Al Gore Launches 24 Hours of Climate Crisis Talks Around the World
Former Vice President Al Gore kicked off 24 hours of climate talks in the U.S. and 77 other countries around the world Wednesday night.
The event, 24 Hours of Reality: Truth In Action, sponsored by The Climate Reality Project, kicked off at 6 p.m. Eastern Standard Time Wednesday and continues until 6 p.m. Thursday. Anyone who wants to find a climate presentation near them will find all the talks listed by registering for the event for free.
Presenters trained by The Climate Reality Project, which Al Gore founded, have organized presentations in more than 1,700 locations, including all 50 states and Puerto Rico, as well as sites such as Antarctica and Australia's Great Barrier Reef, as the AP reported.
Gore gave the opening climate talk Wednesday night at Vanderbilt University in his hometown of Nashville, where an audience of over 1,000 gave him a standing ovation and offered their loudest applause for Gore's suggestion that Trump could be voted out of office next year, as the AP reported.
A life-long Democrat, Gore sees the climate crisis as an issue of global urgency that transcends politics.
"I have optimism and hope, but in all candor, we've got to recognize that this is the most serious challenge that human civilization has ever faced," Gore said on Late Night with Seth Meyers.
In his speech Wednesday night, he even praised Vanderbilt's College Republicans for calling on the Republican National Committee to change its stance on climate policies, according to the AP.
The presentations are an update to the Academy Award-winning documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," highlighting how the climate crisis has accelerated over the last 13 years and what solutions are available from a policy level to a grassroots level that will help humans thwart the mounting threats from the climate crisis, as Gore explained on Late Night with Seth Meyers.
"It's a mass global event to raise awareness and to motivate people," Gore said to Meyers.
Gore says that The Climate Reality Project has trained more than 20,000 climate activists, some of whom will be fellow presenters for the talks, as the AP reported.
"This year, 24 Hours of Reality is stepping off the screen and directly into town squares, living rooms, schools, places of worship, community centers and other venues around the globe as trained Climate Reality Leaders give presentations about local climate solutions in direct interactions with their communities," said The Climate Reality Project in a press release.
Agostino Schito, an information technology program manager in Maryland, is one of those presenters. He will give a presentation from 1 to 2 p.m. Thursday in a Baltimore suburb.
"I'm not a scientist and I'm not a journalist, but I asked myself how I could engage with people who are on the fence or who don't know enough about the subject or what they can do," he said to The Baltimore Sun. "This starts the conversation."
Schito immigrated from Italy in the early 1990s and attended Gore's free leadership corps training in Minnesota in August.
"It was a very intense two days," he said to The Baltimore Sun. "Al Gore is inspirational, engaging and compelling, and I left feeling excited and ready to take action."
In Gore's speech at Vanderbilt, he expressed sympathy for migrants at the U.S. southern border, saying they are climate refugees who are hungry and looking to feed their family. He also chided Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, saying he gave "the green light to burn down more of the Amazon," as the AP reported.
He also said there needs to be drastic changes in Washington for policies to shift.
"We need to really clean house. Change is not happening fast enough unless we change policy," he said, according to the AP. Later he added, "To change our policies, we're going to have to change our policy makers.""They put a coal lobbyist in charge of the EPA, for God's sake. The fact that there is not widespread outrage about that is a symptom of our weakened democracy," Gore said last night, as the AP reported.
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The speed and scale of the response to COVID-19 by governments, businesses and individuals seems to provide hope that we can react to the climate change crisis in a similarly decisive manner - but history tells us that humans do not react to slow-moving and distant threats.
A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?<p>At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.</p><p>But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.</p><p><a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2021" target="_blank">We need to act now on our climate</a>. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Paris Agreement</a>, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.</p><p>We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.</p><p>Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.</p><p>Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.</p>
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