Al Gore on Extreme Heat and the Fight Against Fossil Fuels
Newsletter The past few weeks have him even more worried than usual. Its been 17 years since former Vice President Al Gore raised the alarm about climate change with his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. Since then, hes been shouting from the rooftops about the risks of global warming more or less nonstop. But the events of the past few weeks have Gore even more worried than usual. Everywhere you look in the world, the extremes have now seemingly reached a new level, he told me in an interview. The temperatures in the North Atlantic and the unprecedented decline of the Antarctic sea ice, both simultaneously. We see it in upstate New York, we see it in Vermont, we see it in southern Japan, we see it in India. We see it in the unprecedented drought in Uruguay and in Argentina. We cant always say that a specific weather event was caused by climate change, but it is making certain extremes more likely. And this summer, the extreme weather chaos that Gore predicted in An Inconvenient Truth seems to have arrived all at once. Every night on the TV news is like taking a nature hike through the Book of Revelation, Gore said. Despite the apocalyptic weather news, Gore is also hopeful. Clean energy is cheaper than ever, and electric vehicle sales are surging, turbocharged by government subsidies. Put that all together, and Gore thinks developed economies could draw down their emissions with surprising speed. If you sketch out what the potential curves take you to by 2030 or 2040, it becomes increasingly realistic to say, Yes, these expansive goals definitely are achievable, he said. To make the point about how quickly renewable energy is growing, Gore quoted the : Sometimes things take longer to happen than you think they will, and then they happen faster than you thought they could. But Gore was quick to add that every second counts. The faster we stop burning fossil fuels and releasing other planet-warming emissions, the more quickly global temperatures can stabilize. We know how to fix this, he said. We can stop the temperatures going up worldwide with as little as a three-year time lag by reaching net zero, he said. And if we stay at true net zero, well see half of the human-caused CO2 coming out of the atmosphere in as little as 30 years. In other words, all hope is not lost. But Gore has no illusions about how hard it will be. Eighty percent of all the energy used in the world today still comes from fossil fuels, he said. Whats more, Gore acknowledged that the oil, gas and coal companies are not going down without a fight. Fossil fuel companies are desperately trying to use their political and economic networks and their successful capture of policy in too many countries to slow down this transition, he said. They dont disclose their emissions. They dont have any phase-out plan. Theyre not committed to a real net zero pathway. Theyre greenwashing. Theyre performing anti-climate plotting. Gore is particularly livid about the fact that fossil fuel companies continue to play a major role at the annual United Nations climate change conference known as COP (full name: Conference of the Parties to the United Nations climate convention). Hundreds of oil and gas executives participate in the proceedings, and this year, the president of COP, which will begin in November in the United Arab Emirates, is also the head of that countrys state oil company. , and Gore said he didnt think the COP28 president, Sultan al-Jaber, should be in the role. The president of COP28 obviously is not the right person for the job, Gore said. This is not a good time to undermine the confidence that people deserve to have in the process. Gore suggested reforming the COP process in ways that would limit the influence of fossil fuel companies, and removing the ability for rich countries to veto language calling for a phase out of fossil fuels, as they have done for years. The climate crisis is in the main a fossil fuel crisis, Gore told me. If the world is not permitted to discuss the phasing down of fossil fuels because the fossil fuel companies dont want the world to discuss it, thats the sign of a very flawed process. Record heat is . The heat index at an airport in Iran Fahrenheit (67 degrees Celsius). Italy, Greece and Spain are , with temperatures as high as 118 degrees Fahrenheit. Almost 80 million people are facing dangerous levels of heat . As parts of China experienced record heat, John Kerry, the White Houses climate envoy, arrived in Beijing on Sunday. Smoke from wildfires in western Canada is blanketing cities in the . Wildfires in the Canary Islands of Spain forced more than 4,000 people from their homes and . Almost one year ago, Al Gore called David Malpass, then president of World Bank, a , setting the wheels in motion for . His replacement, Ajay Banga, has been in office for a mere . Hows it going so far? Banga, the former chief executive of Mastercard, seems to be having a ball. He kicked off , recruited chief executives to join the banks and received the rock star treatment at the in Paris. But beyond the spectacle, he has started to deliver, too. Last month, at a global finance summit in Paris, he said that the World Bank would pause for countries that were recently hit by a disaster. Mia Mottley, the prime minister of Barbados and of calls to reshape the global financial system, gave his praises at the Paris festival. She told a cheering crowd that developing countries had been waiting for the debt pause for years. Ajay, youve done it in 19 days, she said. And, if I could sing, I would tell you weve only just begun. Rishikesh Ram Bhandary, a climate finance expert at Boston Universitys Global Development Policy Center, told me that the ball is still very much in his court in terms of clearly articulating how he can transform the bank. Still, one thing is certain, he said: There is a lot of enthusiasm and energy surrounding his presidency. On Thursday, Sept. 21, The Times will host a in New York City. Well be interviewing world leaders, activists and business leaders onstage, and sharing ideas, working through problems and answering tough questions in real time. You can . BlackRock, once the face of environmentally focused investing, , DealBook reports. Ford is of its electric F-150 Lightning pickup truck as demand softens and inventories pile up. Worms brought by humans to the Arctic are . is a correspondent on the Climate desk, covering the intersection of public policy and the private sector. Follow him on and Twitter.