Al Gore trumps Trump on Paris Agreement and climate change

30 Nov 2017

Al Gore on stage at Slush 2017. Image: Petri Anttila/Slush Media/Flickr (All rights reserved)

Former presidential candidate turned climate warrior Al Gore says investing and entrepreneurship can play a key role in solving global ecological crises.

Al Gore told the Slush 2017 tech conference in Helsinki that US president Donald Trump’s efforts to leave the Paris climate accord could be all in vain “no matter what he tweets”.

The former US presidential candidate, whose campaigning to wake the world up to the dangers posed by climate change was captured in the documentaries An Inconvenient Truth and An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, dropped a bombshell for Trump.

‘We are at a moment in history when the human race has to solve this crisis where the weight of the plastics in our oceans may soon exceed the weight of fish’

Trump famously signalled his conviction that the US was to leave the Paris Agreement. However, despite Trump’s vitriol, Gore said the US president has little chance of seeing it happen during the current presidency.

“Legally, the first day the US can withdraw from the Paris Agreement happens to be the first day after the US election in 2020.

“We got this. We will win this struggle.”

Gore told the Slush conference that he believes investment and entrepreneurship have roles to play in solving the ecological challenge.

“Today, we will put into the atmosphere of Earth 110 tonnes of manmade global warming pollution that traps the heat and changes the climate balance – that brings with it disruptions to the climate system.”

He continued: “Yesterday in Greenland, temperatures were several degrees above freezing at the end of November. That is extremely unusual.

“In terms of political disruption, up to 1bn climate refugees will come this century. This will be an unliveable world unless we make significant changes rapidly. Yes, we really do have to change. We face an existential threat to the future of civilisation.”

Despite the dangers, Gore said there is hope and he is inspired by the current generation of entrepreneurs and technologists.

“You have tools more powerful than any previous generation but we still use short-term thinking that focuses on the immediate future ahead without taking into account decisions in the present. We have to change all that.”

In a passionate speech, he said that the technologies being unleashed today – machine learning, AI, solar photovoltaic energy, electric vehicles – are making that change possible.

“We have the tools to reverse the climate crisis, we just have to implement.”

Gore said that 13 years from now, India will ban all fossil fuel-based vehicles and trucks in favour of electric vehicles. “Norway and Finland are phasing out petrol vehicles. We are seeing dramatic advances in sustainable forestry and fishing.”

However, it is Trump’s brinksmanship around the Paris climate accord that has a shelf life, he warned.

“Two years ago, in the Paris Agreement, 197 nations agreed unanimously to net zero global warming pollution by the mid-century.”

Calling on the eco generation

Gore called on the thousands of tech entrepreneurs present at Slush to put their minds and innovation to good use.

“Your generation – investors, entrepreneurs, leaders – this is the challenge of your lifetime. May I ask you to accept this challenge?

“We are at a moment in history when the human race has to solve this crisis where the weight of the plastics in our oceans may soon exceed the weight of fish. We need to manage our forests, our topsoil and our water in an intelligent way.

“That’s where entreprenuers come in. Make good plans that make a profit in a sustainable way that does not sacrifice the future. The generation you are part of is bringing a new consciousness to the world – it has to be matched with intelligent decision-making.

“When you go to work for a company, you should want to work for an enterprise and start-up that is not only about making profits and paying well, but also about making the world a better place.

“Those in established businesses are already figuring this out. If they want to attract the promising young men and women, they have to give them the feeling and reality that the purpose of the business is not just profit, but maintaining an awareness of making the world a better place. That is good business.”

He said that the new technologies of today need to be put to good use.

“These digital tools are really transforming the nature of business and the impact that business and industry has on the global environment. Make a conscious commitment to be part of this revolution.”

Gore said that aside from Trump’s rhetoric and posturing, the commitment of governments around the world to reversing climate change represents a historic breakthrough. “But all the commitments in the world still do not add up to enough to solve the sustainability crisis.”

He said that global warming and manmade pollution is the equivalent of 400,000 Hiroshima bombs on the surface of the planet. “Most of this impact is going into the oceans and disrupting water cycles and threatening the future.

“We have the ability to confront this.”

Gore concluded by calling on all start-ups and entrepreneurs to be part of the sustainability revolution.

“I realise that some of you are tempted to doubt that we as human beings have the will to change and meet this moment in history successfully.

“The will to change is itself a renewable resource.”

Al Gore on stage at Slush 2017. Image: Petri Anttila/Slush Media/Flickr (All rights reserved)

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years