Where do you start when everything you experienced over the course of three days was truly life changing? The Climate Reality Leadership Training with Al Gore I recently attended in Brisbane was truly transformational.
The former US Vice President founded program in 2006 in the wake of his monumental documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth". Now global, this tribe of enlightened individuals involved in Climate Reality has now swelled to almost 20,000. The third training in Australia, supported by the Queensland Government, united close to 800 climate enthusiasts looking to acquire the skills to help mobilise the masses around an emergency that concerns us all now, and that will only exacerbate itself over the next few years due to ignorance, vested interests and political inertia.
Labelled as a training event, the Climate Reality Leadership Corps might be Al Gore’s greatest achievement and his true legacy. And that is taking nothing away from his two terms as Vice President of the most powerful country on Earth and his too-close-to-call Florida loss/victory in the 2000 US presidential election. Al Gore is a truly inspirational character (featured in the title photo talking renewable energy with Atlassian’s Mike Cannon-Brookes), and the Leadership Corps Training an event that empowers a series of passionate individuals to participate in his mission to reach the much-needed tipping point to reduce global emissions and reverse the alarming trend of global warming as soon as possible.
We all know that the 2015 UN Paris Agreement is only the start of the conversation. Countries have committed to reduce their emissions by formulating ‘nationally determined contributions’ (NDCs). These commitments will be ratcheted up every five years, starting in 2020, so that global emissions peak in the second half of the century. Many countries and sub-national Governments have already committed to ‘net zero’ emissions by 2050, if not before that.
Against the backdrop of increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, like droughts, floods, rain bombs, and cyclones/hurricanes, the Training provided its participants with much-needed context and arguments for spreading the truth about climate change, its causes, consequences, and opportunities in an easy-to-understand, straightforward manner.
Al Gore’s slide set about the crisis and its expressions in various parts of the world is famous. In his words: “Some years ago, I used to look for examples of various phenomena and had to go back 2 or 3 years, whereas today, I only have to go back a couple of weeks to find what I’m looking for.”
The frequency at which natural catastrophes are occurring nowadays is truly mind-boggling. This causes society to get used to these phenomena, and sadly has us all develop a thicker skin, and accept this new reality, for better, or rather for worse.
The climate emergency is a complex issue. It contains further elements around the loss of biodiversity and the question of finding the right balance for sustainable population growth. The question of our survival as a species, as well as life on Earth as we know it depends on us solving this emergency by reducing man-made emissions as drastically as realistically possible. And the solutions for solving this emergency are at hand: renewable energies, “forever industries” and a just transition are all within reach. The cost of renewable energies has decreased so drastically over recent years that this technology - paired with increasing capacities for energy storage - really is a superior alternative to the continued use of fossil fuels for energy generation.
As Al Gore puts it: “Solving the climate crisis requires us to solve the democracy crisis." Most Western democracies are threatened by a significant erosion of power of the traditional political parties. Protest votes, fear of losing entitlements, reluctancy to change, latent racism and fear of immigration, as well as short-termism engulf many voters and send them to extremist and nationalist parties on the far-right or far-left end of the spectrum.
The solution lies in creating transparency, being honest with people, managing expectations and focusing on the opportunities that are already clear. Like so often, it is those without a voice that lead the way: younger students with school strikes (see Greta Thunberg), indigenous people with their ancestral knowledge of traditional homelands, and everyday citizens taking action all highlight the fact that climate change is a challenge that needs to be addressed now, not tomorrow.
The Climate Reality Leadership Corps and Al Gore transmit a message of hope. All of the participants of the training left Brisbane feeling empowered, wanting to do their part to solve the climate emergency and turn the possibility of a more prosperous, clean energy and equitable future possible for the next generations. It is in this spirit that I and my fellow alumni of the training will now go out and talk to communities, to citizens, and to businesses to make this message resonate loud and clear. We want to save this planet for future generations, and we can only do this, if drastic actions like transitioning to a low-carbon future and putting us on a trajectory to a new, renewable energy paradigm are taken as soon as possible. This will be a transition that will change people’s lives, but the sooner we will address this challenge, the better. It will allow us to plan better, rather than running the risk of being too late, or causing major political and economic upheaval. Solutions that can help us get closer to solving the problem are here today - and they provide many opportunities for us in terms of jobs, prosperity and likelihoods, if we’re just willing to engage.
This is the message that I take away from Brisbane. Thanks to Al Gore, to the Climate Reality Project and to the Queensland Government for giving all Training participants this splendid opportunity to change the world.