Al Gore

Bernie Sanders and Al Gore on solving the climate crisis

by The Guardian

Sanders: Mr Vice-President, many people reach high political life and then disappear. You have not disappeared. You have chosen to tackle one of the most significant planetary crises: climate change. Now, you’re releasing a new movie, An Inconvenient Sequel. Could you tell us a little about it?

Gore: Yes, the movie will tell you everything you need to know about the climate crisis, the solutions to the crisis and how you can become an activist to help solve it.

“A decade ago, the solutions were visible on the horizon. Now they’re here.”
Al Gore

Sanders: It’s been 10 years since you released an Inconvenient Truth. What’s changed since then?

Gore: Two big things: number one: the climate-related extreme weather events are way more common now, and way more destructive. Here in the US in the last seven years, we’ve had 11 so-called “once-in-a-1,000 year” downpours.

The second change is: we now have the solutions! A decade ago, the solutions were visible on the horizon. Now they’re here.
In a growing number of cities and regions, electricity from solar and wind is cheaper than electricity from burning fossil fuels. Electric cars are becoming more common place. Efficiency technologies are coming down in cost.

The problems are worse but the solutions are here. We need political will, but political will is a renewable resource. And people are rising up. The Paris agreement 18 months ago was an historic breakthrough.

All over the country activists are being energized. We are working with and their guide, the Indivisible guide. It is really a terrific guide to becoming a climate activist. We are counting on people at the grassroots level.

Sanders: Most people in our country understand that climate change is not a hoax. Most people want to see us move to sustainable energy. Yet we are seeing all kinds of opposition, from the Republican party. What role does the fossil fuel industry play in that?

Gore: Fossil fuel companies and fossil fuel burning utilities have actually taken the playbook from the tobacco companies. There is a great book called The Merchants of Doubt that documents this thoroughly. They’ve hired the same PR firms. They’ve tried to deliberately confuse people.

You remember when the scientific and medical consensus linked cigarettes to lung cancer and other diseases? The tobacco industry hired actors and dressed them up as doctors and put them in front of cameras to reassure people that there were no health consequences.

Well, the carbon polluters are doing the same thing. They’ve funded a major cottage industry of climate change deniers and pseudo-scientists trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes.

We are the only country in the world that has a major conservative party that is wedded to provable idiocy on climate. It is now beginning to give way because more people are seeing through the ruse.

Sanders: What is their response? My Republican friends say if we move away from fossil fuel, the cost of electricity will become much more expensive for manufacturing and that we’re going to lose jobs. What’s your answer to that view?

“So long as big money influences, they can use their lobbying to force the state legislatures to hold back solar and wind.”
Al Gore

Gore: The Bureau of Labor Statistics offers an answer. Solar jobs are growing 17 times faster in the US than all other jobs. They predict that for the next 10 years the single fastest growing job is wind turbine technician.

All over the world, the brightest spot for economic renewal and dynamism is the sustainability and renewable energy revolution. That’s why China is closing hundreds of coal-burning plants. Their emissions have come down three years in a row. They are trying to create most of the jobs in China.

And India announced last month, that within 13 years all of their cars and trucks will have to be electric vehicles.

When developing countries are moving faster than we are, and harvesting the economic growth and jobs, it just highlights how we are hurting ourselves by letting carbon polluters decide public policy.

Sanders: Solar and wind costs are plummeting. Leaders in the industry expect that, without any subsidies whatsoever, solar will be far less expensive to produce electricity from than fossil fuel. What is your expectation of what will be happening in the future?

Gore: The cost is coming down dramatically. There is a scene in this movie, Senator, where I go to one of the most conservative cities in the country – Georgetown, Texas – in the heart of oil country in Texas. There, a conservative Republican mayor has committed to completely switching to renewable energy, 100%. Their utility bills are going down. They’re getting more jobs as a result.

Sanders: And he’s not doing it because he is a big-time environmentalist. He’s doing it because he’s saving money for the community.

Gore: There are several utilities in Texas right now, that have a new rate plan from 9pm to 6am, where you can use all the [renewable] electricity you want for free. Because it costs them more money to turn off the turbines at night. The concept is zero marginal costs. It’s changing the economics of energy all over the world.

Sanders: And recently Chile negotiated a contract that will allow for the cheapest electricity energy on the planet from solar, is that correct?

Gore: That is correct. It’s 2.4 cents per kilowatt hour. That’s less than half of what the electricity of coal costs.

Sanders: Wow.

Gore: [Around the world] the fossil fuel-burning utilities talk among themselves about what they call a “utility death spiral”. A lot of them are moving faster than in the US to switch over to renewable energy.
But we have this problem in our political system. Big money calls the shots all too often. You’ve been good at calling that out, Senator.
So long as big money influences, they can use their lobbying to force the state legislatures to hold back solar and wind.

This is not a partisan issue. The head of the Atlanta Tea Party was contacted by the Koch brothers a while back, wanting to get their support for holding back solar. But she had just put solar [panels] on her house.

She contacted the Sierra Club and they formed a new coalition called the Green Tea Party. They defeated that legislation in Georgia. Similar uprisings are talking place all over the country.

Bernie: It seems to me that, if we had a sensible president now, we wouldn’t need to be talking about this stuff. We’d be investing in wind and solar.

I want to thank you calling attention to the crisis and the solutions. You’ve been a leader not just in the United States but in the world.
What we are talking about is the future of the planet. That’s why we need the American people to stand up and tell the fossil fuel industry that the lives of our future generations are more important than their short term profits.


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