This post was written by Rebecca Davidson.
Al Gore, 2006 Nobel Laureate and former U.S. Vice President, briefed a small group of non-governmental organization delegates yesterday at COP20 in Lima. He spoke about his optimism for finding climate solutions and the urgency for doing so. Gore is a long-time environmental advocate, pushing for innovative climate initiatives in the public and political spheres. Building on the work that led to the book and documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, and his Nobel Prize shared with the IPCC, Gore founded the Climate Reality Project to find ways to turn awareness into action. Get Loud, Get Smart, Get Active. These are the motivating catch phrases of the Climate Reality Project.
Although he didn’t speak about the Climate Reality Project directly at the briefing, Mr. Gore did address the ways in which we are already developing a higher level of climate awareness and the innovative tech solutions that are pushing us towards a different kind of tipping point. No, not the tipping point from anthropogenic CO2 emissions that are melting the ice caps (although that is happening too). It’s the tipping point from society shifting its old-school fossil-fuel paradigm for producing energy. Mr. Gore cites that – for instance – more solar photovoltaic has been installed in CA in the last 2 years than over the previous 30 combined. This trend sends clear signals to big business and policy makers on what a new global economy can aim for. We need to speed up this transition, exhorted Gore, for the survival of civilization.
So what to do? Mr. Gore expresses both emotion and optimism while simultaneously pushing big business and government. His Climate Project website cuts right to the chase: “Big Polluters like oil and coal companies aren’t going down without a fight. After all, they’re making billions from dirty energy while the rest of us pay to clean up their mess. That’s why they’ve spent decades running well-funded campaigns to mislead and deceive the public about what’s really happening to the planet. These polluters—and the special-interest groups they support—are even following the exact same playbook as the tobacco industry used to confuse the public about smoking and cancer.”
As part of today’s briefing, Mr. Gore underscored the uniquely powerful voice of young people. If young people commit to environmental integrity and honesty, they can more clearly describe and work toward an evolving climate regime. Likewise he pointed out how indigenous people, when given an opportunity, can play an active role in developing mitigation benefits; a 2014 WRI study shows a direct link between strengthening community forest rights and mitigating climate risk.
Mr. Gore closed by encouraging everyone in the room to “keep it up please.” With only a few days left here in Lima, and the long road to Paris, “the stakes are so high. My view is optimistic.”