We put out 60 million tons of pollutants a day. These melt the North Pole, destabilise Greenland and West Antarctica and shift the wind and ocean currents outside of any recognisable pattern.
We hear you, buddy…
If those things happened, the consequences would be unstoppable: tropical diseases moving rapidly into the temperate zones… hurricanes becoming much deadlier… drought and heatwaves intensifying…
But you’re a politician. Why should anyone believe you?
You’re right, some people are suspicious. It’s like the boy who cried wolf – but the wolf really is at the door. I’ve tried to tell this story for 30 years – it’s now at a point where the debate in the scientific community is over.
But sceptics could see these “save the world” bleatings as a way to stay in the public eye – and then “Nice Guy Gore” stands for President again in 2008.
I have no plans to stand again.
So you’ll not be gunning for The Big Job next time?
I don’t expect to do it, I don’t have plans to do it – but I haven’t reached a stage in my life where I’ve said, “Under no circumstances would I ever consider that in the future.”
Word is that Hillary Clinton will be standing – is Yankland ready for a Pres-ette?
Sure. Would the United States elect a woman candidate? Yes, I think so.
And would they elect a black dude if it wasn’t Morgan Freeman?
Ha ha! They might, yes, and I do think that in both cases those old barriers are much more easily surmounted than in the past.
Are we Brits right-on, eco-wise?
The UK is one of the only nations on earth that has actually met and even exceeded its goals under the Kyoto Protocol, so yes, to that extent it’s something to feel pride in.
So what can Blighty expect if the world’s as knackered as you predict?
Well, the Thames is a tidal river so the impact in London would be significant.
We’re talking rising sea-levels, right? What, a couple of inches?
Twenty feet. Greenland, if it were to break up or melt would by itself raise sea levels 20ft worldwide. Greenland is a 10,000ft mass of ice on top of bedrock and the melting at the top sends water down through the mass of ice to lubricate the base of the ice resting on the bedrock. And it’s moving. In 1993 there were seven icequakes above 4.5 on the Richter scale. Last year there were more than 30. This mass of ice is on the move.
On a slightly lighter note…
That’s not difficult to do!
…When you were in the White House, did you ever see any of these three things: first, a big red button with the word “Nuke” on it?
Ha ha! No. It’s not labelled quite that way, but actually I did have a military officer travelling with me at all times with a suitcase – referred to as the “nuclear football” – which was there in the event that it had to be used. The President had an identical one.
How about a senior cabinet minister sleeping off a hangover at his desk?
No! And I’m hoping that none of them saw me asleep at my desk either!
Okay – what about a memo going round asking staff to stop looking at “inappropriate” websites?
Well, of course not. After all, I was Vice President of the United States! But actually, to reframe your question, when I went into the White House in 1993 the total number of websites worldwide was 50. Five zero. Now, of course, there are billions.
Rumour has it that when you and Bill moved out of the White House, you took all the “Ws” off the computers to piss off Dubya…
Ha ha, yeah, I heard that. Well, we didn’t, but I can’t guarantee that some over-enthusiastic young person who was part of our administration didn’t.
Did you grab a quick souvenir when you were being hoofed out?
No. I mean, no illegal souvenirs – no. I had many souvenirs of my time in the White House, but none that I pilfered.
Any wild old times with Bill?
Of course, all the time.
[Long pause] Oh, gosh – well, we’d tell jokes all the time and have bets on football games and the like. There were pranks – nothing springs to mind at the moment – but when you have a job that by definition carries stress, it’s always healthy to try and find the humour in every situation and we were constantly doing that.
We’re guessing it never got to the point where you got Clinton hammered and shaved off his eyebrows…
Ha ha! No. I’d have remembered that.
Which of your days as Not-Quite-President sucked hardest?
Oh, the loss of soldiers in Somalia early on was a hard day… the loss of life in Waco, Texas… the mistaken bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Serbia – lots of other difficult times. But thankfully there were many more successes than not.
Come on – do you still think you beat Bush in that last election?
Well, I have moved on since then. The Supreme Court determined the outcome, and I strongly disagreed with its decision, but in our system there’s no intermediate step between a final Supreme Court judgement and violent revolution, ha ha! So the choice I faced was to either support the rule of law or not, and ultimately that’s not a difficult choice.
Finally Al, as a former journo, what would you do if we let you have a stab at editing FHM?
Oh, I would devote a lot of space in every issue to the climate crisis – it is a role for every publication, particularly one with the enormous readership that FHM has among an influential group of young people who are at the height of their powers and the beginning of their influence in society.
Yeah – great. But, specifically, which fit girl would you stick on the cover?
Well, that’s a judgement that I think your editors are evidently far more qualified to make than I am.
Original interview by Mike Peake in the October 2006 issue of FHM UK magazine