HOW the world has changed since Al Gore's last visit to Melbourne.
When the carbon warrior was here in September 2007, he was near the zenith of his fame. The documentary An Inconvenient Truth had swept the world, and helped propel the former US vice-president towards a Nobel Prize.
Gore, according to legend, even helped with the recruitment of Chris Judd to the Carlton Football Club on that trip over breakfast with the footballer and the Pratt family at the billionaire's Kew mansion, Raheen.
But breakfast was less intimate yesterday, with 1000 "specially invited guests" turning up at Docklands for an early-morning meeting with the poster boy of the climate-change movement.
Also there to greet Gore was a ramshackle group of men called the Climate Sceptics Party, led by former dairy farmer Leon Ashby a former board member of the Australian Environment Foundation, a conservation group affiliated with the Institute of Public Affairs, a right-wing think tank.
With the sun barely over the horizon, and the temperature below 10 degrees, Ashby seemed the only one with much enthusiasm for the protest.
"Sea will rise when Al Gore takes a swim/more CO
It was hard for Full Disclosure not to dwell on just how quickly the world has changed while the conservatives raised placards and sang protest songs out front, the green movement hosted a power breakfast over scones with sustainable jam and cream inside, rubbing shoulders with Melbourne-based politicians and power brokers.
It was all in the name of Safe Climate Australia, an "apolitical non-government organisation" that has been launched to promote the science of climate change.
Inside, it was also hard not to note the composition of the guest list especially as this was a free event. Gore had demanded that no money be charged for tickets when he committed to speak in Melbourne a move made partly in response to recent criticism in the US, where his opponents have gleefully noted that he charges $US175,000 ($A225,000) a speech.
Sponsors had to be rustled up quick smart. In just seven weeks, VicSuper, the Environmental Protection Agency, Mercedes-Benz Australia and Pacific Hydro were signed on to foot the bill for the event.
At the table at the very front was David Blood, the former Goldman Sachs executive who runs London-based fund manager Generation Investment Management with Gore a fund also known as "Blood & Gore".
VicSuper boss Bill Welsh also sat nearby hardly surprising, as his company invests in Generation, and he helped foot the bill to get Gore to Melbourne.
After perusing the guest list, it was hard not to note that the majority of people at the lunch were representatives of super funds or renewable-energy companies those who put money into Generation, and those who look to it for investment.
Perhaps the best seating arrangement was the strategic placement of Senator Steve Fielding, Australia's carbon naysayer who wouldn't have looked out of place holding a placard at the front door.
To Fielding's right sat Don Henry, executive director of the Australian Conservation Foundation, and to his left Mick Bourke, EPA chairman.
They took it in turns to give Fielding an ear-bashing on the latest scientific research into carbon in the atmosphere, but it seemed not much of it sank in. Such was their focus on Fielding, Planning Minister Justin Madden, who was at the same table, was barely noticed.
Fielding took notes during Gore's speech, but the only line he wrote down entirely was when Gore quoted Voltaire: "While men argue, nature acts."
The Senator also attempted, unsuccessfully, to get an audience with Gore, but was given the brush-off. That honour instead went to 50 "elite" guests who were given a private audience with Gore after his speech. Much like the general audience, that guest list was dominated by representatives of super funds and renewable-energy companies.
It makes one wonder if a secondary agenda was in play from Blood & Gore.
After all, the old saying is "there's no such thing as a free lunch".
Maybe, in these recessionary times, it also extends to breakfast.