NEW YORK - Al Gore admits he was frustrated upon hearing the news last month that President Donald Trump was pulling out of the Paris climate accord, but since then he's become more optimistic.
Gore worried that a U.S. withdrawal from the treaty would compel other nations to opt out of the historic pact for adopting clean energy solutions. But that's not what happened.
"The whole rest of the world has redoubled their commitment. And in this country, the governors and the mayors and the business leaders have all said, 'We're still in the agreement, and we're going to fill the gap. We're going to meet the U.S. commitment, regardless of what Donald Trump does,' " Gore told The Associated Press last week at a special screening for An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.
It follows the 2006 Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth and continues the conversation of finding solutions for the effects of climate change, including an emphasis on renewable energy. Much like the first film, Gore is front and center in leading the discussion.
It's been a remarkable second act for Gore since winning the popular vote, but losing the Electoral College in the 2000 presidential election. There's no question that Gore was devastated by the loss, but his stature as an important voice for environmental issues has proven equally successful, as he amassed a Nobel Prize, Academy Award, an Emmy and a Grammy for his relentless dedication to climate change activism.
Grateful for the chance
"I'm under no illusion that there's any position with as much chance to do good as president of the United States, but I'm very grateful to have found another way to serve the public interests. I'm devoting my life to this and hoping to make a big difference," Gore said.
CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, who also attended the premiere, agrees that Gore has done "pretty well for himself" since the disputed 2000 presidential election.
"Al Gore could have done many things after he was not inaugurated in 2001, but what he did was become the leading global spokesman for perhaps the most important scientific and environmental cause of our lifetime, and he won a Nobel Prize in the bargain. So I don't think anyone could quarrel with how Al Gore has decided to live his life," he said.
A big part of Gore's mission depends on convincing people that climate change is not a hoax. Instead, it's based on science that shows the global mean surface temperature continues to rise, due in part to an increase in greenhouse gases. So while global warming is immune to politics, the topic remains a partisan issue in the United States. That's something the former vice president blames on corporate funding for political campaigns.
"The truth about the climate crisis is still inconvenient for the big carbon polluters, and the politicians that they support with their big campaign contributions and lobbying activities are scared to cross them. That's the main reason. They've spent a lot of money trying to put out false information about it," Gore said.
Still, he remains confident that the problem can be fixed.
"People are seeing through this now. Two-thirds of the American people want to solve this, big time. We are going to solve it. We just need to move faster on it," Gore said.
Gore feels that change will come from the "grass roots up." That's why he spends a great deal of time training climate activists around the globe.
"We need to get more people involved. That's one of the real purposes of this movie — to tell people what they need to know, to show them that there is hope and there are solutions now, and inspire them to get involved," he said.
Davis Guggenheim directed the first film to box office and Oscar glory, bringing climate change into the mainstream. The sequel, directed by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, picks up the conversation with more of a battle cry for saving the planet.
Knowing he was stepping into big shoes for this film, Shenk noted the importance of his predecessor's film.
"An Inconvenient Truth was one of the most successful documentaries in history. Not only did it do fabulously well at the box office, but by almost any measure it put the words 'global warming' and 'climate crisis' on the map for the entire world," Shenk said.
In order to keep the information timely, producers changed the ending from what audiences saw at the Sundance Film Festival to reflect Trump's announcement about withdrawing the United States from the global climate agreement in time for the film's limited release on July 28 and its wide release on August 4.
Gore also said he'd recently spoken to Hillary Clinton, and that's "she's going to be fine."
Clinton won the popular vote but lost in the Electoral College to Trump, just as Gore lost to George W. Bush in 2000.
As for Trump's continued attacks on the news media, Gore feels disheartened by them.
"Well, I think that's really unfortunate. We need someone who will unite us and not divide us. The press obviously plays an absolutely crucial role in making our democracy work. If the press isn't free to get out there and tell people what's going on, then we can't make the changes we need to know about and then change," Gore said.
Part of the news coverage called into question involves the constant flurry of revelations in the investigation of the Trump team's possible collusion with the Russian government during the 2016 presidential campaign.
"Every day there seems like there's something different, and they're not getting anything good done. That's a problem," Gore said.