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Gore launches $300 million climate change advocacy campaign

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Al Gore today unveiled the “we” campaign, a $300 million effort to raise public awareness of climate change — both the problem and its potential solutions. The aim of the campaign is to create bottoms-up pressure on legislators to tackle the issue.

Lots of details in the Washington Post and in Grist, so I’ll just offer some quick impressions:

  • Setting aside the issue of climate change, this is a pretty fascinating experiment in public advocacy. $300 million is a lotta scratch, and the people spending it give every appearance of being quite smart. It will be interesting to watch how this unfolds. Can big money and the grassroots live side-by-side? It it possible to jumpstart a movement? We’ll know pretty soon.
  • Some people are inevitably going to ask if the money could better be spent elsewhere. To my eye, this looks like a worthwhile gamble. Right now climate change is both confusing and low-salience to voters. It’s hard to see how to get to a long-term fix without broad-based popular support.
  • The campaign seems to be hitting the right notes. It’s mixing urgency with optimism; it’s casting climate change in the context of other heroic national endeavors (World War II, moon landings, civil rights movement, etc.). And it’s explicitly post-partisan, featuring commercials that pair unlikely combos like Nancy Pelosi and Newt Gingrich, or Al Sharpton and Pat Robertson.

Here’s the first ad, narrated by William H. Macy:

And here are the things I think will be particularly interesting to watch as the campaign unfolds:

  • What’s the election strategy? It’s a three-year campaign, but this November is obviously a big point of leverage. Everyone is focused on the presidential race, but perhaps even more interesting are the state-level races.
  • What’s the online strategy? Rolling Stone recently ran a fascinating article on Obama’s internet magic, which masterfully bridges the worlds of online and offline advocacy. Can the we campaign pull off a similar trick?
  • What happens if we get a carbon cap in 2009? The we campaign is set to run through 2011. The ground is going to shift a lot over the next few years, and it will be interesting to see how the campaign balances its big-picture themes with the day-to-day reality of politics and international diplomacy.
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