Al GoreAl Gore is kicking off an ad campaign on global warming. Here he delivered a speech last year in Australia. (Credit: Ian Waldie/Bloomberg News)

Daniel Schrag, a climate scientist at Harvard, once told me that two factors determine whether there will be meaningful action to limit global warming: public will and the relative cost of nonpolluting energy options and fossil fuels. You can work to raise public will to accept higher energy costs or improve technologies to lower the cost of clean energy (or both).

Former Vice President Al Gore is still banking on boosting public will. He has tried everything over the decades to mobilize people to aggressively curb emissions of greenhouse gases that climate experts say will lead to centuries of rising seas, ecological disruption and changing weather patterns. His tool kit has included congressional hearings, a worldwide speaking campaign, a portentous and prize-winning documentary, rock concerts and training retreats in which he has coached several thousand grassroots acolytes.

But worldwide emissions have continued to swell, driven mainly by blistering economic growth and coal burning in Asia; debate over a new climate treaty has stalled; lawmakers of both parties have not embraced legislation aimed at cutting emissions; and polls show the public still largely disengaged.

Now Mr. Gore is going Madison Avenue. He and a team are launching a three-year, $300-million climate ad campaign aimed at recruiting 10 million fervent followers willing to push for everything from strict laws capping emissions to aggressive programs for boosting energy efficiency. A link to the first ad is below.

About $150 million has already been raised. The campaign rolled out beginning with a “60 Minutes” appearance by Mr. Gore on Sunday and a burst of news coverage Monday. The first ad, called “Anthem” and meant to portray global warming as an epic issue akin to civil rights, is posted online and will start running on television on Wednesday.

The ad also aims to sell the idea that global warming is America’s problem to solve. Have a look and let us know what you think.

The ad campaign builds on a climate advertising contest Mr. Gore initiated last year.

Cathy Zoi, who heads the Alliance for Climate Protection, the group running the campaign, and is a former Clinton administration environmental aide, described the initiative last week at an Aspen Institute meeting on environmental issues . She said the goal is to replicate the marketing success of enduring public-service ad campaigns like the frying egg depicted as “your brain on drugs” and the 1971 advertisement featuring a tearful Indian regarding a polluted landscape.

Different ads will be focused on different markets and mesh with campaigning through organizations. All of the work, Ms. Zoi said, will reflect the science on climate and energy, but will try “to do better to mingle it with feelings.”

“We hope it’s a pretty integrated clever combination that eventually creates surround sound,” she said. “So no matter where you turn you’re getting a message that it’s urgent but it’s solvable.”

But the challenge of cleaning up vivid environmental despoliation like untreated sewage and litter is far different than the challenge of building public support to move rapidly away from the unfettered burning of abundant fossil fuels providing more than 80 percent of the world’s energy. Global warming, for most Americans, remains a very low priority.

Ms. Zoi acknowledged the challenge, noting that the group’s market research found that 38 percent of Americans remain “fearful and confused” about the issue and 18 percent do not believe humans are dangerously warming the world. She said about 35 percent of the public is engaged and aware of global warming and 9 percent are actively involved in pushing for legislation, lifestyle changes and the like.

The goal of the campaign is to recruit “influentials,” she said, describing this group as “people who talk to five times as many people a day as the typical person, who derive self esteem from having new information.”

The alliance has developed partnerships with organizations as varied as the United Steelworkers and the Girl Scouts to build support.

Groups opposed to restrictions on greenhouse gases have fired back with their own ad campaigns, most notably a video from the anti-regulatory Competitive Enterprise Institute that attacks Mr. Gore as an energy hog (in his mansion) who, they say, would needlessly raise energy costs.

In an interview with The Washington Post’s environment reporter, Juliet Eilperin, Mr. Gore said action by the United States, including federal regulations and new policies, is the key to cutting global climate risks:

“The simple algorithm is this: It’s important to change the light bulbs, but it’s much more important to change the laws,” he said. “The options available to civilization worldwide to avert this terribly destructive pattern are beginning to slip away from us. The path for recovery runs right through Washington, D.C.”

Polling and sociological research imply that Mr. Gore has his work cut out if he hopes to fit global warming into what experts call the “finite basket” of worries that most people routinely fill up with concerns about money and health. It’s unclear whether words and images will move global warming from being a someday, somewhere issue into a peril sufficient to drive a social movement. Paul Hawken, one of the most effective green communicators I’ve met, told me late last year that this issue will still require an extraordinary kick from nature to shift society into gear.

How do you think this will play out?

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