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Al Gore advocates for gender equality, political action to slow climate change

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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al gore our choice bookSlowing climate change is neither inevitable nor impossible, former Vice President Al Gore said in a speech Tuesday night in New York City. Gore, who was launching his new book, Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis, said that he has "absolute conviction that we have all the tools to solve [several] climate crises."

In that light, one climate in peril may not sound like such a tall order, the Nobel Peace Prize (and Oscar and Grammy) winner may hope. But with a myriad of gonzo geoengineering schemes in the air—and on the airwaves—and recent right-wing flack for touting solutions that he has financial interest in, Gore and his book may face a stiff challenge. The sold-out crowd at the American Museum of Natural History, however, applauded his work—tough topics and all—at length.

For instance, population growth, often an uncomfortable subject, should not be ignored, Gore said, noting that it "is certainly not a taboo" to bring it up in discussions about environmental issues. He noted that even though the global population has quadrupled in the past 100 years, demographic changes are already under way that would slow population growth—and presumably keep resource consumption and pollution production in check. "This is a success story in slow motion," he said, pointing out that global population is expected to eventually stabilize just above nine billion within the next few decades.

Near-zero growth, however, could be attained with four basic societal acheivements, he said. The goals include: the education of girls, the empowerment of women, the spread of fertility management and a higher child survival rate. Regardless of climate change, he noted, these aims are "all things we should be doing for good and beneficial reasons otherwise." 

The message of external benefits is one he also highlighted for any opponents of his cause célèbre. Climate change skeptics, for example, should be invited to help end U.S. dependence on foreign oil—by supporting renewable energy. Those who assert going green will further stifle the economy, he said, should be invited to help create jobs in the U.S.—in local renewable industries.

The existence of climate change, however, is "unequivocal" and is already having serious impacts on the globe, ranging from what some ecologists are calling the sixth great extinction to the rapid melting of the polar ice caps, he noted. These massive changes, which are easier to envision than the invisible gasses that are causing them, are still "a challenge to our moral imagination," he said. Allowing civilization to continue on the same path, he noted, would be "the most immoral act ever committed by any generation that has ever lived."

To fix it, however, will take more than recycling more newspapers. "It’s important to change the light bulbs and the windows," he said, "but it’s much more important to change the laws and the policy" governing energy and emissions. It comes down to a question of societal willpower, Gore said. With Americans spending an average of five hours a day watching television (which amounts to about 17 years over an average lifetime), he noted, that’s precious time that could be applied to advocating for change. If there’s one renewable resource that needs to be tapped more, he said, it’s "political will."

Image of Al Gore at the American Museum of Natural History courtesy of R. Mickens/AMNH

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  1. 1. dvaudio 4:51 pm 11/4/2009

    Gore is both a fool and a hypocrit. He is to be ignored and marginalized at every opportunity. He just spews the same old tripe, it’s really becoming comical. I wonder if he ever gets tired of listening to his own BS.

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  2. 2. Trent1492 6:28 pm 11/4/2009

    "Gore is both a fool and a hypocrit. He is to be ignored and marginalized at every opportunity. He just spews the same old tripe, it’s really becoming comical. I wonder if he ever gets tired of listening to his own BS."

    This message brought to you by: Exxon-Mobile.

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  3. 3. hotblack 7:28 pm 11/4/2009

    No thank you. I like my political leaders scientifically & philosophically illiterate. Also, I’d much rather they personally invest in problems, not possible solutions. Vote Palin 2012!

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  4. 4. dvaudio 8:12 pm 11/4/2009

    Gore is not a political leader, nor is he scientifically & philosophically literate. He’s just in it for the money.

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  5. 5. dvaudio 8:16 pm 11/4/2009

    Gore is neither scientifically nor philosophically literate. He spews things that have been proven to be misleading at best or outright lies. If he actually believed all his tripe, he would be living his life much differently.

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  6. 6. winston r rice 9:07 pm 11/4/2009

    dvaudio, now hate, is an intelligent way to look at this. I am sure unlike most americans, you will enjoy when oil returns to or goes above $150.dl/per barrel! We all love being dependent on foreign military dictators for our oil.And what happens when real war comes to the middle-east? I am sure they wont raise there prices for you dvaudio! Israel and Iran will go to War,this brings in Syria and Yemen, Yemen just invaded part of Saudi Arabia. Did you forget Hezbolla are working with friendly Iran in Palestine, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon. Perhaps you missed history classes and basis Economics. Wars create shortages of supply and goods, IE: oil, thus driving up prices beyond historical highs. Three to four hundred dl/per barrel oil in Wartime will be cheap, but I am sure that you dvaudio will be able to pay for it, or you will then ask your government to pay for yours. Why do anything now? When we could wait until the inevitable war, our nations strategic petroleum reserves are tapped and millions of Americans are freezing that winter. YOU are a bright Bulb, we should tap your hate potential!

