The climate lightbulb may never switch on for the United States president but that may help save the day, Al Gore tells Phil Taylor.

Conveniently, perversely, Donald Trump's denial may help save the planet.

President Trump toured Houston to see the devastating floods brought by Hurricane Harvey, a storm that dumped a record 132 cms of rain in a few days and behaved in a weird way that may become the new normal.

Instead of weakening on approaching land, it strengthened and then it stopped. Some scientists are attributing a blocking effect to melting of Arctic ice which has changed the Northern Hemisphere storm tracks and frequently stalls storms in the same area, says Gore.


It was the third huge storm in two years to hit the same area, the second once-in-a-thousand-year downpour, says the former US vice president on the phone from California to promote his movie, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.

At time of writing, category 5 Hurricane Irma (Harvey was a 4) was heading for Florida having smashed through the Caribbean islands. President Trump said it "looks like it could be something that will be not good. Believe me, not good."

Trump won't make the link between these storms and global warming despite seeing Houston underwater, says Gore. "A light bulb going off in his head? No, I've kind of given up hope of him thinking that through," says Gore who has had meetings with Trump at the instigation of his daughter Ivanka Trump.

"I tried very hard in my conversations with him, starting after the election and during his first several months in the White House. But I think he is so beholden to the carbon polluters that he's a pretty predictable person on that issue. I'd love to be proven wrong but I don't think he's likely to change."

An Inconvenient Truth featuring Al Gore. Photo / Supplied
An Inconvenient Truth featuring Al Gore. Photo / Supplied

No matter. The world and the US is acting without him, Gore says.

"I do think the US is going to meet its commitment under the Paris Agreement regardless of what Trump does because our state governments and city governments and business leaders have in very large numbers stepped up to say OK we are still in the Paris Agreement we're going to meet the US commitments and we don't care what the hell Donald Trump says."

Every G20 country, except the United States, has signed a declaration to make binding the Paris climate agreement to eventually cut net emissions to zero.

A Trump tweet: "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive."

Gore thinks Trump has had a perverse effect. "Trump has inspired a very powerful reaction to the nonsense he's been spouting. I was actually worried the day he made his speech withdrawing from the Paris Agreement that other countries might use that as an excuse to withdraw themselves.

"But the very next day the rest of the world said, 'no, we're still in, we're going to meet the commitments'."

Trump had become increasingly isolated. Gore notes that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson - a former Exxon-Mobil executive - said, "the president speaks for himself", following Trump's comments on the killings in Charlottesville. "I think that's just about true about almost every subject. He is isolating himself. People pay less attention to his statements. I think they are onto him as a tweeter."

"As a US citizen I join the two-thirds of my countrymen who tell the pollsters they are embarrassed to have him as their president."

Gore was approached by the makers to front the sequel to An Inconvenient Truth. "It seemed the 10th anniversary was a good time to take stock."

There have been "startling" new developments, "one bad, one good."

The consequences of global warming are worse than predicted, Gore says, but now we have the solution in wind and solar energy that is getting cheaper.

So, how doomed are we?

US President Donald Trump says climate change is a hoax created by China to harm US manufacturing. Photo / AP
US President Donald Trump says climate change is a hoax created by China to harm US manufacturing. Photo / AP

Hurricane Harvey and storms that hit Mumbai, Pakistan and flooded a third of Bangladesh in recent weeks appear to be examples of climate-related changes to the world's water cycle. For each degree Celsius of warming, the atmosphere is able to hold 6 percent more water and that gets released in increasingly powerful storms, often in unexpected places.

Some modelling shows monsoons strengthening, others show them migrating, changes that could have far-reaching implications for crops, pests and where people live.

If predictions are correct that the planet will warm by 4 degrees this century, that makes for climate unrecognisable to today but Gore comes down on the side of hope.

"No, I definitely don't think we are doomed because as the movie points out, there is much cause for hope."

Economics may save the day. Progress in making renewable energy affordable has been "astonishing".

India had made "a remarkable" U-turn since the Paris Agreement, shutting coal-burning plants and coal mines and vastly expanding solar capacity.

Electricity from solar in India had become cheaper, unsubsidised, than from burning coal and the second-most populated country is aiming to have all its new vehicles electric in 13 years, a faster transition than announced by France and the UK.

Some consequences of global warming will inevitably sheet home but, says Gore, "the truly catastrophic consequences can still be avoided".

But the world must stop subsidising dirty energy which across the world are 40 times (26 times in the US) more than for renewable energy sources.

Gore has kept a weather eye on New Zealand too, and mentions the big cyclones to hit the country this year: Cook, the most powerful in decades, and Debbie, the category 4 that flooded Edgecumbe when the town's stop banks breached.

Changing storm tracks seemed to be pushing more powerful tropical storms further south.

But what can citizens of one of the world's smallest countries do? "Well use your voice, use your vote and use your choices," says Gore. "All of these great social revolutions began in millions of conversations that ultimately changed policies.

"Use your vote to support candidates who are in favour of doing the right thing.

"Use your choices to send a signal to businesses that millions of us want the climate-friendly alternatives. That really does shift investment and industrial design."

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, is currently screening in cinemas.