Al Gore’s 24 hours on climate change

September 14, 2011

MIKE (telephone caller): Hi. Yeah. Vice President, I wonder, have you met Ray Kurzweil before?

AL GORE: Yes, I know Ray.


GORE: And I had a day-long session with him, and I had a very interesting extended dialogue with him about climate, by the way. I respect him.

MIKE: Well, how do you respond to his criticism of global warming? I, well, not fear mongers but there are people who somehow say that we can do something reversing the current situation where his – clearly, his – you know, you’re family with his futurist model where we actually – to use a ’60s term – get small by virtualizing ourselves and that’s the ultimate solution.

NEAL CONAN (host): Or adapt to it, in a word, yeah.

GORE: Well, I think that what he’s really getting at is the idea that we have capacity for invention and innovation that will solve this problem, and I hope he’s right. I think that, in the long run, there’s no doubt that technological advances will play a crucial role in helping us to solve this crisis.

I do not share the view that all we need to do is wait for a magic technological silver bullet, because we have 7 billion people on the planet now, and 85 percent of the energy we’re using is from carbon-based fuels. This will results in 90 million tons of global warming pollution added to the atmosphere every 24 hours. We are in a race against time. 20 percent of what we put up there today will still be there 20,000 years from now. So waiting for a deus ex machina, a magical solution from the technological revolution is a dangerous strategy in my view, but I certainly agree that these advances are coming.

And I mentioned before, the photovoltaic revolution is following one of those exponential curves that we saw with computer chips. It’s not quite as dramatic in its slope, but we are seeing – we saw last year the doubling of new installations of photovoltaic cells, a 30 percent reduction in price in one year. In many parts of the world, electricity from solar photovoltaic cells is now cheaper than the average price from the electricity grid, and the number of the areas where that’s true is growing rapidly. So I hope Ray is right in his projections. I fear that it would be a mistake to put all of our eggs in that hope basket and not make the common sense changes now that I believe are desperately needed. […]

Audio recording from NPR is available here.