|▲ Al Gore at The Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity 2017 Photo courtesy The Jeju Weekly
Al Gore spoke at the Jeju Forum For Peace And Prosperity 2017 about his belief that not only do we have the need to halt climate change, but also, importantly, the want and the ability to do so.
“Sometimes people ask me, “are we going to solve this crisis? [...] my answer is yes.”
Comparing the struggle against climate change to some of the other social and political challenges faced by the world in recent times, Al Gore was optimistic about our chances at forcing change when it seems impossible.
“Each one one of those movements in history has been met with no after no. However, when the issue is simplified between what’s right and what’s wrong, you get a yes.”
That is where Al Gore believes we are at this moment. Not only is it clear that stopping climate change is the correct thing to do, but he also pointed to the fact that we are at a turning point in renewable energy which can give us the practical tools required to overcome the problem.
“We have the solutions at hand. We know how to solve this problem.”
He pointed to the fact that renewable energy has currently reached grid parity. This is the moment when renewable energy can generate electricity at a cost that is less or equal to the price of existing energy supplies.
Comparing the small change between passing grid parity as being as significant as the one-degree change between ice and water, he predicted the uptake to renewable energy to continue to gain significant momentum now this level has been passed.
He pointed to Chile, who have significantly increased their solar energy grid, as well as places like Jeju and its rapid uptake of EV cars as examples of this happening in real time.
Al Gore’s speech comes against the backdrop of a very different message being enthused by the president of Al Gore’s country, Donald Trump. According to news reports, the President of the United States is seriously considering backing out of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
However, despite this, Al Gore had a positive message for the people listening. Pointing to the fact that states such as California and New York, (states that would make sizable countries) have already pledged to continue with the agreement on their own.
“Have hope. We are going to win this. I say to you, as a citizen of the United States, we will be there to lead the way regardless of what President Trump does.”
It was easy to see why this would be the case when he showed the economic arguments, including the fact that renewable energy is providing some of the fastest areas of job growth in the United States.
The biggest applause for Al Gore, though, came at a moment when his passion for the subject visibly shone through. After mentioning the fact that women in certain areas of Brazil were being warned against having babies for two years due to Zika, he said:
"[messages such as these] should clearly communicate to our hearts, not just our heads, that those of us who are alive today have a duty to prevent such conditions from becoming commonplace in the world future generations inherit from us.”
While the first part of the speech was filled with a host of powerful, yet nonetheless well-known messages about global warming such as an increase in climate disasters, flooding, droughts, etc. in the second he discussed some of the social and political effects of climate change.
This included the theory that climate change was one of the reasons behind the war in Syria as well as exasperating the refugee crisis. In fact, this is an issue that we have previously explored in The Jeju Weekly.
“The connection between the climate crisis and political instability is an issue that has not received enough attention.”
“Drought from 2006 to 2010 turned 60% of Syria’s land into desert causing an onrush into the city.”
We all know what happened after 2010 in Syria. While acknowledging that there were obviously other factors that contributed to the war in Syria, he painted the picture that the problems caused by the sudden increase in “climate refugees”, as well as increases in the price of grain due to droughts, were also important.
Of course, despite the problems described, Al Gore portrayed a sense of optimism throughout his speech, although he also made it clear that ultimately, the responsibility for change will come down to us.
“The cost of carbon pollution is more than any sane civilization would ever pay.”
After a question from an audience member, he ended on three things that everyone can do to help in the battle against climate change.
Firstly, he stressed the importance of winning the conversation about climate change, making sure that people who aren’t sure, know just how important it is.
Secondly, he stated the importance of looking for climate-friendly alternatives to show when buying good to show producers that the market is there.
Finally, he encouraged those with an interest to become active in politics and show the local leaders that it is a matter that is important to your community.
Al Gore’s speech was a special session at the Jeju Forum For Peace And Prosperity 2017. This year’s forum is the twelfth to have run on Jeju since the first one in 2001. It has been a yearly event since 2011.