Al Gore: The next 8 years will be crucial in solving our climate problems. Here are the positive signs he’s seeing.

“Political will is itself a renewable resource. Let’s renew it.”

– Al Gore

Former Vice President Al Gore shared good and bad news for a packed theater at a tech conference in San Francisco on Wednesday night.

He broke the bad news first, laying out how the climate crisis is causing extreme and often deadly weather around the world. The longtime environmentalist and Nobel Peace Prize winner showed the crowd at Salesforce Inc.’s CRM,
Dreamforce Conference in San Francisco Slide after slide of videos and photos of recent hurricanes, floods, fires, droughts and other devastation – from Puerto Rico to Pakistan to Italy to states like California, Alaska, Kentucky and beyond.

This summer, China had “70 days of temperatures above 104 degrees and up to 113 degrees over a huge area,” Gore said. “Historians of climate-related events say there is nothing in the historical record that even remotely compares to what China went through.”

He also said that extreme heat could make certain parts of the world uninhabitable in the next 50 years, such as India, Brazil and West and East Africa.

In addition, Gore soberly rattled off another climate catastrophe that has happened in the past year: rain bombs. Monsoon. A tsunami from the air. A Millennium Drought. A mega drought.

“All of this is affecting our food system,” Gore said, noting an increased risk of multiple breadbasket failures or a widespread shock to grain production. Yet further evidence: Ukraine’s grain exports have been affected by the Russian invasion, he said, with India seeing this as an opportunity to export its surplus grain. But then India had a heat wave and eventually banned wheat exports.

After scoffing at how the oil industry has been dealing with climate change (“The oil industry has been trying to make it seem like ‘we get it,’ Gore said), the former vice president became more animated as he turned to the good news .

Gore said the technology needed to halve emissions over the next eight years exists. One of the goals of the Paris climate agreement is to reduce emissions by 50% by 2030. “That’s why the next eight years are so crucial,” he said.

The former vice president marveled at what he called the dramatic drop in the cost of renewable energy like solar and wind. He said that global sales of electric vehicles have doubled over the past year and that they have achieved a 10% to 15% penetration rate in several countries, “which is associated with new technologies when they achieve a turn rate.” Gore said the cost of energy storage, which he described as a potential $1 trillion market, is falling quickly. He mentioned that more than 370 global companies have committed to “going to 100% renewable energy,” including Salesforce.

He then quoted the poet Wallace Stevens: “After the final no comes the yes, and on that yes the world to come depends” and asked the audience a question that made them laugh.

“I wonder if any of you, like me, have had moments where you worried about whether Congress will ever get its act through” on the climate crisis. “But they did it! After the last no came a yes,” Gore said, referring to the passage of “the largest climate reform bill in the history of the entire world.” (The Inflation Reduction Act earmarks $369 billion for climate and energy regulations.)

The former vice president concluded on a high note, and it felt and sounded like he was preaching to a choir that gave him a standing ovation, “We can solve this! Don’t despair. We have the tools. The young people are demanding that we do this in every single country around the world. The only thing we need is probably the political will. But please remember: Political will is itself a renewable resource. Let’s renew it.” Al Gore: The next 8 years will be crucial in solving our climate problems. Here are the positive signs he’s seeing.

Brian Lowry

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