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Al Gore Speaks about Climate Change at PKU

Former United States Vice President Al Gore Speaks about Climate Change at Peking University

On June 13, 2016, Former Vice President of the United States Al Gore delivered an address entitled “The Reality of the Climate Crisis and its Solutions” at Peking University. Fu Jun, professor of Political Economy and Public Policy at both the National School of Development and the School of Government, commenced the event with a short opening speech. Professor Fu then invited Wang Shi to the stage to speak.

Wang Shi is the Founder and Chairman of China Vanke and co-founder of the Society of Entrepreneurs and Ecology, China’s largest environmental network. Mr. Wang spoke of how he came to know Al Gore and of their shared memories together, and he explained their shared dedication to protecting the environment and tackling climate change, and then Mr. Wang introduced Al Gore, the Former U.S. Vice President, to give his remarks.

Mr. Gore began his speech by thanking Wang Shi and Professor Fu Jun for their remarks, and he thanked Dr. Li Yansong, PKU Vice President, for the opportunity to speak at PKU. He then asked the audience three questions: 1) Must we change; 2) Can we change; and 3) Will we change?


▲ Al Gore, Wang Shi, Yao Ming, Fu Jun, Xu Jintao and others take a group photo at LangRun Garden

Must We Change?

Mr. Gore first explained that from the end of World War II until now, the use of fossil fuels has been increasing rapidly, and that fossil fuels are the primary cause of global warming, and he explained that the increase of CO2 is correlated with the global temperature increase. Mr. Gore explained that humanity’s reliance on fossil fuels and the resulting increase of CO2 in the atmosphere is going to make the Earth hotter and hotter, and this manmade warming is already having and will have even more serious consequences for our planet, our health, our livelihoods, and our quality of life. He then went on to explain that 99.99% of peer reviewed studies now confirm the consensus of manmade global warming, and every single national academy of science in the world, including China's, agrees with the consensus, and as a group, they issued this statement: “The need for urgent action is now indisputable.” Gore continued to say, “We are at a turning point, we have to change. The answer to the first question, ‘do we have to change’, is ‘yes’.”

The need for urgent action is now indisputable. We are at a turning point, we have to change.


▲ Al Gore speaking at the Qiulin Auditorium of the School of International Studies, PKU

Can We Change?

Mr. Gore began the second part of his speech with a question and an answer: “What about the second question, ‘can we change’? Because, if we have to change, but we don’t have the ability to change, that’s just a recipe for stress, but, luckily, we have solutions at hand.” Mr. Gore than explained the developmental history of wind power, and he emphasized that wind power production had grown faster and had outpaced all of the previous predictions and that its costs had declined more rapidly than previously predicted. Mr. Gore made note that China was leading the world in the development of wind power, and that “wind power can provide 40 times all of the electricity that the world needs.”

Wind power can provide 40 times all of the electricity that the world needs.


▲ Al Gore speaking.

Will We Change?

Mr. Gore explains that we have already begun to change, and he gives a few examples to demonstrate his point. July 2015 in Denmark, the country produced 140% of its need for electricity from wind. “In China, one-third of the electricity generating capacity is now from renewable resources”, more Gore stated. And he then rose the example of Germany, “One day this year last month, they got 87% of their electricity from solar and wind and renewables.” “The cost of batteries is now declining rapidly. This is an energy transformation: low carbon energy with storage; solar plus battery is a particular formula for the future.”

The cost of batteries is now declining rapidly. This is an energy transformation: low carbon energy with storage.


 ▲ Al Gore presenting slides and videos during his speech.


Mr. Gore concluded his remarks with a quote from Wallace Stevens, “After the final no there comes a yes and on that yes the future world depends.” He continues, every reform in human history has been met with no after no after no, but then there came a yes, and that’s where we are with the climate movement. We have had many noes, but people understand what is at stake, and there are those who worry that we do not have the will to change, but he confidently says, “I know that the will to change itself is a renewable resource.”