Al Gore spoke last night before a packed audience at The American Museum of Natural History, continuing the public awareness crusade he began with 2006's An Inconvenient Truth. While his first book (also an Oscar-winning documentary) focused on the problems of climate change, Gore's new book focuses on the tools we have to mitigate and reverse it.
Pacing the stage without notes, Gore spoke calmly and candidly about the state of the global environment and his views on what can be done to secure a cleaner, healthier future for all. "We have all of the tools and all of the solutions for three or four climate crises, and we only have to solve one," Gore said.
At its base, Our Choice is a detailed, step-by-step analysis of alternative energy methods we can use to shrink our dependence on greenhouse-gas emitting fossil fuels. Early chapters break down solar, wind, and geothermal alternatives. Gore also details nuclear and carbon capture and sequestration options, which remain highly controversial.
If he had stopped there, Gore's Our Choice would have served as a detailed textbook for environmental studies classes nationwide. But he ventures beyond dry explanations with chapters echoing his 2007 The Assault on Reason, with titles such as "Changing the Way We Think," and "Political Obstacles." At the Museum, Gore spent a significant portion of his presentation talking not about climate change, but about the amount of television the average American watches each day, and the neurobiological explanations for society's sluggish reactions to alarming news about global warming.
At the beginning of the summer, I blogged about a talk between the New York Times' environment reporter Andrew Revkin and Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. When asked his opinion on the single most influential step individuals can take to mitigate climate change, Pachauri, without skipping a beat, implored the audience to stop eating so much meat. Al Gore, when asked the same question by an audience member at the Museum, had a different answer. Change our laws and policies, Gore said, which we are in a uniquely privileged position to do as citizens of the United States.
Gore remained positive throughout his talk, and despite spiking levels of CO2 and dire predictions of a dreary outcome at Copenhagen, he has hope that continued education and outreach coupled with innovation will solve the climate crisis. We simply cannot, in Gore's words, "give the back of our hand" to our children and future generations. According to Gore, future generations will have one of two questions to ask, looking back at the critical choices we are currently making. They will ask either 1) "What were you thinking?" or 2) "How did you find the moral courage to solve this problem when so many said it was unsolvable?" As in An Inconvenient Truth, Our Choice frames society's response to climate change as a moral issue.
Gore exited the Museum's stage to a standing ovation. Look at Repoweramerica.org for the latest developments in climate change policy and suggestions on what you can do in your community to instigate change.