Al Gore: Political tipping point reached in fight against climate change

The world is at a “long-awaited political tipping point” in the fight against climate change, former US vice-president Al Gore has said.

Mr Gore, who served two terms as vice-president under Bill Clinton, added that “impressive” pledges for action have been made at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow.

But he warned the climate crisis is getting worse “faster than we are yet implementing solutions”, as he said more political will is needed to tackle the problem.

He was speaking in a video address at the start of the Globe Cop26 Legislators Summit taking place at the Scottish Parliament.

Three decades ago, Mr Gore and John Kerry – who is now the US special presidential envoy for climate – established the Globe organisation for legislators around the world to play their part in the fight against global warming.

He told world politicians gathered at Holyrood for the event on Friday: “I for one believe very strongly that we are right at the long-awaited political tipping point, the many pledges for action here at this conference of the parties are impressive.”

With more countries and organisations making net-zero commitments, Mr Gore said it is crucial they are held to account on their pledges.

“If they are making a net-zero pledge they must now be held to it,” he said.

“The number one task is to reduce emissions because we are now using the thin shell of atmosphere surrounding our planet as if it were an open sewer, putting 162 million tonnes of man-made, heat-trapping global warming pollution into the sky every single day.”

He said this means emissions accumulated in the atmosphere “now trap as much extra heat as would be released by 600,000 first generation atomic bombs exploding every 24 hours on earth”.

Mr Gore continued: “That’s what is disrupting the water cycle, that is what is putting so much water vapor into the sky… that results in these massive downpours, much larger and much more frequent that in the past.

“And the floods and mudslides that result have caused devastating consequences.

“The same extra heat also pulls the moisture out of the top layer of the soil, therefore the droughts take hold more quickly and last longer and go deeper, which is having an impact on agriculture.

“We’re also seeing increasing temperatures combined with increasing humidity expand the areas of our world in the tropics and sub tropics that are becoming in some cases literally unliveable.”

But he said in the three decades since Globe was founded, the world had “also seen the emergence of extremely effective solutions for the climate crisis”, hailing the growth of renewable power and increased popularity of electric vehicles.

Mr Gore said the increasing threat to the planet has also “awakened a much stronger voice from the people at the grassroots of every nation, demanding governments do more”.

He added: “That makes the job of legislators even more important, to translate the popular will into effective solutions for the climate crisis.

“We have the urgency, we have the tools we need to solve the climate crisis, we need the legislation. The only missing element is sufficient political will.

“But political will is itself a renewable resource, and legislators who are leading in every single country can renew that political will and then translate it into effective solutions.”

Cop26 – Glasgow
Al Gore met the Prince of Wales at a reception for the Cop26 summit (Phil Noble/PA)

He later made a similar speech at the Cop26 summit, where he quoted Winston Churchill’s attempt to warn the world of the rise of fascism – “we are entering a period of consequences”.

“We are now experiencing these consequences in every part of the world”, Mr Gore said.

He said it is possible to legitimise the demands of the youth strikers for a “future that is worthy of them”.

He continued: “But we must put the period of delay and distraction and expedience in the past, recognise that we have entered a period of consequences and make it a period of solutions.”