(CBS) When Al Gore ran for president in 2000, he was often ridiculed as inauthentic and wooden. Today he is passionate and animated, a man transformed. His documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," won an Oscar, and last year he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Now he's a certified celebrity, the popular prophet of global warming, and has helped change the way the country thinks about the issue.
And yet while 70 percent of Americans believe global warming is a big problem, they still rank it near the very bottom of their list of top 25 concerns.
And so Al Gore is about to wage a new campaign to emphasize the urgency of what he says is the greatest challenge facing our time. But as correspondent Lesley Stahl found out while spending time with him and his wife Tipper, for the moment at least, there's another campaign Americans care about most.
"We were with you in the San Jose Airport. And a man came over to you and he says 'Who are you supporting, Obama or Hillary? Who are you supporting? Who are you supporting?'" Stahl asked.
Gore's response to the man? "Uh ha."
"So, let me ask you. Who are you supporting?" Stahl asked.
"I'm tryin' to stay out of it," Gore replied.
Getting Al Gore to talk about politics these days is hard work. But as a party leader and uncommitted superdelegate, his staying "out of it" isn't easy.
"Are they calling you every minute?" Stahl asked.
"Not every minute," Gore said.
"No? Lotta pressure though, I'll bet," Stahl remarked.
"We unplugged the phones for this interview, so I can't say with authority. But no, everyone -- they both call. And I appreciate that fact," Gore replied.
"And what about the idea of the honest broker who goes to the two candidates and helps push one or the other of them off to the side?" Stahl asked.
"Yeah, kind of a modern Boss Tweed," Gore remarked.
"Except his name would be Al Gore," Stahl said.
"Well, I'm not applying for the job of broker," Gore replied, laughing.
He's not ruling it out, but he says he already has a job, as he puts it, "P.R." agent for the planet.
"You have said, and I'm going to quote you, 'If I do my job right, all the candidates will be talking about the climate crisis,'" Stahl said. "I can't think of a time I've heard the candidates talk about it."
"Right. Well, I'm not finished yet," Gore said.
The Gore campaign on global warming went into high gear when his documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" was an unexpected hit. What he's been doing is holding seminars, where he trains other people to give his famous slideshow about the effects of greenhouse gases.
So far in all, he's coached about 2,000 people, teaching one little workshop at a time.
His slideshows are tailored to his audiences. For example, when he talks to evangelical Christians, he includes passages from the Bible.
Gore is trying to redefine this as a moral and spiritual issue. "We all share the exact same interest in doing the right thing on this. Who are we as human beings? Are we destined to destroy this place that we call home, planet earth? I can't believe that that's our destiny. It is not our destiny. But we have to awaken to the moral duty that we have to do the right thing and get out of this silly political game-playing about it. This is about survival," he said.
He is taking his fervor and some of his personal fortune and funneling them into a huge, new $300 million advertising campaign. He hired the agency that made the caveman and talking lizard ads for Geico to create global warming commercials.
The ads will start running this week on the broadcast networks and cable channels in a blitz as sweeping and expensive as a big corporation's rollout of a new product.
"Now, the rest of the future ads are going to stress this bipartisan coalition that's coming together on this with some surprising pairings," Stahl said.
"Nancy Pelosi and Newt Gingrich, two people who don't agree on very much at all," Gore remarked.
"They're going to do an ad together?" Stahl asked.
"Are doing an ad together," Gore pointed out.
And other unlikely couples, like Pat Robertson and Al Sharpton, are also doing an ad.
"Now, we're told that this ad campaign is going to cost a barrel of money. How are you paying for this?" Stahl asked.
"Well, Tipper and I - thank you again -have put all of the profits from the movie and the book that we would have otherwise gotten, 'An Inconvenient Truth,' to this," Gore said.
"All the profits?" Stahl asked.
"Correct. All that we would have received, absolutely," Gore said.
"And, not only that but, you know there is a cash component to the Nobel Peace Prize, which he was awarded. And we donated that and we matched it," Tipper Gore added.
Tipper says that Al's survival after his defeat in 2000 depended on his immersing himself in the climate cause. The year 2000 was of course when he won the popular vote, but lost the presidency when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of George Bush.
"Did he go through the seven stages of anger and grief-I’m not even joking," Stahl asked. "Anger? Fury? Rage?"
"That doesn't get you anywhere," Al Gore said.
