We are absolutely thrilled to bring you answers to YOUR questions from former American vice-president Al Gore.
Mr Gore is now the founder and chairman of The Climate Reality Project, an organisation devoted to solving the climate crisis.
He is the author of several best-selling books on the climate crisis - including "An Inconvenient Truth" and "Earth in the Balance". He is the subject of the documentary movie “An Inconvenient Truth,” which won two Oscars in 2006 and a second documentary in 2017, “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.” In 2007, Mr Gore was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for “informing the world of the dangers posed by climate change.” Mr Gore's Ted Talks on climate change have been viewed over 5 million times!
You held the position of US vice-president and then opened your organization to solve the climate crisis. My question is, how did your tenure as vice-president alert you to the issue of climate change?
versatile_satsuma from Beit Hanoun Prep Girls A School, Occupied Palestinian Territory
Thank you for your question, versatile_satsuma! I have been working on the issue of climate change for a long time. It was my college professor, the great climate scientist Roger Revelle, who opened my eyes back in the 1960s to the potential and irreversible harm posed by the climate crisis. Ever since I was elected to Congress in the 1970s, I have been working to find ways to help bring attention to the climate crisis and the ways to solve it. During my time in the U.S. Congress, I held the first hearings on climate change. Back then, when I asked my fellow Members of Congress about the climate crisis, the most frequent response I received was “what crisis?”
As Vice President, I was fortunate to work with and learn from even more scientists who studied everything from forest fires, to sea-level rise, to changes in the weather. But one of the most important things I learned during my time in government was the importance of people power—and especially the power of young people to be strong voices for change. Whenever I heard from the people who were facing some of the first impacts of the climate crisis, their stories filled me with purpose and energy to work to help solve the challenges they were facing.
Hello! Undoubtedly you are a genius man. As you were vice-president for 7 years and surely your experience about climate change and other things is beyond my imagination.
So my question is: In your years as vice-president, can you tell us about person you’ve met who was truly conscious and concerned about this planet? If you really found such a person and share the story with us, it will be the inspiration for young generation like us.
curious_owl, Joypurhat Girls Cadet College, Bangladesh
Thank you for your kind words, curious_owl! I don’t know about being a genius, but I do try to learn from a lot of very smart people, especially scientists working on the issue of the climate crisis. One of those people is my friend, Dr. Robert Bullard (right), who is known as the father of the environmental justice movement. I became familiar with Dr. Bullard and his work while I was working in Congress with Representative John Lewis to pass the first ever environmental justice bill. And I learned a lot more from Dr. Bullard when I was Vice President.
Dr. Bullard’s work discovered that the United States’ landfills, chemical plants, and big factories were often unfairly located near Black communities, polluting them in ways that more affluent white communities didn’t experience. This is a form of systemic racism that wasn’t well known before Dr. Bullard’s groundbreaking work.
When I was Vice President, we created the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) and we were incredibly honored to have Dr. Bullard as one of the founding members. He helped our team at the White House develop an Executive Order that took some of the first Federal actions to address environmental justice. I was able to invite Dr. Robert Bullard to President Clinton’s signing of the executive order, which still remains one of my proudest moments as Vice President.
Dr. Bullard and I still work together today, and I continue to be incredibly inspired by his leadership and thankful for his friendship.
Photo: University of Michigan, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Flickr
Dr. Bullard’s work discovered that the United States’ landfills, chemical plants, and big factories were often unfairly located near Black communities, polluting them in ways that more affluent white communities didn’t experience. This is a form of systemic racism that wasn’t well known before Dr. Bullard’s groundbreaking work.Al Gore, about his inspirational friend Dr. Bullard
What makes some governments make shortsighted investments in technology that is bad for the environment, instead of long-term investment in protecting the environment?
charming_wolf, Joypurhat Girls Cadet College, Bangladesh
That is a very good question, charming_wolf! Fossil fuel companies have used their resources to influence governments and politicians for a very long time. They knew as early as the 1970s that oil, gas, and coal were harming our planet, but instead of sounding the alarm and rethinking their business plans, they tried to hide those impacts and make people believe that there wasn’t a problem. They published advertisements against climate action in newspapers, funded climate denial groups that released misleading reports on global warming, and donated to politicians that would continue to promote the use of fossil fuels as our primary energy source.
