“There is surprising – even shocking – good news” in the fight against climate change, former US vice-president and environmental campaigner Al Gore has said, while lauding recent breakthroughs in renewable energy technology.
In an article written for Rolling Stone magazine, Gore optimistically proclaims, “The forward journey for human civilisation will be difficult and dangerous, but it is now clear that we will ultimately prevail”.
He argues that the most devastating impacts of climate change – “the truly catastrophic damages that have the potential for ending civilisation as we know it” – can be avoided because of the falling cost of renewable energy.
“Our ability to convert sunshine into usable energy has become much cheaper far more rapidly than anyone had predicted. The cost of electricity from photovoltaic, or PV, solar cells is now equal to or less than the cost of electricity from other sources powering electric grids in at least 79 countries,” Gore says.
“By 2020 – as the scale of deployments grows and the costs continue to decline – more than 80% of the world’s people will live in regions where solar will be competitive with electricity from other sources.”
He points to examples such as Germany, where one day this year, 74% of the nation’s electricity demand was sourced from renewables, and India, now embarking on a massive solar energy drive, as evidence of the success of green energy.
“At the turn of the 21st century, some scoffed at projections that the world would be installing one gigawatt of new solar electricity per year by 2010,” he writes.
“That goal was exceeded 17 times over; last year it was exceeded 39 times over; and this year the world is on pace to exceed that benchmark as much as 55 times over.”
He notes that public opinion is shifting in the wake of increasingly frequent extreme weather events, consolidating behind the idea that climate change is to blame.
“Five years earlier, denialists accused me of demagogic exaggeration in an animated scene in my documentary An Inconvenient Truth that showed the waters of the Atlantic Ocean flooding into the 9/11 Ground Zero memorial site.
“But in [Hurricane] Sandy’s wake, the Atlantic did in fact flood Ground Zero – many years before scientists had expected that to occur,” Gore adds.
He also discusses the growing pressure for “meaningful reform in democratic capitalism”, calling for green banks and an effective price on carbon.
“We have the policy tools that can dramatically accelerate the transition to clean energy that market forces will eventually produce at a slower pace. The most important has long since been identified: We have to put a price on carbon in our markets, and we need to eliminate the massive subsidies that fuel the profligate emissions of global-warming pollution.
“Is there enough time? Yes”, Gore concludes.
“How long will it take? When Martin Luther King Jr. was asked that question during some of the bleakest hours of the U.S. civil rights revolution, he responded, ‘How long? Not long. Because no lie can live forever… How long? Not long. Because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’
“And so it is today: How long? Not long.”
Photo: Center for American Progress Action Fund via Flickr