Former Vice President Al Gore
We’ve quadrupled our population in less than a hundred years and the technologies we have are more powerful than previous generations could have imagined. The short term thinking which is so common around the world interferes with our natural desire to anticipate the future consequences of what we’re doing in the present.
And now, the atmosphere is a very thin shell around the planet and we’re putting 110 million tons a day of man-made heat trapping pollution, and it’s raising temperatures quite dramatically melting all the ice, raising sea level, evaporating much more water off the oceans, causing these incredible downpours such as the ones the UK has been experiencing in the last few years.
These climate related extreme weather events have gotten much more frequent and much more severe just since the first movie came out. The spread of tropical diseases into higher latitudes and deeper droughts as well, political disruptions. But for all of the shocking consequences of the climate crisis this movie is extremely hopeful because there are also pleasantly shocking developments in the field of technology. Where businesses have now found that just as with computer chips which came down so dramatically in price even as the computers got faster and better, mobile phones flat screen TVs.
It turns out solar panels, and wind stores went the same way and now it’s getting cheaper to produce electricity from renewable sources than from burning dirty coal or gas or oil. So we have the solutions available to us. And getting rid of that short term thinking and realising how high the stakes are right now is really the central challenge.
It is a time right now where the business community is actually ahead of the political community. Maybe that’s not so surprising, but as a recovering politician, I still have a little bit of surprise about that.
Ten years ago one thing that happened was that the business community got behind that movie in a very big way and that’s one of the reasons why it had such an impact. So I’m hoping that this time around some of you will consider doing the same thing. You can really make a difference.
Former Vice President Al Gore
It is at first a challenge to answer the question: do we really have to change? But yes, we do, because this collision between the power of industrial civilisation and the surprising fragility of the earth’s ecosystem now poses a great danger that could even threaten the future of human civilisation itself.
I was just in the Persian Gulf region, and the scientists for the last couple of years - one of the lines of investigation they have been pursuing has led them to the conclusion that significant areas of the Middle East and north Africa are in danger of becoming uninhabitable. And just to give a taste of this to link it to some of the events that the UK and the European Union are going through and I know that’s another source of stress because we’re now on the eve next week of the Brexit process. But think for a moment about what happened in Syria.
You know we look at the gates of hell opening – they’ve long since opened – but before the gates of hell opened in Syria what happened? A climate-related extreme drought, and the scientists have published these studies for several years now, showing why exactly it’s related to the climate crisis.
From 2006 to 2010, 60 per cent of the farms in Syria were destroyed and had to be abandoned. 80 per cent of the livestock were killed. The drought in the eastern Mediterranean is the worst ever recorded. The records only go back 900 years but it’s historic and 1.5 million climate refugees were driven into the cities of Syria, where they collided with another million and a half refugees from the Iraq War and WikiLeaks revealed the internal conversations in the Syrian government, where they were saying “we can’t handle this. There’s going to be a social explosion.”
So there are the causes of the civil war there, but this was the principle one. And those in the reasons recognise that. And it has unleashed with other factors this incredible flow of refugees into Europe, which is creating political instability in Europe, and which contributed in some ways to the desire of some in the UK to say “wow, we’re not sure we want to be a part of that anymore.”
And you can go through the list of countries around the world where stability and the success of governance is really challenged: some countries have a hard time in the very best of seasons, but the additional stress that this climate crisis is causing, really posing the threat of some political disruption and chaos of a kind that the world would find it extremely difficult to deal with.
Terri White, Editor-In-Chief, Empire
You mentioned the Paris agreement, which was obviously hugely significant and you played a key role in that, and the film explores the kind of weeks and days leading up to the deal finally being agreed. Can you tell us a little bit about the role in that and what it felt like to be part of something so significant but also do you imagine that the new administration will make it hard for the US to meet the goals that were agreed?
Former Vice President Al Gore
First of all, I think there is still a realistic chance that President Trump will decide not to pull the United States out of the Paris agreement. That decision has not been made. But there is an active debate in his inner circle. I have some visibility to that debate, I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I think there’s still a chance that he will not pull out of the Paris agreement.
He is seemingly determined to eliminate all of the government programs he can eliminate that would help the US reach its goals. But the speed and force of this transformation underway in the US may lead to the achievement of the US goals regardless of what he does.
The state of California. The state of New York. Quite a few other state governments now have the bit in their teeth and they are moving much faster than the Former President Obama’s Clean Power Plan would have had moved anyway. There is a growing list of cities in the US that have decided to go to 100 per cent renewable energy. Another one just achieved renewable energy, two weeks ago, in George Town Texas, a fair sized city in Texas.
In Kansas, a city that was destroyed by an F5 Tornado the worst kind, they made the decision to try to rebuild their devastated city, and during the debate all of a sudden they said – wait a minute – when we rebuild, let’s do it with 100 per cent renewable. And they did. And more and more cities are doing that.