Sun, May 21, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Al Gore finds his niche as an environmental warrior

FILM STAR The success of a documentary that details the former US vice president's climate change roadshow has got some believing he may relaunch his political career


Former US vice president Al Gore has had plenty of time to develop a self-deprecating sense of humor over the past six years, and it shows.

"My name is Al Gore, and I used to be the next president of the United States," the broad-shouldered 58-year-old tells audiences wherever he goes.

The line has replaced an earlier joke -- "You win some, you lose some, and then there's that little-known third category" -- but the message in both cases is the same: laugh along with me, please, because otherwise, imagining how different things could have been, we might have to cry.

It is a wry kind of wit, of a sort that might have helped the former vice-president in the 2000 election campaign, when he was widely lambasted as wooden and robotic. And it is tinged with an anger that might have come in handy during the supreme court battle with US President George W. Bush, when many of Gore's own supporters felt he acted spinelessly. But the Gore of 2006 is a different person and, it appears, Americans have begun to take notice.

The reason for Gore's heightened profile is a documentary about his most passionately held concern -- the "planetary emergency" of global warming -- that he has been shopping to politicians and opinion-formers over the last few weeks.

The movie, An Inconvenient Truth, is released in the US next Friday, a week after The Da Vinci Code, and its trailer seems to be straining every nerve to compete.

"It will shock you to your core," the captions read. "By far the most terrifying film you will ever see."

The film follows Gore as he travels the US giving a slideshow presentation about climate change -- a performance he has given more than a thousand times in the past 30 years, and more frequently since losing the election.

This may sound less than electrifying, but there could be no better sign of the film's potential impact than the fact that its enemies have launched a counter-offensive: the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a rightwing think tank funded by oil companies, has unveiled a series of TV ads aimed at restoring the reputation of greenhouse gases.

"The fuels that produce carbon dioxide have freed us from a world of backbreaking labor, allowing us to create and move the things we need and the people we love," a syrupy voice intones, over footage of children playing. "Carbon dioxide: they call it pollution. We call it ... life."

As the early rumblings of the next presidential election campaign grow louder, it should come as no surprise that Gore's activities have led to speculation that he might run again. He denies it, saying that he has "found other ways to serve," but that has not stopped the rise of a vigorous draft campaign to try to persuade him to change his mind.

The drafters' pulses were quickened by a recent Gore speech when he joked that he was "a recovering politician ... but you always have to worry about a relapse," while an appearance on the comedy show Saturday Night Live, where he addressed the audience as if he had been president for a term and a half, only added to their excitement.

The crucial change in Gore's outlook arises from the bitter fights he had in 2000 with his own consultants. Obsessed by polls, they persuaded him to water down his proposals on climate change so much that the man who had helped negotiate the Kyoto protocol ended up doing little more than railing against the high price of petrol.

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