Monday, October 12, 2015

Sierra Club climate leaders learn from Al Gore in Miami

by Sierra Club Florida Conservation Chair Tom Larson

Al Gore at the Climate training in Miami, Sept. 2015.
Photo by Jon Ullman
Climate Change is real; it’s happening. We can do something about it—AND MUST!

That's why 1,200 people—young and old—assembled in Miami for three days at the end of September to learn more about the problems of climate change and its solutions. We came from 87 countries across the world; half from across the USA; one quarter from Florida.

Along with special guests speaking in support of specific topics, Vice President Al Gore showed the audience the depth and breadth of the issues around our changing climate with all his heart—with lots of evidence and many promises of hope.

Sierra Club Florida's Tom Larson gives Green Tea Party leader 
Debbie Dooley a Solar=Energy Freedom bumper sticker
Among the participants were many Sierra Club members and supporters.  Students, retirees, environmentalists, government officials, business people—many of them mothers and fathers—were intent on understanding the matters at hand and learning how to best share their story and gain attention for our shared story.

Extraordinarily high “King Tides” now regularly are inundating parts of Miami, Jacksonville and other coastal communities worldwide at levels not known in human history.  Our seas are rising and becoming more acidic.  Weather extremes like people have not experienced before are occurring with greater regularity and more intensity such as 1,000-year floods in places like piedmont & low-country South Carolina. Drought is becoming widespread: wildfire season is virtually year-round now in California. Global warming is creating “global weirding,” a term coined by Hunter Lovins and promoted by Thomas Friedman, “. . . because the rise in average global temperature is going to lead to all sorts of crazy things.”

More than 1,200 people from 87 countries attended 
the Climate Reality Project's Miami training 
The Climate Reality Project team organized presentations and exercises to enable the participants to become members of the “Climate Reality Leadership Corps”—now 9,400 trained representatives in 126 countries.  We exchanged resources validated and prepared by experts and now have embarked on sharing with others in our home communities, our friends and workmates, the real story about climate change and what we can do about it.

I came away with 17 typewritten pages of notes I took and am still digesting, expanded my knowledge, bolstered confidence about my own understanding and gained access to a treasure of exhibits, presentation templates and a solid connection to the 9400 other Climate Reality leaders.  I’m still learning how to tell my story and will be thinking about which sets of resources will best support sharing with others in various walks of life.  I’m hoping to collaborate regularly with nearby fellow leaders across Florida to spread the word.

My own climate reality story

My climate reality story is one that goes back to the mid-1990s, when I first heard about U.S. Defense Department concerns about national security risks due to climate change.  As I learned more in Sierra Club circles, while employed in commerce, I volunteered on personal time to foster community dialog on global warming and potential perils without mitigation.  I ended up involved with the Florida Energy Commission’s working group on climate change, got further involved with electric power issues of sustainability in my hometown, across Florida and at the state capital, and participated locally in U.S. DOE Clean Cities programs fostering non-petroleum transportation fuel market developments.  I have been speaking on climate change with growing knowledge for many years.  Now with Al Gore’s and the Climate Reality Project’s help I’m really charged up.

We can do so much with positive effect—with intention, keeping an eye on the prize.  Without diminishing our prosperity, and improving economic security of people across the world, we can change our ways to stop polluting the atmosphere with unfettered carbon dioxide, the principal force of global warming.

Solar is here

Solar electric power generation combined with new grid management technologies (I call it the “electro-net”) can provide us clean energy in abundance, without breaking the bank.  Most of the opposition to effecting change comes from those with investments sunk in old, customary technologies and resources.  We need to make pathways for transition that turn from coal and other fossil-fuel combustion for energy to harnessing power from principally sunlight and wind. There are some places where other clean energy resources are available responsibly, such as geothermal hot water, biomass in sustainable quantities and ocean tide/wave/current energy harvesting.  Some needed technologies are still in development to scale, but many options are ready for prime time.  We learned at the Climate Reality conference a lot about the now-competitive costs of solar power generation systems.

Overcoming resistance

Our main problem is dealing with people’s uncertainty, lack of confidence in taking new directions and the raft of unfortunate mis-information coming from already invested interests in business as usual.  We all must learn that we can do this and then demand action. It will be better in the long run for profitable, sustainable business. It will support people with a future they and their grandchildren will appreciate.  Taking on climate change that our activities are creating will save the planet and its wondrous creatures from a substantially different climate and weather regime than we’ve known in human history.

The future is bright

Join me and my colleagues in creating the sustainable future we all want, not one that comes upon us because of neglectful, short-term, greedy thinking.  We can create more jobs, increase prosperity, save ecological systems.  Talk with your friends, workmates, and public officials about climate change.  We must demand attention and honest thinking be applied to taking action.

For more information on the Climate Reality Project, click here.
For more information about the Miami, Florida event, click here.