Jonathan Curiel, Chronicle Staff Writer
Saturday, October 13, 2007
The group that founder Al Gore once praised as the planet’s “PR agent” became $750,000 richer after the former vice president announced Friday that his Nobel Prize winnings would be given to the Alliance for Climate Protection.
The money is a financial boost that could help the year-old organization assume an even larger role in the campaign to fight global warming and its potentially catastrophic impacts.
The alliance is a kind of think tank-in-action whose major goals include publicizing the effects of global warming and turning citizens into climate change activists. Through this summer’s Live Earth concerts and a follow-up campaign, the alliance has persuaded tens of thousands of Americans to pledge to lobby Washington on global warming.
The alliance is distinguished by its pop-culture approach (one of its campaigns features the voice of actor Tommy Lee Jones), connections to big names from the corporate world, and a staunch bipartisanship. The board of directors is led by Gore but also includes prominent Republicans such as Theodore Roosevelt IV, the managing director of the Lehman Brothers investment bank, and Brent Scowcroft, the businessman who was once national security adviser to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush.
The alliance also works with environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, pushing to educate the public about the effects of global warming.
Working with Gore’s Current TV and such actors as George Clooney and Orlando Bloom, the alliance created a “60 Seconds to Save the Earth” contest in which people were invited to submit short videos on taking environmental action. In the coming months, the organization will unveil a multimillion-dollar TV campaign created by the Martin Agency, the advertising agency behind Geico’s successful Cavemen commercials.
“What sets them apart is that it’s not just about getting a bunch of environmental groups together, but they’re also looking at business partners. And they certainly have access to some pretty big channels for communications and they’re reaching out to people in the corporate world who are ready to start talking about solutions to global warming,” said David Willett, the Sierra Club’s national press secretary.
The alliance’s bipartisanship gives it credibility that counts on Capitol Hill, said Karen Florini, a Washington, D.C., attorney for Environmental Defense who’s on the alliance’s advisory committee.
“Ultimately, what’s going to matter is whether we get across the line on enactment of federal legislation,” Florini said. “Part of the process of doing that is bringing the message into mainstream mass media to an ever-increasing degree, and the alliance is aiming specifically to do that.”
The Alliance for Climate Protection has been a major beneficiary of Gore’s recent success, getting millions of dollars from the Live Earth concerts and Gore’s hit documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.”
Until Friday, the alliance has been a behind-the-scenes player in the debate over climate change. Now, the alliance name may get more recognition.
“Given that our mission is to create a shift on opinion about the importance of climate change and solving the climate crisis, (Gore’s Nobel Prize) galvanizes the movement,” said alliance CEO Cathy Zoi. She worked as chief of staff in the Clinton administration’s White House Office on Environmental Policy. “I feel like we’ve turned a corner.”
On Friday, after briefly celebrating the news of Gore’s prize, the staff at the Alliance for Climate Protection met as usual in Palo Alto, a headquarters chosen for its proximity to Silicon Valley’s thriving academic and entrepreneurial atmosphere.
“Both symbolically and practically,” Zoi said, “to be down the road from the brightest minds inventing sustainable energy solutions makes sense to us.”
The alliance is not the only Bay Area connection to the Nobel Prize awarded to Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Hundreds of California scientists have contributed to research prepared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The U.N. panel of 2,000 scientists has released four major assessments since 1990 that synthesize the known science on global warming. Nearly every major academic and governmental scientific institution in California has added its research.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory issued a statement saying that more than 40 of its researchers are key contributors to the reports. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory lists a dozen who have contributed.
All the campuses in the UC system, Stanford University and the California State University system, among others, have scientists who have been lead authors or contributing researchers to the reports.