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  7. 7. dvaudio 9:13 pm 11/4/2009

    uh….gee…where to begin. 1st learn how to spell.
    second, what in the WORLD are you talking about…it doesn’t seem coherent. You’re not even on topic. If you want lower prices on oil, increase the supply. It’s just that simple. We won’t be dependent on other countrys’ oil if we drill our own (which have far greater reserves than the middle east)

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  8. 8. sethdayal 9:30 pm 11/4/2009

    When these politicians talk about renewables and green jobs, it’s code for no Nukes in the new age renewable religion as presented by High Priest Al Gore.

    Lets compare some renewable favorites to a nuclear option.

    The Hyperion hot tub sized $30 million nuke (122 sales, 2013 delivery) is designed to provide heat and power to small communities, oil shale/sands etc. Every 7 to 10 years, it spews a softball sized bit of waste that can be burned in a Gen IV reactor like the one Idaho National Labs designed and Al and Bill shelved away in exchange for Big Oil campaign donations..

    Meanwhile, Texas is promised 240 massive Chinese built multimegawatt wind turbines on 56 sq miles of concrete, roads and steel Chinese financed for $1.5 billion. 600 megawatts peak, 125 megawatts average, $12000 kilowatt baseload eqv excluding backup storage, transmission, and millions annually for load balancing natural gas. Same energy as two Hyperion units or electric power as five buried under the nearest couple of local post offices for between 10 and 25 times the cost.

    In Arcadia Fl, we have covering 180 acres, America’s largest solar PV plant, 5 megawatts baseload equiv, 180 acres of arsenic,steel and concrete, cost $150 million. 7% the thermal or 20% the electric energy of that Hyperion hot tub buried under the town rec centre..

    In East Toba, BC, Plutonic Power produces 745 GWh of small hydro annually, 80 megawatts baseload equiv, $660 M project cost, $1500 M billed to the taxpayer (PWAC).

    Same energy as a Hyperion unit or electric power as three for between 15 and 50 times the cost. Hyperion units could be carried in on a flat bed and buried under the nearest town hall – river run 38 sq miles of forest, concrete, roads, transmission lines and steel.

    The Hyperion on energy equivalents is 1% of solar, 2% of small hydro, and 4% of wind cost, a tiny percentage of the civil resources, and provides 24/7 power.

    A Hyperion unit weighs in at about 15 tons about the size of 10 vehicles and a lot less complex. 50000 of them would be needed to convert America from fossils to nuclear about the equivalent of a half million vehicles – 5% of US annual vehicle production.

    Renewables make us feel warm and righteous dancing us down the road to the as little as ten years away climate driven economic and even civilization collapse while $2.5 trillion in nukes, paid for by ending the US $1 trillion annual fossil fuel bill could with an extreme effort here and abroad save us.

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  9. 9. winston r rice 10:36 pm 11/4/2009

    Sethdayal, finally a rational alternative to Drill Baby Drill, which is at best a short term non-sustainable option. France more than any country has been on the fore-front, producing 90% of its energy from conventional nuclear. Ever since Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, Americans have become wary of the nuclear option. The degraded status of our nations, rail-lines, made Yucca Flats a difficult sell, especially with the oil-interests making sure to put out the terror alert. It was never in their interests to promote nuclear. Per kwh, it is the cheapest form of energy now available. dvaudio, are you aware of the fact that every state, and county in that state has myriads of laws, rules and regulations governing oil drilling, onshore and offshore. There is no one super Federal law over-riding these local laws
    have you noticed that the congress and senate are beholden to special interests and it would be almost impossible to get a Federal law passed mandating immediate national offshore and onshore drilling in all fifty states. If this had already happened, would we not be independent of foreign oil already. maybe you should go D.C., tell them I cannot spell, and and show them your big drill. And tell the Pentagon to please stop running all those fake oil war scenarios, they keep spending so much money on, and show the Pentagon, your big drill.At least sethdayal is willing to think outside of the oil and green boxes.

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  10. 10. philip clarkson 12:50 am 11/5/2009

    The global eco imperative

    In December 2009 the United Nations Climate Change Conference Copenhagen will be a pivotal moment for decisions regarding the continued survival of all dependent species.
    Our carbon footprint is exponential, and correlate’s, to a rise in global ambient temperature’s that are keeping pace with our species developments and expansions worldwide.

    We have sacrificed the global environment on the altar of expediency, and now in the lifetime of our species we are facing adverse global climatic change.

    It is no coincidence that as the globalization of industrialized developments gathers pace fueled by unprecedented technological advances, global warming increases exponentially!

