Melting highways. Birds falling dead from the sky. Rain bombs. Flying rivers. Drought. Zero Day.
Former US Vice President Al Gore didn’t mince words as he presented his vision of the future if humanity fails to act on climate change.
Armed with his trademark PowerPoint graphics and statistics, Mr Gore used the closing plenary address on the final day of the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai on Sunday to bring attention to the “climate crisis,” which he said was the “great challenge” of our modern times.
“Our future is at risk,” said Mr Gore. “We have to change.”
Mr Gore's message hasn't changed much since he first began ringing the alarm bells over the harmful impact of heat trapping pollution on the environment with his 2006 documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, but he certainly had many more examples to show the effect of climate change around the world.
“We’re putting more CO2 into the atmosphere than has been emitted in at least 66 million years,” he said. “Because we rely on fossil fuels for 80 per cent of all the energy in this powerful global economy, we are now putting 110 million tons of heat-trapping man-made pollution into that thin shell of atmosphere every 24 hours. We are using it as if it were an open sewer.”
The most obvious consequence has been the rise of air temperatures around the world, he said.
“Seventeen of the 18 hottest years measured by instruments have been since 2001, and it’s 2018,” said Mr Gore. “And the four hottest of all were the last four years. So temperatures have been reaching quite high levels.”
The increase in temperatures have also led to stronger ocean-based storms.
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“When they travel over warmer ocean waters, they pick up a lot more energy and become stronger,” said Mr Gore. “Last summer, in my country, we had three massive hurricanes. The biggest was hurricane Harvey, which crossed areas of the Gulf of Mexico four degrees warmer than normal. So this storm became a monster storm.
“The scientists are telling us this is going to become more commonplace.”
The same heat that’s pulling the water vapour off the oceans and disrupting the water cycle is also sucking the moisture out of the ground more quickly, leading to droughts that take hold more quickly and last longer.
“Today one of the great, premier cities of the world, Cape Town, is in a state of impending crisis counting down to what they call a zero day when the city will completely run out of water if they don’t have rain,” said Mr Gore. “There are many cities that are depleting their water supplies more rapidly than they can be replenished.”
Many government security agencies around the world have identified the effects of climate change “as a threat to peace, a threat to security,” he said.
“The predications are now that in this century there may be 1 billion climate refugees,” said Mr Gore.
The rise of renewables, along with the decreasing costs of producing and storing wind and solar power, has given him hope for the future, however.
“Globally, starting in 2010, the investments in renewable energy crossed over and exceeded in investments in fossil and the gap has been growing year by year,” said Mr Gore.
He noted that many countries are phasing out the internal combustion engine in favour of electric vehicles.
“Must we change? Mother nature is telling us, yeah, we have to change,” said Mr Gore. “The scientists have long told us we have to change. The answer to the second question, ‘Can we change?’ We have the solutions now; they create more jobs. In my country, solar jobs are growing nine times faster than all other jobs in the economy. There are already twice as many jobs in solar as in coal and the second fastest-growing job is wind turbine technician. We can change. The answer to that final question, ‘Will we change,’ is still emerging, but I’m encouraged that we will.”