Surprise: ABC's Sawyer Hits Gore on Profits From Global Warming, Plays Glenn Beck Attack

Good Morning America's Diane Sawyer conducted a surprisingly tough interview with Al Gore on Tuesday, pressing him on profiting from global warming and whether or not climate change legislation is pointless in light of pollution-spewing countries such as China. She also forced the ex-Vice President to respond to a challenge from Glenn Beck.

Sawyer even pointed out the amount of methane gas created from the bodily functions of cows, observing that it's "20 times more damaging it is than CO2." The host, who will become the anchor of World News in January, then played a clip of Fox News' Beck mocking Gore:

GLENN BECK: I'm siding with PETA on this one. Once again asking Al Gore if you really want to save the planet, Al, why don't you put down the cheeseburger and pick up the veggie burger? Time for, maybe, soy mill and tofurkey

GORE: [Laughs]: Well, you know, there is a serious issue about the connection between the growing meat intensity of diets around the world and damage to the environment. That is a legitimate issue. And like a lot of people, I eat less meat now than I used to. I'm not a vegetarian, don't plan to become one, but it's a healthy choice to eat more vegetables than fruits. So it's not a laughable issue.

"So, tofurkey for you," she jibed.

Speaking of the upcoming global warming conference in Copenhagen and of China's environmental record, Sawyer quizzed, "And everyone keeps saying, how can go and have the U.S. commit to controls when China is not doing the same thing? What's the point?" After Gore ducked the question and touted the country's solar power facilities, the ABC host tried again: "But they're still the major polluter on CO2."

Finally, the anchor highlighted a front page story in the November 3 New York Times on how some critics accuse Gore of profiting from climate change: "But they [the New York Times] say you are about to become, perhaps, the world's first carbon billionaire because of the amounts of money that you've made from your investments, from your green investment."

Sawyer certainly should be commended for being far tougher than CBS Evening News host Katie Couric. As the MRC's Brent Baker noted, she enthused on CBSNews.com: "I'm honored to be joined today by the Godfather of Green, the King of Conservation: Former Vice President Al Gore."

[Special thanks to MRC intern Mike Sargent for creating the video.]

A transcript of the November 2 segment, which aired at 7:12am EST, follows:
DIANE SAWYER: And to discuss it all, former Vice President Gore joining us. He has a book that follows up on his best-seller An Inconvenient Truth. And it's called Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis on recycled paper, 1,513 trees saved in the publication of this book, I understand. Good to have you with us. Good to see you.

AL GORE: Good morning.

SAWYER: Cannot let the morning of politics go by without asking, the Republicans, as you know, are saying what's happening today is a referendum on the Obama's presidency, the nine months of it. And it is a rebellion against big government intrusion. Do you agree?

GORE: Well, I'm one who strongly believes that the voters ought to decide this and they're voting today. God bless them and I prefer to let them make the decision and we can talk about it tomorrow. Whatever happens.

SAWYER: You have said that - you didn't rule out exactly- someday might re-enter politics? You said you were in rehab?

GORE: I doubt that very seriously. I'm a recovering politician now. I'm on, about, step nine now.

SAWYER: [Laughs.] Might lure you back. Might lure you back here. I do want to turn to the whole question of the global conference coming up in Copenhagen and the importance of it which I know you say it's a crossroads. This is it. In December, a year ago, President Obama, not then President Obama came out of a meeting with you and committed to this issue saying it's a matter of complete urgency. Let's take a look.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We all believe what the scientists have been telling us for years now, that this is a matter of urgency and national security. And it has to be dealt with in a serious way. That's what I intend my administration to do.

SAWYER: Yet we have no word yet that he's going to go to the conference. Does he have to go to the conference and what does he have to do there?

GORE: Well, I think that- I hope that he does go and this conference is really crucial. First, because the scientists have been saying for quite some time we still have time to avoid the worst of the consequences of this cataclysm that is now unfolding. But we don't have a lot of time and this is the best opportunity. So, I hope they will go but already-

SAWYER: You have no personal commitment from him?

