In recent reports on climate change, scientists warn that unless humanity acts quickly, we are doomed to devastating consequences. News stories on how our addiction to carbon based fuels and nonstop emission of greenhouse gases may lead to numerous crises — such as rising sea levels, ocean acidification, and extreme weather patterns — can leave many with an overwhelming sense of despondency. However, Al Gore believes that not only is there hope for humanity, but also that we have all the technological advances and ideas necessary to avert catastrophe — today.
“I’ve come away with the absolute conviction, with no exaggeration, that we have all the tools and solutions to solve three or four climate crises — and we only have to solve one,” Gore said.
Rather than focus on a single technology or action to solve global warming, Gore stressed that governments must employ an “all of the above” approach, employing multiple piecemeal solutions, at a promotional event for his new book Our Choices: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis.
For example, while much attention has focused on the importance of promoting energy efficiency and renewable fuels, societies must also curb two other practices that are large sources of greenhouse gas emissions — deforestation and tilling soil in farming practices.
Gore pointed to countries such as Brazil and Indonesia as leading the charge to stop deforestation, coming up with plans that have a limited impact on industrial production.
In order to combat certain farming practices, he believes governments should subsidize no-till farming and other carbon sequestration technologies. For example, Gore thinks biochar, which is basically porous charcoal, may be able to sequester 40 percent of annual carbon dioxide emissions. He also believes that most of the solutions should be enacted on their merits alone, regardless of their effect on the climate.
According to Gore, conservation biologists stress that deforestation, which is contributing to the sixth mass extinction of life on Earth, should be stopped to prevent disastrous effects on our current ecological balance. Furthermore, while deforestation often leads to short term economic gains in industries such as logging and farming, these profits are not sustainable over the long term. Managing deforestation ensures these industries have a longer future.
While current tilling practices achieve the highest yields and quickest returns in agriculture, they destroy soil quality for successive harvests. Thus, sustainable farming and carbon sequestration may be some of the most effective tools “to fight the food insecurity and poverty of developing nations,” Gore said.
Also, Gore stresses that governments should start to enact policies to slow the population growth that leads to higher energy demands. While past studies suggest that industrialization is what brings about smaller birth rates, current research demonstrates this is not the case.
Key components of modernized societies such as the education of girls and higher child survival rates are stronger predictors of decreases in population growth. The two other main influences are the availability of fertility management resources and the empowerment of women to take part in decisions made in their societies. “We should be encouraging this for obvious, beneficial reasons anyway,” Gore said. Gore related these ideas to over 900 people at the American Museum of Natural History on November 3, while promoting his new book, a follow-up to his bestselling book and Academy Award winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. While An Inconvenient Truth focused on the problem of global warming, Gore said Our Choices focuses on the solutions.
According to Gavin Schmidt, a climatologist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who spoke to Gore along with many colleagues for the book, researchers involved in this work applaud Gore’s in-depth understanding of all these solutions.
“He actually asks about science,” Schmidt said to The Guardian. “Nobody that we have dealt with has ever taken as much time to understand the subtlety of the science and all the different complications and what it all means as Al Gore.” Gore culled all his information from more than 30 “solution summits,” often interviewing the experts from these summits “four or five times sometimes for as long as entire day” after meeting them.
While Gore understands enacting these changes will be difficult, he believes that “knowing that the solutions are available is a source of hope.” His main concern revolves around the apparent lack of political will to take steps toward making necessary changes.
“We have to become active as citizens,” Gore told the audience. “It’s what our democracy is based on. Just remember, here in the United States, political will is a renewable resource.”