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Exclusive: Al Gore On His ‘Climate Realilty Project’ Launch: “It’s Urgent To Rendezvous With Reality To Save The Future Of Civilization As We Know It.”

by on July 12, 2011

Today, Former Vice President Gore launched The Climate Reality Project “to broadcast the reality of the climate crisis and mobilize citizens to help solve it.”

In an exclusive extended interview with Climate Progress, the Nobel-Prize winning champion of climate action discussed the “24 Hours of Reality” — a worldwide, live streamed event this September.  He explained to CP why he strongly disagrees with those who suggest we are talking about climate change too much and and why he is making the link between extreme weather and global warming a major focus of his effort.

Let’s start with why he launched The Climate Reality Project, and why he changed the name of his effort from Alliance for Climate Protection.  The short answer is that the goal of the group is  to explain that the impacts of human-caused climate change are reality now (much as the solutions to human-caused climate change are reality now):

 

Gore:  Well it really grew out of an extensive strategic review.  The change in the name is intended to reflect the organization’s new strategic focus and our new campaign to provide context to the ongoing disclosure of scientific information – to defend the scientists, to defend the science.  And to bring energy and focus to the climate issue by reaffirming the reality of the climate crisis and the urgency of the climate crisis.

We have a number of strategic moves coming up, the first of which I want to tell you about in this call.  And we wanted to introduce the new name of the organization before launching the new strategic initiative.

Of course as you know extremely well, the whole presentation by the deniers, and large carbon polluters and their ideological allies, has depended on their efforts to undermine the credibility of the science.  And toward that end they have slandered these scientists by implying and sometimes baldly stating the accusation that they are distorting and manufacturing science in order to win more research grants. Alternatively, the scientists are often accused of having a secret political agenda as some of the leaders in the denier community have argued – and the whole climate crisis is just a ruse to enact a political agenda.  And of course both of those overlapping accusations are absurd as well as insulting and fraudulent.

In any case, the reality of the climate crisis continues to unfold irrespective of what these attacks are, but as you also know extremely well, it’s urgent to rendezvous with reality in order to take the appropriate steps to save the future of civilization as we know it.  That sounds like an expansive goal, but that’s really now what we’re facing.  This crisis is very threatening, very urgent.  We know the solutions  require broad changes and we know it’s a fight that won’t be won overnight.  And the politics, the campaigns, the media cycle, will all ebb and flow on this issue.  But the reality of the crisis marches on.  If we keep focusing on that reality, it is only a matter of time before we reach a tipping point with the public, beyond which inaction is no longer an option.

Gore then went on to preview the series of global events that will take place September 14th and 15th, what they are calling “24 Hours of Reality.”  Details of the event are on the website here:

Gore:  It will cover a 24-hour period. And I’m preparing a brand new 30 minute multimedia presentation.  A keynote slideshow with video and other features that will focus in part on the connection between the extreme weather events all around the world and the climate crisis.  And it will begin on September 14th, in prime time, central time zone from Mexico City, and then it will move West to the next time zone over, and continue through all 24 time zones, ending the following evening, in  prime time, in New York City where I will give the last of the 24 presentations.

Each site where a presentation originates will have basically the same 30 minute slide show, but with slides used in each time zone that illustrate particular impacts and particular efforts towards solutions at the venue representing  than that time zone.  And then the second thirty minutes of each hour will include a panel discussion focused on the climate crisis and the solutions to it from the perspective of leaders and scientists and others  in that particular location.  So it will be a 24-hour event.

I’ll host it from New York City, but really all 23 of the other presenters and I will host our respective presentations. And we have a lot of work underway.  There will be 13 languages involved, and we have a lot of work that’s bearing fruit for the events in each of the locations.  And this will be designed to present the full truth, scope, and impact of the climate crisis and discuss the solutions to it and again it will be the first of a series of large events that we will hold multiple times a year to mobilize the public around actions to solve the climate crisis.  Each global event will focus on a different facet of the crisis and its solutions.  And we’re pretty excited about it.

Back in April, I interviewed the Vice President about his spectacular interactive digital book, “Our Choice,” on climate solutions.  There was one part of that interview  I  didn’t get around to posting, but which is relevant now:

CP:  There are people out there saying, “Well we should stop talking about climate change and we should be talking about other things like energy security.” And you have been consistent in talking about the climate.  And you write a lot in the book about behavior change and persuasion.  I’d be interested in your thoughts about people who think we’re  talking too much about climate change.

