Former Vice President Al Gore met with President-elect Donald Trump on Monday to discuss an issue where both individuals hold opposing views: climate change.
Mr. Gore, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work raising awareness about climate change, spent close to an hour speaking with Mr. Trump, who has said that climate change is a hoax and has threatened to withdraw the United States from international climate agreements.
Despite a majority of scientists’ consensus on climate change, the issue remains a politically divisive topic that has raised considerable concern, especially after Trump and his advisers have declared their intentions to dismantle efforts set in place to tackle the global threat.
Initial reports from Monday's meeting offer hints that Trump, dubbed the negotiator-in-chief by supporters enamored of his deal-making, could be open to reaching across the aisle to find common ground, even on this particularly divisive issue.
“I had a lengthy and very productive session with the president-elect,” Gore said after the meeting, as reported by USA Today. “It was a sincere search for areas of common ground.... I found it an extremely interesting conversation, and to be continued, and I’m just going to leave it at that.”
Gore's current strategy revolves around depoliticizing climate change. In an interview with The Guardian published on the same day, he urged climate activists to shift their attentions toward working with Trump rather than lament his election.
“My message would be that despair is just another form of denial. There is no time to despair,” Gore told The Guardian. “We don’t have time to lick our wounds, to hope for a different election outcome.”
While politicians continue to debate the steps that should be taken in response to climate change, meteorologists have projected that 2016 will close as the hottest year on record, global sea ice has reached record lows, and scientists are struggling against a surging tide of fake news on issues related to science.
In his fight for climate action, Gore might have an ally in Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, with whom he was supposed to meet on Monday but ended up spending the bulk of the time with the president-elect himself.
Ms. Trump has been the target of groups on social media who have urged her to wield her influence with her father to soften some of his more conservative stances, including that on climate change. In New York, some activists have been leaving “Dear Ivanka” letters outside a building owned by her husband.
An anonymous source close to Ms. Trump told Politico last week that she has expressed interest in making climate change one of her signature issues and is “in the early stages of exploring how to use her spotlight to speak out on the issue.”
While environmentalists brace for more political opposition, particularly as Myron Ebell, a climate change skeptic, is floated as a candidate to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Trump said in an interview with The New York Times last month that he has a “very open mind” on the topic – although his belief hinges on how it will affect business.
“I think right now ... well, I think there is some connectivity. There is some, something. It depends on how much,” Trump said. “It also depends on how much it’s going to cost our companies. You have to understand, our companies are noncompetitive right now.”
Gore, on the other hand, remains cautious and optimistic.
“I frankly don’t know how open his mind is. Until hope is foreclosed, it’s worthwhile to see if there’s an opportunity to build green infrastructure, for example, or eliminate fossil fuel subsidies based on market-based competition,” he said. “Regardless of what [Trump] does, a sustainable energy revolution is under way.”