Combating Climate Change – a new look with Al Gore and Jeff Skoll

Al Gore at Google Hangout 2013

Former Vice President Al Gore at the Google Hangout 

A fascinating online meeting billed as Combating Climate Change took place Tuesday June 11th. Sponsored by The Climate Reality Project (the non-profit founded by former Vice President Al Gore), it featured Gore and Jeff Skoll, the Executive Producer of the film An Inconvenient Truth. In 2006, this eye-opening film launched a worldwide conversation, some would say controversy, regarding the effects of climate change. Now, on  the film’s seventh anniversary, these two came together, with moderator Dr. Kiki Sanford to give an update on what was discussed in the film.

Billed as an interactive Google Hangout, the event actually featured five pre-selected participants – a web designer, a student, a research scientist in / from Australia, an environmental educator and a student at the U. of Miami in Florida – who asked their questions on camera.

According to Skoll, “before the movie, only 30 percent of the people polled believed in climate change. After the movie’s release, 87 percent of them believed it was real.”

The movie sparked a school curriculum that’s been downloaded over 180,000 times in the U.S. and adopted by five countries as high school curriculum.

“Big changes are within our reach,” said Gore.

Skoll noted that “our emissions are down to 1990 levels.”

But , said Gore, “time isn’t on our side where the continued build-up of global warming and pollution in the atmosphere in concerned.”

An Inconvenient Truth -what we know 6 years later

An Inconvenient Truth -what we know 6 years later

When asked if the dangers of nuclear outweigh the cost savings, Skoll referred to the new controversial movie Pandora’s Promise, out in theaters this week, saying that nuclear is still part of the equation. But, he said, globally, power generation has been about 50 percent renewables.

“We’ve gone from 380 ppm (parts per million)  to 400 ppm in the past seven years,” said Skoll. But we’re now due to warm the planet 3 to 5 degrees by the end of the century, he said.

Gore admitted he’s grown skeptical about nuclear. Believing that the safety and waste disposal issues can be managed, “the real issue is cost,” he said.

“We’re being urged to build smaller, modular reactors,” said Gore. “They’re safer,” he said.

“We need to move forward quickly right now. Right now we need to focus on renewables and conservation,” he said.

Another area where Gore’s enthusiasm has waned is ethanol, at least the first generation of it.

“It produces marginal savings  (the CO2),” said Gore. But he noted that Brazil’s ethanol program is different, as it’s made from sugar cane which, he said, has a favorable energy savings.

Second and third generation ethanol is promising, he said. “It may well have a future.”

Jeff Skoll

Jeff Skoll

When both speakers were asked to rank President Obama on climate change,  Skoll have him a “B” or “B-“, noting that raising the national average on gas mileage will give some savings.

“He’s saying the right things,” Skoll said.

Gore declined to rank the President , but gave the President credit for the green stimulus at the beginning of his presidency. But, , stressed Gore, he needs to do more.

Questions then turned to the tar sands and the Keystone XL Pipeline controversies.

“(The tar sands) are the dirtiest form of fuel ,” said Gore. “(It’s) an atrocity. He ought to veto that,” he said.

“It would be wrong to hinge the entire climate battle on this one thing (the pipeline),” said Skoll. “It’s important to win the battle on climate overall globally,” he said.

“We’re at a fork in the road,” said Gore. “We need to choose the renewable course of action,” he said. And the one most important thing we can do, he said, is to put a price on carbon.

“Collectively we put 90 million tons of pollution into the atmosphere every 24 hours,” Gore said. “Twenty percent of it will still be there 10,000 years from now!”

“The total amount of man-made pollution surrounding the planet in the atmosphere today,” said Gore, traps enough extra energy every 24 hours to equal the energy released by 400,000 Hiroshima bombs going off every single day!”

That’s a conservative estimate, he said.

That’s why the temperatures have been rising, why the water cycle is disrupted, why there’s so much water vapor in the air to cause these record downpours, so much flooding, he said.

Climate change banner“All the global warming pollution is obeying the laws of physics,” Gore said.

When asked about what the climate trajectory would be in 55 years, Gore stressed that “it’s urgent that we make choices/ We have the opportunity to change things.”

“The answer is in our hands,” said Gore.

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