'The will to act is itself a renewable resource': Al Gore urges individuals to use their voice and vote to help tackle climate crisis
SINGAPORE: Amid the pessimism surrounding the climate crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, there remains hope, and the most effective thing that individuals can do is to be active as a citizenry to bring about change, said former United States Vice President Al Gore on Friday (Jul 24).
Speaking at the DBS Asian Insights Conference 2020, which was held online, Mr Gore spoke about the current state of the global environment and how people can do their part.
"The most effective thing that individuals can do is to be active as citizens in the countries where they live to persuade their leaders to change policies. Abraham Lincoln, who many people believe was America's greatest president ... once said: 'Public sentiment is everything. Without it, nothing is possible. With it, everything is possible'," said Mr Gore, who was responding to a question from Mr Piyush Gupta, CEO of DBS Group.
"I've seen that come true. And when public sentiment changes, when people awaken in even larger numbers to the fact that this climate crisis is caused by us using the sky as an open sewer, we have to stop doing that. Then they look at the alternatives that are cleaner and cheaper and better in every way."
Mr Gore, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 for his efforts to raise awareness for and tackle climate change, also said it was important for people around the world to use their voice and their vote.
"If public sentiment reaches the point where there is a demand for this change, we can accomplish this transition very, very quickly," he said.
"And so I urge everyone to use your voice, use your vote, use your choices in life and in the marketplace, and you will be heard. And when enough people express themselves forcefully, then we will have the change that this young generation is demanding and that all of us deserve."
DANGER OF "UNINHABITABLE" WORLD
As part of the hour-long talk titled "Climate change and the great reset", Mr Gore noted how the emission of "man-made, heat-trapping, global warming pollution" has been one of the factors contributing to this crisis, leading to consequences such as extreme weather events.
"This year, according to the scientists, is way more likely than not when we get to the end of the year to be measured as the warmest ever," said Mr Gore.
"19 of the 20 warmest years ever measured with instruments have been in the last twenty years and the trend is extremely clear. And unfortunately scientists are warning us in ever more dire terms that we're in danger of making some areas of the world literally uninhabitable if we allow this to continue."
A GREEN STIMULUS
But there remains hope, stressed Mr Gore.
"Hang in there because there's a lot of good news on the solution side, and it comes at the right time because we are going to look ahead right now to the aftermath of this pandemic when the world is going to need to create millions of new jobs," he said.
As such, there is a need to make choices to change policies and to speed up the use of new technologies, explained Mr Gore. And the most cost-effective way to create new jobs and the economic progress required after the pandemic is a green stimulus programme, he said.
"The clean energy transition was already well underway before the pandemic and had already become one of the biggest creators of new jobs. So if we make the right policy choices in the aftermath of this pandemic, we can further unleash and accelerate this sustainability revolution that is very jobs intensive," Mr Gore explained.
Citing an Oxford study, Mr Gore pointed out how it had found that the key elements of a green stimulus are development and expansion of clean energy infrastructure, building efficiency retrofits, education and training for workers, making investments in "natural capital" as well as clean research and development.
ROLE OF PRIVATE SECTOR
In addition, the private sector must act with a greater sense of urgency, said Mr Gore.
"We're already seeing tremendous progress in the private sector. Businesses and investors are starting to step up and lead by example. Now the private sector must act with a greater sense of urgency," he said.
"Businesses must follow through with clear and measurable progress toward commitments and governments need to hear from you."
According to Mr Gore, if private companies lead the way in decarbonisation, governments will follow.
"If you prove the business case, governments will follow your lead. They will see what many business leaders are already starting to see, that the countries that make the boldest and earliest commitments are seeing the greatest economic gains," he explained.
"At times this may all seem daunting, I understand. But again, don't get discouraged. This is a fantastic opportunity to make a difference and what a privilege it is to be alive at a time when we have the opportunity to play such a critical role in safeguarding the future of our civilisation.
"And for anyone who is tempted to despair, tempted to believe that we as human beings may not have the will to act as we should, always remember - that the will to act is itself a renewable resource."