Today I watched Al Gore, the climate crisis' veritable rock star (and recipient of a 2007 Oceana award), speak at Constitution Hall here in DC.
Gore's speech sounded familiar yet fresh as he presented a challenge to the nation: commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and clean, carbon-free sources within the next 10 years. He called the initiative "achievable, affordable and transformative."
"I do not remember a time in America's history when so many things are going so wrong simultaneously," he said, eliciting some laughs.
He linked the science of climate change to the failing economy and national security, citing the haunting possibility of climate refugees, the wars in the middle east, and the rising price of a barrel of oil in his three-pronged approach.
"Yet when we look at all three of these seemingly intractable challenges at the same time, we can see the common thread running through them, deeply ironic in its simplicity: Our dangerous over-reliance on carbon-based fuels is at the core of all three of these challenges – the economic, environmental and national security crises," he said. "The answer is to end our reliance on carbon-based fuels."
He explained that it will require a unified national electric grid, which is the critical infrastructure. The current grids are antiquated and vulnerable and need updating anyway, he said.
But above all else, politics is the biggest hurdle, he said. "Our democracy has become sclerotic." (FYI, that means an "inability or reluctance to adapt or compromise," I looked it up.)
Finally, Gore recounted the emotional day nearly 40 years ago on July 16, 1969, when as a 21-year-old, he watched Apollo 11 take off. Four days later, man set foot on the moon.
"We must now lift our nation to reach a new goal. We have an opportunity to take a giant leap for mankind."
Gore walked offstage to the roar of applause and the sound of U2's "Beautiful Day."
I've seen An Inconvenient Truth, and I've been paying close attention to the climate change story ever since (though I don't particularly care for U2, for the record.)
Nevertheless, Al Gore's hopeful -- and yes, shoot-the-moon-ambitious -- words still gave me the chills.
For an annotated version of the speech, see Dot Earth.
[Image via www.businessweek.com]