At Dreamforce, Al Gore highlights progress on electric vehicles and energy, but calls next few years ‘crucial’

“Political will is itself a renewable resource. Let’s renew it.

—Al Gore

Former Vice President Al Gore had good news and bad news for a packed theater at a technology conference in San Francisco on Wednesday night.

He broke the bad news first, explaining how the climate crisis is causing extreme and often deadly weather around the world. The long-time environmentalist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate showed the audience CRM from Salesforce Inc.,
Dreamforce Conference in San Francisco slide after slide featuring videos and photos of recent hurricanes, floods, fires, droughts and other devastation – from Puerto Rico to Pakistan to Italy and states like California, Alaska, Kentucky and elsewhere.

This summer, China “spent 70 days with temperatures above 104 degrees and up to 113 degrees over a wide area,” Gore said. “Historians of climate-related events say there is nothing comparable in the historical record of what China went through.”

He also said that within the next 50 years some parts of the world are at risk of becoming uninhabitable due to extreme heat, such as India, Brazil and West and East Africa.

In addition, Gore neutrally denounced other weather disasters that have occurred over the past year: rain bombs. Monsoons. An aerial tsunami. A millennial drought. A mega drought.

“All of this is affecting our food system,” Gore said, citing an increased risk of multiple breadbaskets failing or a widespread shock to grain production. Yet another proof: Ukraine’s grain exports were affected by the Russian invasion, so he said India saw this as an opportunity to export its grain surpluses. But then India had a heat wave and ended up banning wheat exports.

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After poking fun at the oil industry’s handling of climate change (“The oil industry tried to sound like, ‘we got it,’ Gore said), then the former vice president became livelier as they turned to the good news.

Gore said the technology needed to halve emissions over the next eight years exists. One of the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement is to cut emissions by 50% by 2030. “That’s why the next eight years are so crucial,” he said.

The former vice president marveled at what he called the dramatic drop in the cost of renewable energy, such as solar and wind power. He said global electric vehicle sales have doubled in the past year and in several countries have reached 10-15% penetration, “which is associated with new technologies when they reach a rate of inflection”. Gore said the costs of energy storage, which he called a potential $1 trillion market, are falling rapidly. He mentioned that more than 370 global companies have pledged to “go to 100% renewable energy,” including Salesforce.

Then he mentioned a quote from the poet Wallace Stevens, “After the final no comes a yes, and on this yes depends the world to come,” and asked the audience a question that made them laugh.

“I wonder if any of you, like me, have gone through times where you worried, will Congress ever pull itself together” regarding the climate crisis. “But they did! After the final no, there was a yes,” Gore said, referring to the passage of the “biggest climate reform bill in the history of the entire world.” (The Cut Inflation Act includes $369 billion for climate and energy provisions.)

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The former vice president concluded on a positive note, and he felt and sounded like he was preaching to a choir that gave him a standing ovation: “We can solve this problem! Do not despair. We have the tools. Young people are demanding that we do this in every country in the world. Arguably, the only thing we need is political will. But remember this: political will is itself a renewable resource. Let’s renew it.

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