    And with former stagnant developing countries coming on track, like China, India and Russia, this has exacerbated the situation further.

    It is the historical innovative usage of the finite resource (petroleum) coupled with rapid development and change in land usage that has brought this monumental problem to our door.

    There is a clear correlation between exponential fossil fuel usage, and global carbon emission levels, which are a major global warming driving force.

    Sadly, the very resource (petroleum) that fuels our global growth enhances the greenhouse effect, which exacerbates global warming. We are caught in a desperate loop, a user cycle.

    Practically every aspect of our lives involves using resource that pollute. We are addicted to pollutants, like the smoker who has been told to quit the habit or it will be terminal, we promise, then relapse through lack of willpower, and clear understanding.

    Radical c o 2 emission level reduction is the only game in town and must have a timescale that allows for Global adaptation, coupled with nuclear and inclusive renewable sustainable Solutions, that measure up to the extent of the problem.

    (Some Solutions for the mitigation of long-term radical adverse global Climate change)

    Make sure emissions peak in 2012 and decrease as rapidly as possible towards zero after that.

    Developed countries must make cuts of 50 percent on their 1990 carbon emissions by 2030 with mandatory regulation by United Nations.

    Developing countries must slow the growth of emissions by 20 percent by 2040, with support from industrialized nations

    there is an inexorable link between global Eco-equity and global financial equity.

    It is clear there is a need to link global sustainable economies, with global Eco-sustainability.

    Failure to coalesce, for the mitigation of global adverse climatic change, will force the planet to make that decision for us, whatever action we take then, will ultimately benefit the planet.

    Long live, the planet.

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  11. 11. kjrides 8:17 am 11/5/2009

    Have you never traveled outside your tiny little community? Have you not seen the changes? Even as you watch your 5 hours/day of TV… the weather patterns are changing, the ice cap is melting, we now have summers where shipping can occur on the arctic ocean, mammal species which exist in cooler climates are having to go higher in altitude to find colder temperatures are starving because the food they eat is not at that altitude now. All causes need someone to bring them to light. All causes need someone to engage the passions of those who actually care about the future and not just themselves. All causes need someone to spur individuals, industries and nations to work to change. I thank Mr Gore for his tenacity in the face of such ignorant comments as I have read on this discussion board. If someone wants to express their opinion let them bring facts to light that would truly refute what has been said. FACTS are what matters here.

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  12. 12. chizuml 9:56 am 11/5/2009

    Al Gore lost credibility due to his false global warming alarmism. …and, he made tens of millions in the process.

    Why listen to another word?

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  13. 13. Albert Reingewirtz 1:03 pm 11/5/2009

    Gore is almost there but hasn’t got the courage to say it, so I will. I just turned to be 75 years old. When in the first grades the world population was 2 billion. Today we know that sooner than later it will be 9, 10 billion. We also know that human activity is causing the planet to be in peril just like yeast in a container with enough food will suffer drowning in it’s own "produce." So, what we need is a drastic population reduction. China as usual had the answer before anyone else: One child per couple no if’s, no but’s if we want the planet to ill and living organism to survive.

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  14. 14. Soccerdad 1:06 pm 11/5/2009

    Never before has such a dumb guy become so rich while providing absolutely no benefit to society.

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  15. 15. Soccerdad 1:09 pm 11/5/2009

    I say limit people to 75 years max.

    Sorry Albert.

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  16. 16. foxinwinter 4:05 pm 11/5/2009

    That is a very amazing comment by Dvaudio. I would like to hear his reasoning and motivations for making this unusual statement, and also something of his background and area of expertise. Perhaps he will go back online to tell us more of his thinking.

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  17. 17. boulderfrog 5:06 pm 11/5/2009

    Climate Change? What happened to Global Warming?

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  18. 18. eco-steve 11:26 am 11/7/2009

    So Al Gore earnt some money making people aware of climate change. So What? How much profit do the climate change deniers make from their stocks and shares in energy companies? Al Gore’s earnings are derisory compared to those of the denial lobby! Which side is therefore the most disinterested? Well it clearly isn’t the deniers!…

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  19. 19. foxinwinter 12:04 pm 11/7/2009

    Those who deny Mr. Gore’s relevance as a leader by making ad hominem attacks on him (his wealth, position, power, personality, connections, etc.) are missing the importance of his message. Global warming and climate change are perhaps the most important issues facing civilization. If the polar ice caps melt, we face devastating rise of oceans (up to 300 feet), loss of continental land area (from 25% of the Earth’s surface down to 18%), to say nothing of deterioration in the global weather patterns (more storms, unreliable rain patterns). They are ignorant of Earth’s history. I would advise them to do some reading on paleoclimatology before they thoughtlessly attack the man. They should be ashamed of themselves.

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