Scientific truth about global warming carries a moral imperative for action, former vice president and presidential candidate Al Gore said Friday in an interview with EthicsDaily.com.
“The moment you accept what the global scientific community is saying and practically screaming it from the rooftops, the moment you accept it as true, you then as of that moment have a moral obligation to act on the basis of what you know to be true,” Gore said.
Long-identified as a Southern Baptist, Gore moved seamlessly between science and faith. He spoke comfortably about how his faith shaped his moral convictions about the environment.
“I was taught in Sunday school about the purpose of life,” he said. “I didn’t ever get a single lesson about the purpose of life at Harvard University or prep school I went to. But I learned about the purpose of life in Sunday school. And I was taught that the purpose of life is to glorify God.”
“How can you glorify God while heaping contempt and destruction on God’s creation?” he asked. “The answer is that you cannot, you cannot.”
“If you believe in the teaching ‘whatever you do to the least of these you do unto me,’ the least of these include those who are powerless to defend themselves against harmful actions at our hands motivated by careless greed,” he said.
Relaxed, humorous and passionate, the former vice-president talked for an hour about the scientific evidence related to global warming and his campaign to change “the minds of the American people about this climate crisis.”
The son of a U.S. Senator and a former Senator himself, Gore said; “I think the needle is moving, but we’re still a long, long way from the tipping point where the majority of people demand that politicians in both parties make this their top priority. We’re getting a little closer, but we have a long way to go.”
Based on events on Friday, public opinion in the buckle of the Bible -belt may be titling.
Gore signed a thousand copies of his new book An Inconvenient Truth at Nashville’s leading bookstore before the store and city sold out of books.
Two movie theaters were filled as family and friends attended a red-carpet premier of the new documentary with the same title as his book. Music songwriters, performers and producers attended the premier with elected officials and business leaders.
Asked about opposition from fundamentalism to redressing global warming, Gore said: “There are political alliances of convenience among some rightwing political groups that operate according to the three musketeers’ principle–one for all and all for one. We’ll support you on your special interest agenda if you support us on our special interest agenda.”
“You get this bizarre spectacle of men of the cloth who are in theory following the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount calling for reduced taxes on billionaires and the cutting of programs for the poor,” he said. “And in the same way, you get people who claim to speak for Christianity adopting the propaganda of Exxon Mobil as if it’s a fifth gospel.”
Demonstrating broad acquaintance with the Bible, Gore said, “‘The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,'” before citing Noah’s commitment to biodiversity and referencing the warning in Revelation about what happens to those who destroy God’s creation.
His most extended biblical commentary was on the parable of the unfaithful servant.
“When God’s earth is being ravaged and ransacked by the forces of greed that are destroying, that are threatening to destroy the inhabitability of the planet for future generations, it is not an acceptable defense to say we were asleep, we weren’t fully aware of how bad it was,” he said.
“The debate in the scientific community is over,” Gore said, criticizing those who cited Exxon Mobil’s disagreement with scientific consensus.
He said those kinds of excuses, like the excuses of the unfaithful servant, would not be acceptable defenses for inaction.
In a veiled reference to President Bush obtaining information from a well-know science fiction writer, Gore said, “You have a science fiction writer given equal billing with the National Academy of Sciences.”
“The leading scientists in the world who have spent decades studying this crisis are now saying for the first time that we have no more than 10 years before we cross the point of no return,” he said.
Gore said opponents of addressing global warming understand from polling and studies that once the public knows the truth that they will be unable to prevent solutions to it.
“Their first line of defense is to try to confuse people and to throw up a sandstorm of pseudo-science and science fiction and propaganda to desperately try to prevent people from seeing and understanding the truth,” he said.
He told EthicsDaily.com: “If our children decades from now are forced to live in sharply diminished circumstances with the prospect of an ever-diminishing future and asked what were our parents thinking? Then, we would be in a position of the unfaithful servant in Jesus’ parable.”
“But the time to answer that question is now and not with promises but with actions,” he said with urgency.
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.