Al Gore tells students: we can respond to climate change
In 2006, Al Gore warned in his film An Inconvenient Truth that the world was approaching a tipping-point: if we do not reduce emissions within 10 years, the repercussions would be irreversible. The deadline has passed, and the effects of climate charge are being felt, but is it still possible to mitigate the damage?
On March 8, the 45th vice-president of the United States visited Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre for a talk titled “Al Gore at Ryerson: Taking Leadership on the Climate Crisis,” organized by the Ryerson Leadership Lab and followed by an onstage discussion with Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne (who was introduced by Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi).
Acknowledging that “the fight is now reaching a new stage,” Gore boiled the crisis down to three key questions: “Must we change? Can we change? Will we change?”
To the first question, Gore said, “Don’t take the answer from me. Listen to Mother Nature, because the predictions of scientists years and decades ago are unfortunately coming true.” He laid out the statistics: 17 of the 18 hottest years on record have been in this century. 2017 alone saw record rainfall in Ottawa; devastating wildfires in California and Fort McMurray; record-breaking temperatures that saw the North Pole begin to thaw; and $300 billion worth of climate-related damage in the United States.
To the second question, “Can we change?” Gore struck an optimistic note. “The evidence now demonstrates that we are in the early stages of a sustainability revolution,” said Gore. “This sustainability revolution has the magnitude of the industrial revolution, and the speed of the digital revolution. And it’s creating jobs, and making every part of the market much more efficient.”
Gore noted that the price of solar energy is now dropping below that of burning fossil fuels, with countries like China and India investing heavily. “Solar jobs now represent the single fastest-growing job category in the United States, growing 17-times faster than other jobs [in energy sector]. What’s the second fastest-growing job? Wind-turbine technician! We’re seeing the happy convergence of reducing emissions and increasing economic progress.”
He added, “This sustainability revolution … is the dominant commercial reality of our time. And just as in past eras of the industrial revolution and digital revolution, those governmental leaders that see the advantages and the opportunities to adopting policies that enable their people to benefit, are the ones that reap those benefits.”
To the final question, “Will we change?” Gore spoke against the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership candidates’ pledges to scrap the carbon tax, and praised the Ontario Liberal Party’s climate initiatives as “a model for the entire world.” He added, “Will we continue to move in the right direction? That’s the answer that the people of Ontario will have a big part in providing.”
Gore also cited the Paris Agreement, which saw 195 countries agree to achieve net-zero global emissions by mid-century. “Now, I know what you’re thinking…” added Gore, to laughter. Though President Trump has pledged to pull the United States from the agreement, Gore noted, “Under U.S. and international law, the first day on which the U.S. could actually leave the Paris Agreement will be the first day after the next presidential election.”