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Who is Al Gore (Albert Arnold Gore)?

In this article we’ll explore Al Gore’s life, the events that shaped him, and the role that he’s played in the fight against climate change.
Green News
2023-04-21T00:00:00.000Z
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Al Gore is a renowned American politician and businessman, but he’s perhaps best known for his environmental work. Al Gore has been a pioneering force when it comes to raising awareness about climate change and advocating for sustainable solutions. This article delves into Al Gore’s life and accomplishments; shedding light on his environmental initiatives that have propelled him to the forefront of the global fight against climate change.

👉 In this article we’ll explore Al Gore’s life, the events that shaped him, and the role that he’s played in the fight against climate change.

Al Gore’s early years

Early years

Al Gore, whose full name is Albert Arnold Gore Jr, was born on March 31st, 1948, in Washington D.C. Politics ran through his veins: his father, a successful US politician, served as both a US representative and later as a Senator for 18 years. Additionally, his mother was one of the pioneering women to graduate from Vanderbilt University's Law School, and she played an active role in shaping both her husband's and son's political careers.

Al Gore attended St. Albans School, an independent preparatory college for boys, where he excelled as the captain of the football team. During his summers, Al Gore dedicated his time to working on the family farm in Tennessee, where they cultivated hay and tobacco.

Harvard

After completing his schooling, Al Gore embarked on his academic journey at Harvard University in 1965. Initially, his intentions leaned towards studying English, driven by his aspirations of becoming a writer. However, fate had other plans, leading Al Gore to shift his focus towards the study of government. It was during this time that Al Gore's first foray into politics materialised, as he campaigned for and triumphed in securing the position of president of the freshman student government council.

Moreover, it was at Harvard where Al Gore's fascination with environmental issues first blossomed. In his senior year, he had the privilege of attending a class taught by the esteemed oceanographer and proponent of global warming theory, Roger Revelle. Al Gore attributes Roger Revelle to being the catalyst that ignited his passion for climate change.

Harvard University Law School building

Vietnam and military service

After successfully completing his studies at Harvard in 1969, Al Gore found himself subject to the US military draft for Vietnam.

Despite his strong opposition to the Vietnam War and his active involvement in assisting his father in crafting an anti-war address for the Democratic Convention of 1968, Al Gore made the decision to enlist in the army. This choice arose from a desire to support his father's re-election campaign in 1970, during which his father faced a Republican opponent. While many of Al Gore's Harvard classmates managed to evade the draft and military service, Al Gore held the belief that avoiding his duty would only place the burden on someone with fewer means and limited options.

Following his training at Fort Dix, Al Gore was assigned the role of a journalist at Fort Rucker, where he served for a significant period. Al Gore speculates that this particular assignment may have been influenced by the Nixon administration's concern that any harm befalling him in Vietnam would generate sympathy votes for his father.

Finally, in January 1971, Al Gore was deployed to Vietnam and stationed with the 20th Engineer Brigade in Biên Hòa. There, he worked as a journalist for the Castle Courier. Al Gore's service in Vietnam spanned approximately five months before he was honourably discharged in May 1971.

soldiers shipping off to war

Grad school ad journalism

After completing his service in Vietnam, Al Gore made the decision to enrol in Vanderbilt University Divinity School, thanks to a prestigious Rockefeller Foundation scholarship intended for those contemplating non-religious career paths.

During his time at the Divinity School, Al Gore embarked on a parallel venture as an investigative journalist for The Tennessean, a renowned newspaper based in Nashville. Notably, his relentless pursuit of exposing corruption within the Nashville Metropolitan Council led to the apprehension and subsequent prosecution of two council members.

In 1994, driven by his desire to combat corruption in a more effective manner, Al Gore opted to return to Vanderbilt University to pursue a legal education. He firmly believed that as a lawyer, he would have a greater ability to effect change compared to his role as a journalist. However, Al Gore's journey through Vanderbilt Law School was cut short in 1976 when he decided to run for a seat in the US House of Representatives, diverting his path from legal studies.

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Political Career

Al Gore embarked on a career in the US Congress, commencing at the young age of 28, where he dedicated a remarkable 16 years of service, making a lasting impact in both the House and the Senate.

During his time there Al Gore sat on both the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Science and Technology Committee. Al Gore was also part of a group of Democrats, nicknamed the Atari Democrats, who championed technological and scientific issues and solutions, including the environmental impact of rising greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Al Gore's commitment to tackling climate change was evident through his remarkable accomplishment of spearheading the first congressional hearing solely dedicated to the subject. Additionally, he actively co-sponsored hearings centred around toxic waste and global warming, ensuring such pressing issues remained at the forefront of legislative discussions throughout the 1980s and 1990s. 

