- - Monday, February 24, 2014

Everyone (well, nearly everyone) has been wondering whatever happened to Al Gore, and whether he’s still in the global-warming business. We can reliably report that yes, he is. A reporter ran into him the other night in Kansas City, where everything, even Al, is up to date and Al is peddling a new and improved line of snake oil.

Just in time, Al is freshening up the label on his cure for global warming, just as everyone is well and truly weary of one of the most brutal winters we’ve had in years, and even thinking about warming, global or even local, warms both body and soul. But the polar vortex is threatening the Middle West again, and heading east, just behind the warming trend that teased us last week.

The ancient Romans had a Latin word or two for these brief bursts of wintry weather, a “coldus snapus,” but “polar vortex” sounds a lot scarier, and Al’s audience was pleased to hear from Al that folk music can lower the temperature. He urged young people to start writing folk songs. He reminded everyone that the late Pete Seeger wrote some folk tunes with heavy-weather messages, and so did Bob Dylan, and he even offered a few words of Dylan’s “The Times They Are a-Changin’” in a passable baritone. Folk music, Al said, could spread “a renewable energy message all over this land.”

Finding something to rhyme with “renewable energy” wouldn’t be easy, and it might not soothe the savage beast of a winter. But Al reminded everyone that folk music “played a positive role in resolving the central question in civil rights, as to what was truly right and truly wrong.”

A man with the vision of a true snake-oil salesman, Al can see what others can’t (such as an ample supply of rubes and marks) — a growing acceptance of wind and solar power, much in the way that cell phones started gaining acceptance 25 years ago. He praised the Vatican for working to make Vatican City “the world’s first CO2-neutral sovereign city-state in the world,” though he concedes that Vatican City has two singular things going for it. “They have two advantages. [Vatican City] is very small, and they have God on their side.”

Al, reported the Kansas City Star, repeated two questions he says he routinely hears from global-warming skeptics, “do we really have to do this? And if the answer is yes, can we do it?” To the astonishment of no one in the hall, Al, ever the big crowd-pleaser, said “the answer to both of those questions is ‘yes.’ ” Then he packed up his projector and slides, and stepped out into the icy slush.