Harvard New Office - Kris Snibbe
Gore: Universities Must Take the Lead in Addressing the Climate Crisis
October 23, 2008
Author: Beth Maclin, Former Communications Assistant, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
Former Vice President Al Gore charged universities with the task of bringing the truth of the climate crisis into the global consciousness yesterday at Harvard’s Tercentenary Theatre.
The keynote address – which drew several thousand of Harvard students, faculty, staff and guests despite the cold and threat of rain – followed a daylong private roundtable hosted by Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center and attended by leading climate change and energy experts.
The roundtable, hosted by Belfer Center Director Graham Allison, focused on Gore’s challenge of making all electricity used in the U.S. to be from renewable energy within ten years.
“We can make the transformation,” Gore said. “We can do it sooner than people think. It is possible. We can, with American leadership, galvanize a global commitment to solve the climate crisis. We must do it with this generation. We have everything we need, with the possible exception of political will, but political will is a renewable resource.”
Gore and Harvard President Drew Faust emphasized the role universities have and will continue to play in addressing climate change. “Universities are charged to look beyond the immediate and beyond the local, to take the long view and the broad view. Climate change requires just such an approach,” Faust said.
Gore highlighted the pattern of decisions being made based on flawed perspectives instead of knowledge, citing climate change, but also the economy and Iraq War. He compared the “sub-prime mortgage fiasco” to the greenhouse-gas emissions crisis because both were based on assumptions that led people to believe they were safe.
“We now have a few trillion dollars of sub-prime carbon assets, whose value is based on another assumption that is in the process of collapsing, namely that it is perfectly all right to put 70 million tons of global warming pollution into that thin shell of atmosphere every 24 hours. It’s not okay,” Gore said.
He also cited that the day before the Senate voted to invade Iraq, more than 75 percent of Americans thought Saddam Hussein was responsible for the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, despite the lack of fact to back up that perspective.
“Too many of our decisions in this country are now made on the basis of information supplied not from universities, not from processes governed by the rule of reason, but instead by self-interested institutions, corporations, groups that want to make questions of fact questions of power,” he said. “Our challenge is to find the truth of the climate crisis and use it as a basis of the development of a new consciousness of who we are.”
Gore’s keynote address was the highlight of Harvard’s first Sustainability Celebration, which highlighted the university’s previously announced commitment to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions by 30 percent from 2006 levels in eight years. The celebration included booths giving out T-shirts that read “GREEN in the new Crimson” and reusable water bottles and serving squash bisque, apple crisp, warm cider, and kettle corn.
For more information about this publication please contact the Belfer Center Communications Office at 617-495-9858.
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