GORE: He hasn't told me that he will go, but I feel certain that he will. Some other heads of state are going. And, you know, our country is regarded as the natural leader of the world. I don't think that's false pride as an American. The rest of the world just sees us that way. President Obama has already committed an enormous amount in his green stimulus, his EPA has issued regulations requiring the reduction of CO2. All large emitters will have to publicly report their CO2 emissions starting January 1. A I believe that there is an excellent chance that the Senate will pass legislation before Copenhagen which will strengthen his hand.

SAWYER: But, you know the objections that have been raised. For one thing, China, together, the U.S. and China produce 40 percent of the world's pollution, CO2 pollution, the majority now by China. And everyone keeps saying, how can go and have the U.S. commit to controls when China is not doing the same thing? What's the point?

GORE: Well, actually in the last three years China has done a U-turn. They're still opening a lot of new coal plants but will be the number one solar power and wind power in the world by next year. They're building the largest super grid in the world. They're planning two and a half times more trees than the rest of the world combined. They're evaluating officials on the basis of how effective they are in reducing CO2.

SAWYER: But they're still the major polluter on CO2.

GORE: They are. They have 1.3 billion people and their economy is growing. But they are engineering a major shift toward renewable energy. Last week, there was a story that this huge wind farm in Texas is purchasing windmills 100 percent made in China and the Chinese government is providing most of the financing. We need to see this opportunity for the U.S. to create millions of good new jobs here at home and reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil by relying on energy that's here in the United States, renewable energy that creates jobs that can't be outsourced.

SAWYER: Another objection you see and it brings laughs, always. But it's a constant one and it's from those who are doubters about what's needed to be done about methane and the amount of methane-

GORE: Yeah. Yeah.

SAWYER: - diplomatically produced, that cows produce and how damaging it is, 20 times more damaging it is than CO2. Here's Glenn Beck giving you a challenge about cows and methane.

GLENN BECK: I'm siding with PETA on this one. Once again asking Al Gore if you really want to save the planet, Al, why don't you put down the cheeseburger and pick up the veggie burger? Time for, maybe, soy milk and tofurkey.

GORE: [Laughs]: Well, you know, there is a serious issue about the connection between the growing meat intensity of diets around the world and damage to the environment. That is a legitimate issue. And like a lot of people, I eat less meat now than I used to. I'm not a vegetarian, don't plan to become one, but it's a healthy choice to eat more vegetables than fruits. So it's not a laughable issue. Diet is an issue that's connected but the biggest issue by far is CO2 and methane comes from a lot of sources including- it is the principal component of natural gas, coal mines, rice, a lot of sources and it plays a somewhat larger role than scientists thought in the past.

SAWYER: So tofurkey for you?

GORE: No. I don't plan to. No thanks.

SAWYER: Alright. Cannot let you go. In the New York Times this morning, we pick it up. Front page story, "Spotlight on Gore's Dual role." And they do not- They do not question your commitment to these issues about the environment. But they say you are about to become, perhaps, the world's first carbon billionaire because of the amounts of money that you've made from your investments, from your green investment.

GORE: They don't say that. That quote is from one of the deniers and that, certainly, is not true. But I am proud to put my money where my mouth has been for 30 years. And though that's not the majority of my business activity, I absolutely believe in investing in accordance with my beliefs and values. And I recommend that everybody do. I think that our country will be successful by making a choice to switch toward renewable energy. Diane, how long are we going to stay on this roller coaster of foreign oil prices going away way up and when we get ready to make a commitment to get off then they drop the price again until we relax and then they jack it up again? The rate of new discoveries is declining even as the demand is growing around the world. This roller coaster is headed for a crash and we're in the front car. We need to protect our national security, create more jobs here at home and solve the climate crisis and do right by our kids.

SAWYER: Thank you very much, Mr. Vice President, for being here. It is Our Choice. It's about the solutions at ABCNews.com if you want to read excerpts of the book.

-Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center.