Donald Trump may have pulled the United States out of the Paris Agreement to combat climate change, but if former US vice president Al Gore is to be believed, Americans will fulfill its terms nonetheless.
The 69-year-old environmental activist was in Berlin to preview "An Inconvenient Sequel," a follow-up to his Oscar-winning 2006 film "An Inconvenient Truth" about global warming. Citing the axiom from physics that "for every action there is an equal counter-reaction," Gore said that Trump's election had galvanized and energized environmentalists in the US.
"The good news is that we are working around [Trump]," Gore said. "The US is going to meet its commitments under the Paris Agreement, regardless of what Trump says or does or tweets. He has isolated himself."
Gore added that the majority of Republican voters in the US think that the country should have stayed in the Paris agreement. In perhaps the most unlikely scene in the film, Gore visits the Republican mayor of a town in the most conservative part of Texas, which had just completely gone over to using renewable energy sources. And that's not the only example of Americans acting locally.
"In his speech on June 1, President Trump said that he was elected to represent Pittsburgh and not Paris," Gore related with a smile. "And the next day the mayor of Pittsburgh said 'Well, we're still in the Paris Agreement.'"
Gore said that despite Trump's statement to the contrary, "coal is not coming back," adding that fossil fuels also had no future as an energy source.
While the end of "An Inconvenient Sequel" is surprisingly upbeat and Gore clearly wanted to convey a positive message in Berlin, he agreed that Trump remained a "threat."
The former vice president took the current US president to task for suppressing scientific evidence and accused him of blocking a report, drawn up by scientists every four years, which concluded the earth is already feeling the effects of human-caused climate change. Excerpts from a draft of the report, which was leaked to the New York Times newspaper, were published on Monday.
"The people deserve to see the full report," said Gore. "And I would like to formally call on the Trump administration to stop suppressing this report, to stop trying to censor scientific information."
For Gore and the other makers of "An Inconvenient Sequel," the science is clear. The film begins with footage of melting glaciers and ice sheets and then moves on to scenes of flooding in Miami and devastating hurricanes in the Philippines. Most researchers think that such phenomena are connected to climate change. Gore warns that if global warming is not reversed, severe weather is only going to get more frequent.
"Where the upsurge in climate activism is concerned, I think the credit may go to Mother Nature," Gore said. "The climate-related extreme weather events have really open people's eyes."
Gore said climate change was to blame for temperature extremes, so-called "rain bombs," droughts, forest fires, flooding and sea level rises, and the spread of tropical diseases.
Climate crisis is a democracy crisis
Empowering people is one thing, but convincing the people wielding political power is another, and both Gore and his film underscore how important the office of the US presidency is in leading global efforts to combat climate change.
The film chronicles how climate protection initiatives, including the launch of an environmental data collection satellite, were thwarted under George W. Bush, who beat Gore for the presidency in 2000 despite losing the popular vote. Trump, who got some 3 million votes fewer than Hillary Clinton in 2016, has been even more dismissive of environmentalism.
For Gore, climate change is connected with a reform of the US political system and, in particular, the winner-take-all rules of the Electoral College.
"In order to fix the climate crisis we have to fix the democracy crisis," the former senator from Tennessee said. "I do think we should get rid of the Electoral College system in the US and go to a system where the popular vote winner wins the election. You have that system in Germany, and it works okay, right?"
Gore also said it was crucial to restrict the influence of "big money" in American politics. He added that the "internet revolution," which was "beginning to displace TV," had made it possible for political candidates to raise funds from individuals. He singled out Democrat Bernie Sanders for praise in this regard.
"It is now possible to run a very robust and potentially winning campaign without taking any money from lobbyists and special interests," Gore said. "I think that could be the future of American politics, and if it is, it will make those who are in elected office more accountable to the people and less beholden to the special interests."
"An Inconvenient Sequel" is playing in the United States but doesn't get a widespread theatrical release in Germany until September 7.