Former Vice President Al Gore has long been outspoken about the need to better protect the environment. In 2005, he founded the Alliance for Climate Protection, now called the Climate Reality Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about climate change and educating people around the globe. On Thursday evening, Gore gave a presentation at Aragon High School, hosted by the Kepler’s Literary Foundation, about the frightening truth of global warming. Gore was in conversation with Angie Coiro, a talented interviewer who fielded audience questions and talked about Gore’s mission.
The talk was inspired by the release of Gore’s second documentary film about climate change, titled “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,” which came out in theaters in July. It was the follow-up to Gore’s successful first documentary released in 2006, “An Inconvenient Truth.” The new film, created by San Francisco natives Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, addresses the political and scientific progress made to protect the environment, and Al Gore’s efforts to urge global governments to action.
The conclusion of the sequel is the signing of the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement, which is a multinational commitment to keep global temperature rise below two degrees above the temperature before the Industrial Revolution. As Gore began his talk, he pointed out the influence that President Trump has had on climate change as a national issue.
Although Trump has threatened to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement, Gore explained: “Two things you need to know about that are that the first day the U.S. could legally withdraw from the agreement is the day after the next presidential election, and any President can choose to reenter the agreement which would take 30 days.”
Trump’s presidency so far has somewhat blurred the lines between scientific fact and political opinion, but the truth is that climate change is real and that if the world does not act soon, the future of the human race is in jeopardy. According to Gore, climate change could wipe out half of the living species on Earth in the next few generations if it is not slowed. Even if every country met the Paris agreement standards, it would not be enough to stop the damage. However, Gore continues to use his position to advocate for change because he believes there is legitimate hope.
The cost of renewable energy is plummeting, so it is plausible that very soon many countries will be able to expand their economic commitment to turn away from fossil fuel. As Gore said, “When the cost of renewable energy goes below fossil fuels without subsidies, a dam breaks and investments start pouring in.”
2017 is the seventh year in a row that these investments in renewable energy like wind or solar have exceeded those in fossil fuels, so although politicians fight over what, if any, action to take, progress is feasible. Gore added that while “Republicans have made it almost a litmus test to fail to acknowledge that there is a climate crisis,” this is beginning to change and at least 30 Republicans in congress have joined the climate change caucus.
The renewable energy revolution has, according to Gore, the magnitude of the industrial revolution and the speed of the digital revolution, which gives him real hope. He switched between dire statistics and positive plans for change as he talked. The climate crisis is the biggest challenge humanity has ever had to face, but Gore sees the potential to help before it is too late. He added that if the world could stop putting solution into the atmosphere tomorrow, half of it would disintegrate within 20 years, and all the black carbon and soot in the air would be gone within two weeks.
Pollution may not stop tomorrow, but the fact that the damage is so possible to reverse means that everyone can make a difference when it comes to the environment. Gore’s main goal with the Climate Reality Project is to train activists around the globe to educate others about the crisis, and he holds training in dozens of U.S. cities each year. His passion is to give ordinary people the tools they need to combat climate change, hence his book “An Inconvenient Truth” and his newest documentary are handbooks for activists.
Part of the problem is media coverage of the crisis, or the lack thereof. Storms and natural disasters are rarely connected to climate change by reporters, and in the last three presidential debate cycles, not a single question was asked about global warming. Gore feels that the line between news and entertainment has corroded, and because covering controversial issues makes some viewers click away, news corporations avoid topics like climate change to increase viewership.
Gore seeks to counter this with his annual “24 Hours of Reality” broadcast, a day-long media and television broadcast that calls on everyone to take part in climate activism. In 2017, the broadcast was December 4-5, and it was streamed into over half a billion homes as well as trended as the number one video on youtube multiple times.
It is because of this incredible effort against climate change that Gore won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, and the support for these initiatives is what drives him to continue speaking up. One of the most interesting statistics that he raised was the fact that there already exists in the world, produced and ready to use, three times the amount of oil that could ever be burned if the Earth is to stay at a survivable temperature. This negates the need for corporations to continue drilling for oil and destroying the natural world as they are trying to do near Bears Ears National Monument in Utah and other beautiful natural landscapes.
The bottom line is that real change, real work to slow the warming of the planet, is a battle between activists and corporations, and the greed of the latter is extremely powerful. As Gore jokingly said, the maximum that is politically feasible is far below the minimum required by physics to actually solve the problem, “so you have two options, you can curl up in a fetal position and fall into despair or you can work to expand what is politically feasible.”
Coiro laughed and countered back with the question of whether that despair and fetal position are ever acceptable, to which Gore laughed and said, “Not for me.”
This dedication is exactly what sets Gore apart in the world of politicians and activists alike. The planet would certainly be better off if everyone heeded his message and took even small actions to protect the home of, hopefully, generations and generations to come.