A Climate Commitment

When Vice President Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" came out in 2006, I didn't rush to go see it. My Environmental Studies course in undergrad already had me convinced that humans were altering the environment. With excessive water consumption, fossil fuel depletion, greenhouse gas emissions, and overpopulation all driving us towards some dystopian future, I felt there was little left for me to learn or understand from Vice President Gore' Powerpoint movie.

When I finally saw "An Inconvenient Truth," it was as I'd expected: a doomsday story with little or no hope. My biggest complaint was that there was no WIIFM (what's in it for me?) in the movie. The ship of climate change had already sailed, and the political and economic structures driving Earth's metamorphosis were far too large for me to make a difference. The positive was that the movie further justified my vote for Ralph Nader (Green Party) in the 2002 election. I had voted for a platform which was (theoretically) designed to change the world, which is as far as my political activism extends. Ironically, people like me voting for Nader in the State of Florida had contributed to Vice President Gore's "loss" to President Bush. That political defeat freed him up to learn about and become active in the domain of climate change.

Fast forward ten years: I'm passing time watching TED Talks over a background cacophony of endless conference calls. Vice President Gore's TED Talk comes into my queue and I decide to watch, expecting more of the same from 2006. What I experienced, instead, changed my outlook on climate change and climate science forever. Expecting a reiteration of the doomsday story, I was instead inspired to hang up on whatever work call I had been pretending to listen to. Vice President Gore had grabbed my attention with a fresh message. It was one that was missing from "An Inconvenient Truth:" That we can, and will, change.

I had recently learned about the exponential price decline of solar energy, but until watching the TED Talk, I hadn't put it all together that market forces are reversing the climate trends. I'll dive deeper into exponential change and renewable energy in future blogs, but in a nutshell: Solar energy very recently reached "grid parity" with fossil fuels on an unsubsidized basis, and will very quickly become far cheaper than fossil fuels. Further, wind energy has already met that threshold, and energy storage advances show promise that utility-grade battery solutions are just around the corner. The best part? All of this is occurring despite special interest groups hijacking our political system in an effort to continue to profit from fossil fuel consumption. Capitalism is defeating cronyism. The innovators have become the activists!

Vice President Gore spends the better part of his TED Talk sharing the progress that has been made since 2006, and pointing to a brighter future. He is also clear that there is still a long way to go not only to slow carbon emissions, but to ultimately reverse the trend of rising emissions. I learned that he now had a WIIFM, namely the Climate Reality Project: a non-profit organization he had created to change the world. By bringing together scientists, business leaders, policymakers, and innovators, the Climate Reality Project arms its Climate Reality Leaders with the tools to develop real climate change solutions. I applied to become a Climate Reality Leader and was accepted into the 2017 program in Denver.

For three days in March, I was trained by Vice President Gore himself to make a difference in the fight against climate change. He reinforced that we can, and will, change, but also shared the sad reality that there is damage that we can likely not undo. We must fix what can be fixed, and adapt to what cannot.

My commitment to Vice President Gore and the Climate Reality Leadership Corps is to act as a leader in the climate fight. It took me the better part of the three days to understand what my value add could be as a Climate Reality Leader. When it came to me, it was crystal clear: I must help others to understand the reality of what is changing, and by when. This is an ever-changing story with more uncertainties than certainties. The future will be different, and it may be scary because it's unknown. But, in such uncertainty is precisely where the greatest risks are taken to improve the world's condition.

Most agree that climate change should not be a political issue. If it's not a political issue, what kind of issue is it? It's a problem that can be solved with leadership, technology, creativity, risk-taking, and collaboration. Climate change is an innovation problem.



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