Former U.S. vice president and environmental activist Al Gore has accused President Barack Obama of failing to lead on climate change, warning that the very survival of civilization was at stake.
In an impassioned essay in Rolling Stone magazine, Gore sympathized with the challenges facing his fellow Democrat and lambasted big business, political donors, the media and Congress for their role in climate change.
Gore credited the administration with moving the United States "slightly" forward on the issue but said Obama "has thus far failed to use the bully pulpit to make the case for bold action on climate change."
"President Obama has never presented to the American people the magnitude of the climate crisis," wrote Gore, who narrowly lost the 2000 presidential election and won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his advocacy on climate change.
"Here is the core of it: We are destroying the climate balance that is essential to the survival of our civilization. This is not a distant or abstract threat; it is happening now," Gore wrote.
"The United States is the only nation that can rally a global effort to save our future. And the president is the only person who can rally the United States," he said.
Gore lashed out at those who ask if human-made climate change is real, noting that nine of the hottest years in recorded history were in the last 13 years.
He pointed to extreme events including floods that displaced 20 million people last year in Pakistan, major fires or drought in places from Russia to Texas to Australia, and accelerating loss of polar ice that threatens to raise sea levels and deluge low-lying islands and coasts.
"It is not uncommon for the nightly newscast to resemble a nature hike through the Book of Revelation," Gore said.
"Yet most of the news media completely ignore how such events are connected to the climate crisis, or dismiss the connection as controversial," he said.
"After all, there are scientists on one side of the debate and deniers on the other," Gore added mockingly.
President George W. Bush, who defeated Gore, was a skeptic of climate change and rejected the internationally binding Kyoto Protocol as too costly and unfair to developed economies.
Months after Obama's inauguration, the Democratic-led House of Representatives approved first-ever legislation to restrict carbon emissions blamed for climate change.
But the bill never came to a vote in the slower-moving Senate as conservative lawmakers vowed to defeat it and Obama put a more urgent priority on reforms to bring health care to millions of uninsured Americans.
Gore said that Obama "did little to make passage in the Senate a priority," which doomed the 2009 Copenhagen summit where European and other advocates for action on climate change hoped for results in light of Bush's departure.
In turn, the disappointment from Copenhagen lowered momentum in the international climate talks. The next major UN-led meeting will open in late November in South Africa, with few expecting a wide-ranging agreement.
"Ultimately, however, the only way to address the climate crisis will be with a global agreement that in one way or another puts a price on carbon," Gore wrote.
"And whatever approach is eventually chosen, the US simply must provide leadership by changing our own policy," he said.