Al Gore knows it sounds “shrill” to say global warming threatens human civilization, but the alarmist nature of the message is no reason to discount it, the former U.S. vice president said this morning at the National Clean Energy Summit 2.0.
A week-old study on the world’s oil supply found the planet’s petroleum reserves dwindling faster than previously thought, Gore said. That means more roller-coaster rides in oil prices, and future energy shocks for consumers.
Humans also dump 70 million tons of planet-warming pollution into the atmosphere every 24 hours, Gore said.
“This is madness,” Gore said. “We owe it to ourselves, our children and our grandchildren. Who are we to make the decision to keep on being so wasteful and destructive in the teeth of warnings from every single prestigious science organization on this planet? Our kids will ask, 'Didn’t you know? Didn’t you care? Didn’t you notice the thousand-year-droughts and the 500-year floods? What were you all doing, watching 'American Idol?’ ”
UNLV professor Keith Schwer also addressed the crowd this morning, noting that Clark County’s unemployment rate is 12.3 percent, and the region could use the economic boost that would come with a greener economy.
Schwer said Las Vegas and Nevada ranked as the country’s fastest-growing state in the last several years of the 20th century because of its entrepreneurial spirit and its citizens’ ability to find advantages other states didn’t have.
Southern Nevada should now turn that entrepreneurial spirit toward green energy, Schwer said. Focusing on renewables such as solar power and wind energy would make the Silver State an exporter of energy, similar to Texas and Oklahoma.
There’ll be job upheaval for older sectors of the economy, Schwer said, but that was the case for makers of buggy whips when the automobile emerged as an economic force.
“We shouldn’t be afraid of that,” Schwer said. “We should continue to make transformations to drive the economy and make sure we have economic prosperity for our grandchildren.”
U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu added that it’s “wishful thinking” to believe global warming isn’t happening.
“The cost of inaction is horrendous,” Chu said.
Chu also said the country has an incredible opportunity to foster a second Industrial Revolution revolving around green power. He added that he’d be disappointed if the ability to convert agricultural waste to fuel didn’t approach large-scale capabilities within a decade, and there’s enough cropland in this country to grow plants for fuel and not affect the food supply.
“We have two options. We can grow prosperous and do the right thing so our children and grandchildren will like us, or we can pretend things aren’t happening and we’re back in 1950,” Chu said.
Gov Jim Gibbons wasn’t invited to the event, and said that the snub suggested the gathering was more about partisan politics than solving energy problems.
“Reid invited California’s governor and did not invite Nevada’s governor. That can only suggest that Reid is interested in helping renewable energy projects in California and not Nevada,” Gibbons spokesman Dan Burns said via e-mail.
Burns also said Chu abruptly cancelled a meeting with Gibbons Monday morning, saying another meeting came up. Chu attended the summit.
Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4512.
Benjamin Spillman contributed to this report.