"Doesn't mean you don't have it," Stahl remarked.
"Ah, again, I'm not sure words are adequate for anybody who tries to describe an experience like that. But, you know, I probably went through all that, yeah," Gore replied.
His friends said they were worried about him and his state of mind, especially after he gained a lot of weight and grew a beard.
"You know, I don’t think it’s all that mysterious," Gore told Stahl. "You have shattering, disappointing setbacks. And you have a basic decision to make. Do you pick yourself up and go on or not? And it's not, ultimately, that's not a difficult choice," Gore says.
"You know, your lawyer, one of your lawyers in the Supreme Court case, said publicly of you: 'Al Gore thought the court’s ruling was wrong and obviously political,'" Stahl said.
"Well, I strongly disagreed with the decision," Gore said. "But to ascribe low and petty partisan motivations to the five justices who were in the majority, it doesn’t feel right for me to do that."
Asked how her husband has changed, Tipper Gore told Stahl, "For the better. Not that he needed to change for the better at all. But I have to say that I'm so proud of him. I mean, I think that if you look at anyone who kind of went through what, what he went through and see what he’s been able to do. I'm just really proud of the way that he has not given up. That he lifted himself and our family, you know, back up as well."
He lifted himself up by turning his old slides that were gathering dust in the basement into that mega-hit documentary; it's been translated into 27 languages, and was good enough to win an Oscar.
He not only made a comeback, he made a fortune. It started when he invested in Google early on. Worth less than $2 million in 2000, the Gores are worth so much now they’ve been able to invest $35 million in hedge funds and other private partnerships.
They bought an 18-room mansion in Nashville. After they moved in, they were criticized because the house "Mr. Global Warming" lived in used 20 times more energy than the average American household. Since then, they have retrofitted everything, including installing 33 solar panels on the roof.
He’s also making his parents' farm eco-friendly, by installing windmills to generate electricity, with plans to turn it into a training center for people from all over the world.
For now he takes his slideshow on the road. 60 Minutes went with Gore to India.
"It's going to be so hard, so gigantically difficult to solve this problem. And expensive, no?" Stahl asked.
"It's much more expensive not to solve it," Gore said.
India is the world's fourth biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, and in New Delhi Gore was teaching 100 people how to give his slideshow and spread the word.
"You're giving talks to a hundred people. There are over a billion people in India. I mean, how do you expect to really have any kind of impact?" Stahl asked.
"This is the beginning. And then they will train others. And I will be training others," Gore said.
"It's so daunting," Stahl remarked.
"We don't have any choice. We just don't have any choice. I wish I knew a better way to do it. I constantly ask myself, 'How can I be more effective in getting this message across?' It's so clear. It's so compelling. And yet, it takes time to get the facts out," Gore said.
But it's not so clear and compelling to everyone.
"There's still a lot of skepticism about whether global warming is man made," Stahl remarked.
"I don't think there's a lot. I think there’s…" Gore said.
"Well, there's pretty impressive people like the vice president," Stahl pointed out. "He said, 'We don't know what causes it.'"
"You’re talking about Dick Cheney," Gore replied.
"Yeah, but others. And they say: we don’t know what causes it and why spend all this money till we really know," Stahl said.
"I think that those people are in such a tiny, tiny minority now with their point of view. They’re almost like the ones who still believe that the moon landing was staged in a movie lot in Arizona and those who believe the earth is flat. That demeans them a little bit, but it’s not that far off," Gore said.
What Al Gore has set out to do is mobilize a big, popular movement worldwide. And his winning the Nobel Peace Prize hasn’t hurt, since it’s given him more stature and prestige.
"Tomorrow is your 60th birthday," Stahl remarked during her interview with Gore. "Sorry, didn't want to be the one, to be the first to tell ya. Have you completely, totally put the idea of the presidency behind you once and for all?"
"Well, first of all, 60 is the new 59. So, this is a new world that we're in," Gore replied.
"So, you're a young man," Stahl joked.
"I doubt very seriously that I'll ever be a candidate again," Gore replied.
He says he's fallen out of love with politics. He's selling a cause now, and there are no consultants telling him what to say or how to dress.
"We all seem to learn the most from the most painful experiences. And would that it were not so. But it is so. And the old cliché - what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger - is sometimes true," Gore said. "And so when you go through a lot, you do have an opportunity to learn a lot. And I think I’ve been very fortunate."