Gore:  Well, I simply and strongly and vigorously disagree.  The scale and magnitude of the changes that are necessary to solve the climate crisis mean that all of the collateral reasons for taking these steps will not get us to where we need to go without a clear understanding of what we’re facing if we don’t act.  I think it’s a mistake to move that to the periphery of the conversation as so many have done.  I think it has to be the heart of the conversation.

And as you know, change is not always linear, the tipping point  metaphor  really does apply here.  The potential for change builds up unmanifested until it achieves enough critical mass to break through the barriers holding it back.  I am even more convinced that we are close to that tipping point. I worried in the past, Joe that the absorption of so much heat in the oceans, which  turn over so slowly, put the heat back in after a long time delay, would mean that we have a great danger of overshooting the window for solutions, before we get there, but the impact on the hydrological system with the large downpours and stronger storms, the deeper droughts and associated fires and food price increases and a number of other manifestations related to the impact on the hydrological system is accelerating the recognition by millions more people every month that we’ve got act on this.

This manifestation of climate change now is ultimately what lends urgency to Gore’s actions.  Human-caused climate change is harming people now –  and that’s with only a very small amount of warming to date.  We are poised to warm 10 times as much this century if we don’t act swiftly.

Yesterday, I asked him specifically about the extreme weather issue, one of the subjects I have covered the most at Climate Progress:

CP:  Obviously, we both talk a lot about the connection between global warming and climate change, making extreme events more likely, more water vapor in the atmosphere, but it gets a lot of pushback, you know, from the deniers and their allies in the media.  I’m just wondering how you plan to talk about this and get over this threshold of talking about a subject that is so rife with complexity.

Gore:  Well of course, and the truth is we’ve passed the threshold beyond which it’s any longer credible to say that the climate crisis is not a factor in a great many of these extreme weather events.  I have paid very careful attention to the way Jim Hansen and Kevin Trenberth and other leading climate scientists have shifted the way in which they frame this connection.  The old way of responding to questions about the linkage between the climate crisis and extreme weather events was to begin with the rote language of course every extreme weather event has many causes and you cannot say any one of them was caused by the climate crisis.  But both Jim and Kevin, as well as others, have gone to some lengths to reframe that characterization by saying, if you ask the question “would this have happened in this way without the climate crisis?” the answer is almost certainly no.

For more on Hansen’s thinking, see NASA’s Hansen: Would recent extreme “events have occurred if atmospheric carbon dioxide had remained at its pre-industrial level of 280 ppm?” The “appropriate answer” is “almost certainly not.”

The very fact that there’s 4% more water vapor in the atmosphere above the oceans and extra water vapor over land masses, though not quite in that percentage, the fact that these storms reach out 2000 miles, often, and use water vapor as fuel for the storms means that every event is affected.  There’s more water vapor, the shift upward in global temperatures also has an effect.  So the predictions made years ago are now consistent with what we’re seeing in reality.  And the predictions of what lies ahead, of these trends to become much much worse, unless we intervene in this pattern of adding  90 million tons of heat trapping  pollution every 24 hours.  And I think we’re at the point where we can’t tolerate the easy denial that there’s no connection between global warming pollution and global warming impacts in the form of more extreme weather events.

For more on Trenberth’s thinking, see “NCAR’s Trenberth on the link between global warming and extreme deluges.”

For all of the rhetoric and ideological arguments, many of them manufactured by the deniers, the crisis continues to worsen.  And the reality is clear to see right in front of our eyes.  And my home Nashville is one of the victims.  And the 12 months just ended have seen more extreme weather events than anyone can remember.  And Swiss Re , one of the largest re-insurance agencies is among one of those who is like “look, the science is consistent with what we are seeing happen  in the world.”  That’s not an ideologically motivated statement.  They’re not looking for research grants.  They’re looking at real world data – that’s their business.

Somewhere between  97 and 98 percent of all the climate scientists in the world agree with that consensus, every national academy of science in the world, every professional scientific association in every field connected to the study of climate. At what point do we conclude that that’s really enough to outweigh the eccentric arguments of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, I mean come on!

Precisely.  The Vice President and I also talked about solutions, but I’ll leave that for another post. Source Climate Progress

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