More than 11 years ago, “An Inconvenient Truth” debuted, featuring a slide show former Vice President Al Gore put together detailing the dangers the world faced from climate change.
Glacial melt, increased extreme weather events and widespread drought were just a few of the effects of an increasing global temperature assisted by man-made pollutants.
On Tuesday, Gore came to Bellevue and presented his followup presentation to more than 800 climate change leaders at the “Climate Reality” training in Downtown’s Meydenbauer Center.
“We need to ask ourselves three questions: One, do we need to change? Two, can we change? Three, will we change?” Gore asked. “The answer to all three questions is yes, for the record.”
The Climate Reality Project was founded by Gore in 2011, and seeks to train leaders who can take information and advocacy back to their communities all over the world. Bellevue hosted the 35th Leadership Corps training for Climate Reality June 27-29. Much of Gore’s topics focused on major issues in the state of Washington.
After a prayer from the great-great-great-great-grandson of Chief Seattle, Ken Workman, several speakers reinforced the importance of their cause.
“We want you to go out and speak knowledgeably about climate change and organize around climate change,” said Ken Berlin, president and CEO of Climate Reality. “We have to minimize damage from this administration. We can’t afford to have a four-year gap in our efforts.”
Much like in his slide show in an “Inconvenient Truth,” the former vice president pointed to piles of scientific studies to back his and the vast majority of the scientific community’s arguments about anthropogenic climate change, citing the increasing frequency of extreme weather events and the scarcity and humanitarian issues they are poised to cause as good catalysts to enact change.
If the human race continues its current output of adding 110 million tons per day of carbon into the atmosphere, mid-range projections have the planet’s average temperature rising by 5.8 percent by 2050.
Gore pointed to massive flooding in Carnation, Stanwood and the tragic Oso landslide as “freak” events happening more and more often as the global temperature climbs.
“We have built a world for conditions that are changing,” he said.
At the same time as warmer air is able to hold more water for “rain bomb” downpours all over the Western United States, a 2015 drought in Washington largely east of the Cascades cost more than $773 million in lost agricultural products.
“We have big floods, deep droughts and an overall decrease in precipitation,” Gore said. “The fire season is 105 days longer than it was in the 1970s. We now have five times as many large wildfires as we did in the 70s. Every night on the TV news it’s like a nature hike through the Book of Revelation.”
He also reminded those in attendance that nearly 20 million people in East Africa were on the verge of starvation by the desertification of their lands, same with farmers in Syria who lost land, came to already-crowded cities and fomented rebellion against the Assad regime. The millions of refugees streaming out of the Middle East and North Africa looking for safe harbor are directly a result of a warming planet, Gore said.
“Political instability is another cost of the climate crisis,” he said.
Gov. Jay Inslee spoke at the event, touting his involvement in forming the United States Climate Alliance, a group of states forming an alliance to cut down on carbon emissions in response to President Donald Trump withdrawing from the Paris Agreement climate discussion. His state government also worked through a carbon emission cap.
“The optimists are gonna win this battle,” he said, citing Washington’s booming clean energy sector. “We are close to the tipping point and you are the people who are going to tip us.”
Nearly half the 800 attendees were Washingtonians, and Climate Reality purchased carbon offsets to help alleviate the environmental cost of those who traveled from abroad. More than 60 percent were women, a first for the 35 events that have trained more than 12,000 climate leaders.
The event wasn’t all doom saying. Every speaker reminded those in attendance that by making changes, or speaking to people who doubt the evidence of anthropogenic climate change, each one could sway minds and make the air and water a better place for future generations.
The Bellevue event comes just weeks before “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,” debuts. The sequel filmmaking effort focuses once again on Gore as he tries to enact change in places of power to help prevent something horrible rapidly approaching something on the horizon.