Former Vice President Al Gore talks climate change solutions in Twin Cities

Former Vice President Al Gore and MPR chief meteorologist Paul Huttner
Former Vice President Al Gore (right), founder the nonprofit Climate Reality Project, talks with MPR chief meteorologist Paul Huttner (left) on MPR's Climate Cast during his visit to Minnesota on Friday.
Paul Huttner | MPR News

Former Vice President Al Gore called Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz a “climate hero” Friday. Gore introduced the governor at a three-day event in Minneapolis tied to The Climate Reality Project.

The environmental leadership conference brings an estimated 1,200 activists to the Twin Cities and features dozens of speakers, including New York Times author and Minnesota native Thomas Friedman, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter.

It’s a big get for Minnesota. Gore is arguably the most important historical figure in expanding climate change awareness in America and the world. His 2006 film “An Inconvenient Truth” introduced climate change science and solutions to millions, and his work earned the Nobel Peace Prize.

MPR News chief meteorologist and Climate Cast host Paul Huttner sat down with Gore on day one of the conference.

The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Why did you start Climate Reality Project and what does this accomplish?

Because I came to the conclusion that the only way we can change policies in time to solve the climate crisis is with grassroots pressure from every state in our country from every county. And so I decided when my first movie came out I used 100 percent of the profits from that movie and the book to to set up the Climate Reality Project and to mobilize tens of thousands of people to put pressure on their elected representatives and business leaders and civic leaders and community leaders to make the changes that we need to make.

How has your presentation changed in the 13 years since the movie, “An Inconvenient Truth?”

It's changed dramatically in a lot of ways because I can bring up examples of floods or droughts or storms or whatever, not from 10 years ago but from yesterday or last week. The examples that illustrate all of what the scientists have been warning us about are all around us now every single day. I think that does make an impression on people. I know it does. It makes an impression on me.

What's the right urgency level on climate change policy and what's your assessment of how this plays out for the next 10 to 20 years?

The dramatic truth is that those of us who are alive today have in our hands decisions to make that will have enormous consequences for a thousand generations to come. And that sounds overly dramatic but it's the case we're putting 110 million tons every day of this heat-trapping pollution into the sky, [which] stays there for a thousand years on average, and it's trapping so much extra heat. The amount of extra heat energy every day is equal to 500,000 Hiroshima-class atomic bombs exploding every day. That's crazy but that's what we're doing.

We're gaining momentum for the solutions but we're not yet gaining on the crisis because the crisis is still getting worse faster than we are mobilizing solutions. Yet because we're gaining momentum we may soon have within our capacity the ability to gain on the problem. There was a famous economists in the last century named Rudi Dornbusch who once said things take longer to happen than you think they will, but then they happen much faster than you thought they could. I think that it's likely to be true where our solutions to this crisis. It's taken longer than many of us thought it would. I hoped it would anyway but I think that we're now getting to the point where it could happen faster than anybody can imagine.

Use the audio player above to listen to Friday’s Climate Cast with Al Gore.

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