A highlight of Al Gore’s political environmentalism is the leadership role he adopted in 1990, presiding over a three-day international conference that convened legislators from across the globe. The conference aimed to devise a comprehensive plan, known as the Global Marshall Plan, which sought to foster the continued development of less industrialised nations while simultaneously safeguarding the environment. Al Gore went on to detail his proposal for the plan in his seminal book, "Earth in the Balance".

US White House in Washington DC

Earth in Balance

In 1989, a significant event occurred in Al Gore's life that would profoundly shape his path. At that time, his six-year-old son, Albert, was involved in a tragic accident when he darted across the road and was struck by a car.

Al Gore has often reflected upon this moment as a pivotal turning point that altered the course of his life. It was precisely due to this life-altering incident that Al Gore made the decision not to pursue a second presidential campaign in 1992, despite having previously made a bid for the presidency in 1988 before withdrawing from the race.

During his son's recovery from the accident, Al Gore channelled his energy into a different endeavour. He focused his attention on writing his book, "Earth in Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit." This groundbreaking book delves into the most pressing ecological challenges of our time, offering a range of policies to address them.

The book also included Al Gore’s proposal for a ‘Global Marshall Plan’, which would seek to address global environmental issues. This plan focuses on five strategic goals deemed crucial by Al Gore in the pursuit of preserving the Earth's environment:

  • Stabilisation of the world’s population
  • Rapid development of green technology
  • Change to the global financial system to support developing nations develop in a sustainable way
  • A new generation of international agreements
  • A pan to educate people around the world on climate change and the environment

Vice presidency

Although Al Gore decided not to run for president in 1992, in order to focus more on his family, he did accept the offer to become Bill Clinton’s running mate. Al Gore later stated that he decided to accept the offer after disagreeing with George H. W. Bush administration's views on global warming issues. 

Al Gore and Bill Clinton would go on to win the presidency and Al Gore would hold the position of Vice President from 1993 to 2001. 

Throughout Al Gore's tenure as Vice President, he garnered recognition for his notable contributions to advancing technological development and fostering the expansion of the technology sector within the United States. Additionally, he played a pivotal role in championing various environmental initiatives, demonstrating a firm commitment to addressing pressing ecological concerns. Notably, Al Gore emerged as a staunch advocate of the Kyoto Protocol, a groundbreaking international treaty aimed at mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.

However, despite Al Gore's ardent support for the Kyoto Protocol, the Clinton administration refrained from submitting the treaty to the Senate for ratification. This decision stemmed from the administration's awareness that the treaty would face significant obstacles in gaining Senate approval, primarily due to the omission of developing countries from the agreement's provisions.

“It is profoundly wrong that approximately 134 countries were allowed to vote on a treaty  by which they will not be bound.” - Newt Gringrich, US House Speaker. 

There were also strong concerns by US politicians that the treaty would harm the development of the economy, create a shrinking economy, and result in higher oil and gas prices. 

👉 To learn more, why not read Greenly’s article on the Kyoto Protocol.

US flag against blue sky

Almost president

In June 1999, Al Gore made a formal announcement, declaring his candidacy for the presidency. This set the stage for a highly anticipated and closely contested electoral battle against the Republican nominee, George W. Bush.

On the night of the election, the results remained extremely tight and uncertain. Initially, news networks projected Florida as a victory for Al Gore, only to retract their call and switch it in favour of Bush. However, this decision was subsequently reversed once again.

The state of Florida became a focal point of contention, leading to an election recount. However, several weeks later, the recount process was halted by a landmark ruling from the US Supreme Court, deeming it unconstitutional and invalid. Consequently, George W. Bush secured a narrow victory in Florida by a mere 537 votes, ultimately leading to his triumph over the presidency of the United States.

Al Gore’s Environmentalism

Political environmentalism

Al Gore's commitment to environmental causes spans decades, cementing his status as a dedicated and longstanding environmentalist. His initial involvement with environmental issues dates back to his early years as a congressman in the 1970s. We’ve already touched on how, in 1976, Al Gore orchestrated the first-ever congressional hearings specifically dedicated to addressing climate change. Additionally, he actively co-sponsored hearings addressing the critical concerns of toxic waste and global warming.

Throughout the 1980s, Al Gore consistently raised his voice on these pressing environmental issues, demonstrating his unwavering dedication to the cause and as we know, in 1990, he took on a pivotal role by presiding over a notable three-day conference. The objective of this conference was to foster discussions surrounding the development of a comprehensive framework known as the "Global Marshall Plan." This visionary proposal sought to address global environmental challenges through strategic planning and international collaboration.

Furthermore, Al Gore actively championed the passage of the Kyoto Protocol, a crucial international treaty aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Although his efforts were met with opposition and the Senate ultimately rejected the treaty, Al Gore persisted in advocating for meaningful action on climate change. His determination in pushing for environmental solutions have been hallmarks of his enduring commitment to the cause.

