An Interview with former Vice President Al Gore
During his recent visit to Tufts University, The Fletcher Forum had a chance to sit down with former Vice President Al Gore to discuss the political, social, and environmental implications of climate change, as well as what current students can do to prepare for a challenging future.
Fletcher Forum (FF): The Fletcher Forum’s spring/summer theme is “The World in 2030.” What do you believe will be the biggest challenges and opportunities the climate will pose in the world in 2030, and how might we, as students and future policymakers, prepare for 2030?
Al Gore (AG): Great question. I don’t even know where to begin because there’s so many different challenges. I’ll just name a few. We have already seen in the past couple of years the political disruption that accompanies large flows of climate refugees. And there is a high risk that over the next 12 years, between now and 2030, the numbers of climate refugees will increase significantly, so we need to prepare for that. Of course, we need to prepare for continuing climate-related extreme weather events, but we need to focus at the same time on all of the policy changes needed to reduce emissions and slow down the climate crisis until we can bend the curves definitively downward. I’m optimistic because technology is working in our favor and market developments are now beginning to work in our favor, but we need policy changes—and, in order to solve the climate crisis, we need to spend time fixing the democracy crisis. I’m encouraged at the possibility that this election year here in the United States may begin a shift in the political winds, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Tufts Daily: Given that climate change has been driven by over a century of industrialization, it can be hard to know where to begin trying to create solutions as an individual person. What are some concrete examples of things that students can be doing to fight climate change?
AG: Well of course the factors that are making the climate crisis worse have accelerated quite significantly in the last 15 years. But the response is also building, and young people (especially college students)have been in the vanguard of every great social revolution—civil rights, anti-Apartheid, women’s rights, gay rights more recently—and the climate movement is in that tradition, so there’s no doubt in my mind that the increasing amount of activism by college students is one of the most important factors in speeding up the response to the climate crisis.
Tufts Now: We have a post-doc here, Klaus Bittermann, who said that even if we hit our goal of the Paris Agreement to limit global average temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius, it would be wiser to limit it to 1.5 degrees rather than 2 degrees. Do you agree with that?
AG: I totally agree with that. And during the Paris negotiations, I was part of a group that succeeded in adding the aspirational goal of 1.5 degrees as part of the agreement. There’s a balance between aspiration and realism, because the difficulty in stopping the increase at 1.5 is very high, but we should definitely aim toward that goal. I mean the difference between 1.5 and 2 is not as small as half a degree might lead you to believe. The real-world consequences are vast, not least for the low-lying island nations and low-lying regions and areas like Bangladesh.
Tufts Daily: For activists who are truly passionate about the climate change movement, what are the questions we can ask candidates to determine whether they are truly committed to combating climate change?
AG: Do they support a price on carbon, directly or indirectly? Are they willing to make it one of their top two or three priorities in the agenda they’re promoting? Are they staffing up to master the subject and provide meaningful leadership? Several of them are, and I’m optimistic about that.
About the Interviewee
Al Gore is the founder and chairman of the Climate Reality Project, a nonprofit dedicated to solving the climate crisis. He is the author of the best-sellers Earth in the Balance, An Inconvenient Truth, The Assault on Reason, Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis, The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change, and, most recently, the New York Times best-seller An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.
He is the subject of an Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth, and a new film which premiered in July 2017, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. In 2007, Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change received the Nobel Peace Prize for "informing the world of the dangers posed by climate change." Previously, Gore served as a U.S. representative and later a U.S. senator from Tennessee before serving as the 45th Vice President of the United States from 1993-2001.