They were pretty successful in those efforts for a long time, but fortunately, that is finally changing. Political leaders, governments, executives, and so many others who didn’t believe in the climate crisis are now seeing the impacts of greenhouse gas pollution first-hand. They can’t deny it any longer.
And as a result, we’re already seeing a big shift in the market away from dirty fossil fuels and toward the clean energy future that we need. But it is up to all of us to use our voices, our votes, and our choices as consumers to bring about change even faster. You can be a changemaker on this issue!
They knew as early as the 1970s that oil, gas, and coal were harming our planet, but instead of sounding the alarm and rethinking their business plans, they tried to hide those impacts and make people believe that there wasn’t a problem.Al Gore on the influence on fossil fuel companies
In your Ted talk about averting the climate crisis, you told about becoming a "green consumer".
What would be your solution for people in poorer countries to become green consumers? And I am really eager to know how successful it has been to reach out to underprivileged people and engage them in your climate protection campaign.
congenial_dolphin, Rajshahi Cadet College, Bangladesh
Thanks for the great question and for watching my TED Talk, congenial_dolphin! One of the things that gives me a lot of hope about our ability to tackle the climate crisis is that there are a lot of opportunities to become green consumers. But it’s even more important to work for green policy changes.
Clean energy and sustainable products are becoming cheaper and cheaper. And especially for developing countries, green power solutions can be much easier for communities to access than power from fossil fuels. Think about it: it’s pretty difficult to build the power lines that you need to access electricity from a big coal plant. Especially if that coal plant is really far away. There aren’t portable coal plants. But there are now relatively inexpensive community solar farms that communities can install pretty easily. It’s like switching from landline phones to cell phones.
Clean products are becoming more and more ubiquitous, but it’s important to acknowledge that we might not all be able to change over to sustainable products overnight. And a lot of the responsibility to change is on companies that pollute. The burden should not be only on you as a consumer, but on business to make more products that are sustainable and reduce their fossil fuel emissions.
What’s your opinion on governments investing billions of money on projects to do with space exploration, when they could be investing that money on protecting our own planet?
active_speech, Pabna Cadet College, Bangladesh
Thank you for that question, active_speech—it’s one that I know is on a lot of people’s minds! As it turns out, there is a lot we can learn about our planet and a lot we can do to protect it thanks to space exploration. I remember when astronauts took one of the first color pictures of our entire planet from space. You can see it here. That image of the small ‘blue marble’ we call home opened so many people’s eyes to how fragile our planet is and inspired millions to want to protect it.
So government funding for space exploration is important, especially when it is focused on helping us understand the challenges we face here on Earth. For example, we use satellites to predict major storms like hurricanes and typhoons. This technology can save many lives by providing timely information about threatening weather.
Satellites can also help us track pollution so that we know where to take action to reduce it. I’m working on a really important project that relies on more than 300 satellites that monitor greenhouse gas emissions from space. The project is called Climate TRACE and it uses satellite images and many other data sources to measure emissions from the major sources of pollution around the world so that we know exactly where these emissions are coming from and can take action to reduce them.
That image of the small ‘blue marble’ we call home opened so many people’s eyes to how fragile our planet is and inspired millions to want to protect it.Al Gore on the value of space exploration
Thank you very much to former vice-president Al Gore for his brilliant answers to your questions.
You can learn more about the Climate Reality Project here.
Now, have a go at these questions.
- What's the most interesting thing you learnt from Al Gore's answers?
- What's the most valuable message from Al Gore's answers?
- Al Gore has worked with many governments, world leaders and the people who run some of the biggest businesses and organisations on the planet. If you could speak to one world/business leader about climate change, who would it be and why?