What's at risk if we don't slow global warming? The survival of civilization as we know it.
TreeHugger alum Brian Merchant interviewed Former Vice President Al Gore for Motherboard about climate change and the future. Gore is optimistic, but also doesn't hold back in expressing his concern for the future of humanity.
Asked what he things the world could look like in 100 years, Gore starts off optimistic:
"Well, the answer is in our hands. We have the opportunity to make some wise choices; to transform the global economy to a low-carbon economy. And if we make that choice we can create millions of new jobs in the fields of solar energy and wind energy and energy efficiency. And new building technology, that where 25% of all the emissions are in inefficient buildings. And we can have a more vibrant economy and instill a sense of hope in people's hearts that the future is going to look good. I am optimistic, but I see these trends that are going to go one way or the other depending on the choices we make.
But if we do not take action to reverse climate change, Gore says civilization itself is at risk:
What's at risk is if we did not take action truly is the survival of civilization as we know it. And that will sound like an extreme statement to many people, but literally that is the case. You know, we have seen global warming thus far of just a little bit less than one degree Celsius and look at what has happened: Superstorm Sandy, Boulder, Colorado, all these fires, Hurricane Irene one year before Sandy -- how many billions was that? -- this huge drought, dust storms starting up in bigger volumes again, the Pakistan flood that displaced 20 million people, the Russian drought and fires that led to the highest spike in food prices ever recorded -- that has an impact on poor people around the world. You look at all of the impacts that have occurred with less than one degree increase in temperature and then you project what they say could be a five to six degree increase possibly by the end of this century, it's unimaginable. We cannot allow that to happen.
In order to prevent this disastrous future, Gore says, we need to understand the ways in which our democracy has been hacked and take steps to fix it.
However, this is easier said than done, because not enough people are informed about the severity of the crisis. In a speech at the Brookings Institution today, Gore criticized the US television media for being "afraid to mention the word climate."
“Here in the U.S., the news media has been intimidated, frightened, and not only frightened, they are vulnerable to distorted news judgments because the line separating news and entertainment has long since been crossed, and ratings have a big influence on the selection of stories that are put on the news,” Gore said in remarks at the Brookings Institution.
“And the deniers of the climate crisis, quite a few of them paid by the large fossil fuel polluters — really it is like a family with an alcoholic father who flies into a rage if anyone mentions alcohol, and so the rest of the family decides to keep the peace by never mentioning the elephant in the room. And many in the news media are exactly in that position,” the former vice president said.
You can watch that speech via CSPAN here.
Whether you personally like Al Gore as a messenger or not, he is simply repeating what the world's top scientists have been warning for years.
In the report released today by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world's top scientists warned that global warming is unequivocally man-made and will become irreversible if we do not act now to reduce the amount of carbon emissions released into the atmosphere.
To help illustrate how close humanity is to irreversible climate change, the IPCC went so far as to endorse a carbon budget.
Justin Gillis at The New York TImes explained the IPCC's carbon budget:
To stand the best chance of keeping the planetary warming below an internationally agreed target of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels and thus avoiding the most dangerous effects of climate change, the panel found, only about 1 trillion tons of carbon can be burned and the resulting gas spewed into the atmosphere.
Just over half that amount has already been emitted since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and at current rates of energy consumption, the trillionth ton will be released around 2040, according to calculations by Myles R. Allen, a scientist at the University of Oxford and one of the authors of the new report. More than 3 trillion tons of carbon are still left in the ground as fossil fuels.
Catch that? What this means is that we cannot burn all of the coal, oil and gas that has already been discovered without irreversibly ruining the planet.
The good news is we know what must be done. Now it is just up to us to do it.