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Sustainable investment and financing

In addition to Al Gore’s political attempts to raise the profile of climate change and bring environmental issues to light, Al Gore has been actively involved in the realm of sustainable investment and financing.

In 2004, Al Gore co-launched a company called Generation investment Management - a financial services and investment management firm that focuses on sustainable businesses. The firm's approach emphasises long-term value creation, considering environmental, social, and governance factors.

He also became a partner in the venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, heading up their climate change solutions group.

By integrating sustainability into investment strategies, Al Gore has helped to catalyse a shift toward greener and more socially responsible business practices. His work has demonstrated that profitability and environmental responsibility can go hand in hand, encouraging businesses worldwide to embrace sustainability as a core value.
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An Inconvenient Truth

One of Al Gore's most significant contributions to the environmental movement came in the form of his documentary film, 'An Inconvenient Truth'. 

Released in 2006, the film garnered widespread attention and became a catalyst for change. In this thought-provoking documentary, Gore presents a compelling case for the existence and severity of climate change, weaving together scientific evidence, personal anecdotes, and powerful visuals to illustrate the imminent threats faced by our planet.

An Inconvenient Truth follows Al Gore’s campaign to educate people about climate change and global warming. It features Al Gore’s famous slideshow - one that he has shared thousands of times to audiences across the globe. In fact, it was this slideshow that inspired the film’s producer, Laurie David, to make the documentary in the first place.

An Inconvenient Truth not only won two Academy Awards but also influenced public perception and sparked a global conversation about climate change. The film prompted individuals, governments, and organisations worldwide to reassess their approach to environmental stewardship, propelling climate change into the mainstream discourse.

The film has been credited with significantly raising the profile of global warming amongst the general public and for re-energising the environmental movement. The film famously ends with Al Gore telling audiences that:

Each one of us is a cause of global warming, but each one of us can make choices to change that with the things we buy, the electricity we use, the cars we drive; we can make choices to bring out individual carbon emissions to zero. The solutions are in our hands, we just have to have the determination to make it happen. We have everything that we need to reduce carbon emission, everything but political will.”
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The Climate Reality Project

Building upon the success of 'An Inconvenient Truth', and using proceeds donated from the documentary, Al Gore founded The Alliance for Climate Protection. The organisation encouraged government policies that limited greenhouse gas emissions and supported low carbon energy. 

The Alliance also launched several public awareness campaigns to encourage action against climate change at both a national and global level. 

At the same time Al Gore also founded The Climate Project, an educational, global grassroots organisation that trained members of the public to give similar public talks to those for which Al Gore had become famed. The project is credited with delivering over 70,000 talks to over 7.3 million people. 

In 2010, these two organisations were combined to create one single organisation called The Climate Reality Project. The Climate Reality project is a single non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting climate change education, raising awareness, and fostering global solutions. The organisation's mission is to empower individuals and communities to become agents of change in the fight against climate change.

Through various initiatives, The Climate Reality Project has trained thousands of individuals, known as Climate Reality Leaders, who advocate for climate action in their communities. These leaders have delivered presentations, organised events, and engaged in grassroots efforts to spread awareness and inspire sustainable practices.

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What is Al Gore doing now?

Even after leaving political office, Al Gore has remained a prominent figure in environmental advocacy. He has continued to champion climate change awareness through public speaking engagements, writing books, and participating in global conferences. 

For example, just recently Al Gore gave an interview to the New York Times explaining how oil and gas companies are circumventing genuine climate action, stating "They have captured control of the political and policymaking process in too many countries and too many regional governments". He referenced the decision to appoint Sultan Al Jaber as the president of COP28, despite the fact that he's also the chief executive of the UAE's national oil company, ADNOC - one of the world's largest oil and gas producers.

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Al Gore's contributions to the environmental movement have left a meaningful mark on society. Through his groundbreaking documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," and the establishment of The Climate Reality Project, Gore has successfully raised awareness, educated individuals, and mobilised communities to address the challenges posed by climate change. Additionally, his work in sustainable investment and financing has highlighted the economic viability of environmentally responsible practices.

Al Gore's environmental advocacy serves as an inspiration to individuals, businesses, and governments worldwide. By spotlighting the urgency of climate change and offering viable solutions, he has paved the way for a more sustainable future. His unwavering commitment to the cause has solidified his reputation as a dedicated advocate and a driving force behind the fight against climate change.

What about Greenly? 

At Greenly we can help you to assess your company’s carbon footprint, and then give you the tools you need to cut down on emissions. Why not request a free demo with one of our experts - no obligation or commitment required. 

If reading this article has inspired you to consider your company’s own carbon footprint, Greenly can help. Learn more about Greenly’s carbon management platform here.

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