Former vice president Al Gore is launching a voter registration campaign this week to increase voter turnout in November, focusing on young people concerned about the rapidly warming planet.
This new effort by Gore, who starred in the 2006 climate documentary An Inconvenient Truth and won a 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his climate activism, comes amid dire scientific warnings about the climate crisis and a new explosion in climate activism, driven mostly by young people skipping school and challenging politicians to take action.
Gore’s pitch is simple: a clear way to help avert climate disaster is to get President Donald Trump out of office.
Under Trump, the US has both rolled back climate regulations, including pollution standards for power plants, oil and gas operators, and cars, as well as expanded company access to fossil fuels on public lands.
“For those of us concerned about the future of the Earth’s climate and balance, this election is extremely important,” Gore told BuzzFeed News.
And while the Democratic presidential candidates are talking about climate change more than ever, youth activists are pushing them to adopt bolder policy proposals and refuse campaign donations from the fossil fuel industry.
“Young people in particular have been both more concerned about climate than other age groups and traditionally less likely to vote in large percentages,” said Gore. “I want to do everything I possibly can to contribute to the registration and turnout and voting by those who are concerned about the climate crisis.”
The effort will initially focus on key battleground states. Gore will kick off with a voter registration rally on Wednesday at the Texas Southern University, a historically black public college in Houston, followed by visits to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, on March 10 and the University of Pittsburgh on March 17. Voter registration drives are also being planned at eight additional college and university campuses in Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Texas over the coming months, and Gore plans to add more sites in the future.
And although he’s largely focused on influencing the presidential election, Gore will encourage voters to consider climate across the ballot.
“We’ve got to get folks to understand their vote is driving the air they breathe, the water they drink, the chemicals you ingest in your home,” said Carmen Reed, a doctoral student in urban planning and environmental policy at Texas Southern University. Reed said she welcomes Gore’s new campaign and applauds how he’s engaging communities often left out of the climate discussion. She will be joining a group of students privately meeting with Gore on Wednesday to talk about how to best tackle climate change.
Gore has primarily raised money for this new campaign through charitable donations, he told BuzzFeed News, but he declined to name specific donors. His campaign confirmed that none of the donations came from any of the presidential candidates, including the wealthy climate philanthropists Tom Steyer or Michael Bloomberg.
Gore’s Climate Reality Action Fund — whose sister group, the Climate Reality Project, trains new climate activists — is running the new campaign. Many of Gore’s upcoming voter drives will be in the same cities where he’s also running activist trainings this year.
Gore’s not the only one looking to boost young climate voter participation in November. Since September, Sunrise Movement members have been soliciting pledges from high school and college students to vote for candidates that support the Green New Deal, a legislative push aiming to simultaneously tackle climate pollution across industries and economic inequality. In early January, the youth climate group endorsed Bernie Sanders to be the Democratic presidential nominee and did extensive door knocking and phone banks to help boost voter participation in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Gore isn’t making the Green New Deal a centerpiece of his campaign and is not yet sure whether he will endorse a candidate. He said he’s looking to augment the voter outreach efforts led by Sunrise and other groups, not elbow them out. "This is a team sport,” he said. “It's not a branding exercise."
The Sunrise Movement declined to comment on Gore’s campaign.
Gore has publicly supported the underlying premise of the Green New Deal and has encouraged Democrats to run on the platform, telling Politico in December that he viewed it as a “broad brushstroke, bold proclamation, the details of which are designed to be filled in later.”