Former star of stage and screen Al Gore arrived at COP-20 early Wednesday morning to give one of the opening speeches at an all-day conference put on by the Chinese delegation on Making the Future of Cities Green. I got there a few minutes too late hear him, so made sure I was early to hear his big talk at 1:15.
It was scheduled for one of the COP’s two big plenary meeting rooms. I arrived at 12:50. The UN security officer guarding the door told me that the official session was over and the Cusco Room was now closed. I said, What about Al Gore’s speech at 1:15? He said that there was nothing until 3 PM, but when I pressed him, he went and got his list of the day’s events in the Cusco and Lima Rooms (which are actually very large tents–the whole COP is being held in very nice temporary structures erected on the grounds of Peru’s Pentagonito). Sure enough, there were the Climate Reality Project and Al Gore listed at 1:15.
The former U. S. Vice President arrived early, but did not start speaking until 1:30. That may be because there weren’t many people in the very large room. By the time he began to speak, perhaps half the seats were occupied. More people came as he continued talking. At the end, he got a polite round of applause. Such are the indignities of being a former movie star.
Gore’s talk was an update of the slide-show immortalized in the sci-fi classic, “An Inconvenient Truth.” But not an update that replaces its numerous false and misleading claims. For instance, Gore’s show still contains a slide of the discredited hockey stick.
In the years since that 2006 Academy Award-winning documentary (which was a documentary in the sense that it filmed him giving his slide show), Gore has if anything become more preoccupied with floods, droughts, and rising sea levels. Slide after slide of floods around the world were followed by slide after slide of droughts and high tides. He even claimed that those who criticized the animated sequence in his film that showed New York underwater were proven wrong by the high tides caused by Superstorm Sandy that flooded lower Manhattan.
Gore’s main point was that rising temperatures are disrupting the hydrological cycle. The atmosphere contains 4 percent more water vapor than 30 years ago. That means more torrential downpours. But higher temperatures also mean lots more evaporation from the soil, and that means more droughts.
Even worse, we have created a spasm of mass extinction. The threats to humanity are dire, and the fate of the Earth is still in the balance. But like the skilled revival preacher he resembles, Gore then turned to the very good news: “We know we have to change!” And better yet: “We have the solutions at hand!”
Installations of new wind and solar capacity are booming around the world. In one of only a very few humorous touches, Gore showed a graph charting the rapid increase of renewable energy that looked just like the infamous hockey stick. The reason wind and solar are booming is because the costs have finally come down to levels at or below the costs of conventional power. Gore claimed that solar costs have reached grid parity in 79 countries and that within six years 80 percent of the people in the world will live in countries where the cost of electricity from solar panels is at or below the average cost of power.
Finally, Gore talked about the political momentum that has been created by the deal signed by U. S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing in November. He said that the deal was “one of the greatest sources of optimism I’ve seen in the past forty years.” Sad to say, this ridiculous claim is strong evidence the former Vice President’s fantasy life is still vivid.
Gore will still be at the COP tomorrow, and I hope to attend a smaller briefing that he is giving for NGOs. U. S. Secretary of State John Kerry is also scheduled to fly in to make the official U. S. ministerial presentation tomorrow. Christiana Figueres, the head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change secretariat, also promised that there would be a surprise speaker. So what has till now been a rather dull, low energy COP may still offer some mild excitement before it concludes on Saturday.