When former U.S. Vice President Al Gore founded the Climate Reality Leadership Corps in 2007, his mission was simple: to educate and motivate others to drive change. “Truth has its own integrity, reality, and power. Its force can break down walls of resistance no matter how tall or how strong.” (Climate Reality Chairman and Founder Al Gore)
The Climate Reality Leadership Corps was established on the premise that true change can happen only after reality is embraced. Since 2007, the program has held 25 trainings in countries across the globe. Last year, trainings were held in Istanbul and Chicago. This year: South Africa, Australia, and Brazil. During a period of three days, a global network of activists join together to learn from world-class scientists and technical specialists about the science behind climate change. The training also encompasses lessons in public speaking, communication and media engagement. The goal? That these newly emerged leaders will leave the training and subsequently educate their own communities on both problem and solution.
The current network spans across 117 different countries. Over 6,000 trained climate leaders and 5 million supporters have united in common objective: “to uncover the complete truth about the climate crisis in a way that ignites moral courage in each of us”. Attempting to use the power of collective voices to demand change puts social movement to the test. But – social movements have, at times, moved the needle. Civil rights. The Berlin Wall. The American Revolution. The French Revolution. The Arab Spring. The list goes on.
Today, the debate around climate change has intensified. The way I see it, there are four core schools of thought around climate crisis (or the lack thereof).
- It’s not happening at all.
- It’s happening, it’s an issue, and it’s man-made.
- It’s happening, it’s an issue, and it’s caused by natural forces.
- It’s happening, but it’s not an issue.
The first school of thought points to data over the last fifteen years and notes that even with increased emissions of carbon dioxide, the global temperature actually has not risen at all. Yes, over the last 50 years, the temperature has escalated, but more recently – no. They also feel that there is a large amount of variance in the data and scoff at the numerous scientists’ charts portraying temperature increases.
The second philosophy (and, arguably, the loudest) is that corporations and individuals are emitting colossal amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere – at levels we simply cannot sustain. That demand for oil and gas has increased to frightening levels. That the burning of fossil fuels (oil, coal, natural gas) is trapping the sun’s energy as heat and that warmer temperatures have drastic consequences for the entire world. The argument here is that there is a solution – and we must act now. That fossil fuels must be replaced with clean energy alternatives. That leaders around the globe should exact a market price on carbon and force companies to take responsibility for the negative externalities they are imposing on the environment. The extremists in this camp assert that we’ve reached the point of no return. That the temperature is lagging the amount of carbon dioxide actually in the atmosphere. That even if the entire world ceased to emit one more molecule of carbon dioxide, the temperature would still increase because the amount of carbon dioxide already in the air is so great. Let’s hope the extremists are wrong.
The third dogma is quite simple. The sun is getting hotter on its own, and there is nothing we can do about it. (The way I see it, this is the most frightening outcome. At least if individuals and corporations are the root of the problem, there’s hope of mitigating the issue. The major impediment to humankind would be: climate crisis is real, it’s caused by natural forces, and there is absolutely nothing we can do.)
Last but not least, there are those that deny any existence of a climate crisis. This ensemble would assert the following: yes, carbon is being emitted into the air, yes demand for fossil fuels has grown, yes the temperature has warmed…so what? The earth has been a lot warmer and colder than it is today. A sub-philosophy within this school of thought is that plants actually benefit from carbon dioxide, in fact need carbon dioxide to produce water and oxygen, and this advantageous vegetation is an offsetting factor to CO2’s negative consequences.
Two weeks from today…
Exactly 14 days from now, on November 4th, thousands will congregate in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the 2014 Climate Reality Leadership Corps. I leave for Brazil in two weeks. Stay tuned.