“We share other things in common too,” said former Vice President Al Gore, to laughs from the crowd.
Gore was sitting beside John Kerry ’66 — who lost the presidential election in 2004, four years after Gore’s own general election defeat in 2000.
On Thursday evening, Yale’s Kerry Initiative — an interdisciplinary program established last spring — hosted a conversation between Kerry and Gore at the School of Management. After Gore’s quip, the discussion took a more serious turn, focusing on issues facing the United States, including climate change.
“The next few decades are going to be a test of the courage and character of humanity,” said Gore of the climate crisis in front of a crowd of students, faculty and others from the Yale community and beyond. “We need to garner activism, especially by students. It’s important to be ahead of the curve and think outside the box.”
Gore argued that in order to find solutions to climate change, people must stay aware of the other crises that the country is facing.
“In order to fix the climate crisis, we need to spend some time fixing our democracy crisis,” he said. “Many of our congressmen are more focused on begging lobbyists and rich people for money instead of listening to their constituents.”
In his remarks, Gore emphasized that ideas matter. Electronic communication has changed the ways ideas are exchanged, he explained, with ideas moving faster than ever. He added that every reform movement is based on the power of ideas and mobilizing people.
Asked by Kerry how to mobilize support for climate reform, Gore noted a recent shift in the discussion around climate change.
“There is a new participant in the climate debate, with a very persuasive voice: Mother Nature,” he said. “Millions of people across the world are climate activists and [the] business industry is bringing about change faster than governments.”
Noting young people’s increased willingness to address climate change, Gore said, “Every great social revolution has been led by young people.”
As the talk progressed, its focus shifted to the causes of climate change denial. Kerry said the media is sometimes more focused on providing entertainment than reporting facts and often neglects to directly mention climate change. At the moment, he added, most people’s number one concern is not climate change but rather job stability, political stability and education.
Gore attributed climate change denial to three causes. He argued that much like in the tobacco industry in the 20th century, many in the energy industry actively work to prevent the spread of climate change information. He added that many are inclined to deny climate change because acknowledging it would lead to greater government oversight. Lastly, Gore noted, it is human nature to shy away from unpleasant topics.
In an interview with the News after the discussion, University President Peter Salovey said he hoped the talk would galvanize support for the work being done to address climate change.
“Climate change is one of the truly great global challenges of our day,” he said. “I bet everyone here feels more inspired after listening to the two of them in conversation about it.”
Vaman Muppala SOM ’18, a Kerry Fellow, said he saw the talk as an extension of the climate change conference hosted last month by the Kerry Initiative.
Roee Levy GRD ’20 said that after seeing Gore’s recent movie “Truth to Power,” he was excited to hear from the former vice president in person.
“It was inspiring to see two sequential Democratic presidential nominees both giving the best case possible for climate action and citizenry,” said Franz Hochstrasser FES ’19.
Gore served as vice president between 1993 and 2001 under former president Bill Clinton LAW ’73.
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