The day started with a presentation by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.
I am a Climate Reality Leader through the Climate Reality Project, founded by Mr. Gore. It is a great organization that trains and empowers individuals around the world to share the information on climate change. The Climate Reality Project, including extensive time from Mr. Gore himself, leads a three-day training session a few times a year in different parts of the world. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested.
Mr. Gore started his presentation by stating, “We face the single most important moral choice in the history of humanity.”
He spent the next 90 minutes laying out a very clear case of what is causing climate change (human greenhouse gas emissions), the consequences of our emissions (heat waves, cold snaps, melting ice, sea level rise, drought, severe weather, spreading diseases, etc.), and what to do to help our planet (stop burning fossil fuels especially coal, energy efficiency measures, and switch to renewable energy).
Mr. Gore shared many interesting things, I’ll include a few that struck a chord with me:
17 of the 18 hottest years on record have occurred since 2001. 2018 will be on the list in a few weeks.
The best and most effective technology of taking CO2 out of the air is a tree. Taken to scale it is called a forest. Globally, deforestation is cutting the equivalent area of a football field every second.
He also talked about fossil fuel burning. Poland gets about 80% of its electricity from coal, and 33 of the 50 most-polluted cities in Europe are in Poland. I can smell and feel the pollution every time I go outside here. A child born today in Warsaw will have breathed in enough pollution to be equivalent to smoking 1,000 cigarettes in their first year.
Mr. Gore also highlighted the dramatic success stories of coal plants declining in most of the world and how the capacity of renewable energy is rapidly accelerating. Solar and wind power are now cheaper than fossil fuels in the U.S. and most of the rest of the world. He also specifically highlighted my home utility company, Xcel Energy, and how they committed last week to provide 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050.
Another thing he stated really struck a chord with me as an architect.
“The greatest job creation opportunity in our history is to retrofit buildings for energy efficiency.”
Buildings account for around 40% of the global greenhouse gas emission, so this is a huge opportunity for improvement.
Mr. Gore ended with:
“We do not have time for despair! We can’t afford the luxury of feeling discouraged. Too much is at stake…If anyone doubts that we as human beings are incapable of rising to this moment, think back about all of the struggles we’ve had in previous history and how often the odds were against those who were choosing to do the right thing, and ultimately prevailed!”
If you are reading this, you are probably aware that I am writing blogs while at COP24. I found a quiet hallway to work on my blog and while I was typing I saw a group walking down the hallway towards me sitting on the floor. Then I met this guy:
Another amazing day at COP24 in Katowice, Poland!