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Former Vice President and presidential candidate Al Gore came to UNLV Tuesday and received a standing ovation after his speech, even though he issued some dire and sometimes depressing warnings about climate change.
Desert Companion staff writer Heidi Kyser attended the speech. She said he organized the presentation around three questions: Do We Need To Change? Can We Change? and Will We Change?
Kyser said the first question took the majority of Gore's speech to answer.
“It was a sweeping inventory of the negative impacts that climate change is having on the earth. From extreme weather events, like drought and wildfire, hail storms and ice storms, to national security issues," she said, "slide after slide containing recent data -- most of the data that he focused on was from 2015 onward to 2018 -- just demonstrating the impacts of climate change.”
The second theme of whether we can change looked at what has been done since climate scientists started to raise alarms 30 years ago.
“He focused for that on the switch from coal, primarily, but fossil fuels in general, to renewable energy," she said, "He talked about how the U.S. and other countries around the world are moving away from coal. He showed the number of coal plants that have either been turned down or are shutting down across the country. Then he showed renewable facilities that are opening up around the world.”
Kyser said Gore told the audience the growth of wind and solar has outpaced projections for those energy sources, making the case that society can make the needed changes when we put our minds to it.
And the final question -- Will we change? -- turned to current opportunities.
“He started by focusing on President Trump’s announced withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. He pointed out that by law we can’t technically withdraw until the day after the 2020 election. So, he said, ‘You can conclude from that what you will,’ but obviously what he was saying was: Our votes matter. Who we elect matters, and if you support someone who supports something like the Paris Climate Agreement, then you can make a difference,” she said.
Kyser said Gore made an effort to show specific ways Las Vegas and Nevada have been impacted by climate change, including pointing out that Las Vegas currently has 76 days with temperatures above 95 degrees, but will have 132 such days in about 80 years if we continue on our current path.
“He also talked about the U.S. West wildfire season, which is 107 days longer now then it was in the 1970s, and how we here in Nevada saw our largest wildfire ever –- the Martin Fire –- in 2018,” she said.
While Gore spent a majority of his life in politics and the issue of climate change has become a political one, Kyser said the former vice president tried to steer clear of political statements.
“The point I think he was trying to make is that this is not a partisan issue, that climate change affects everyone whether you’re Republican or Democrat. Your children and your grandchildren are going to have to live with the consequences of the decisions we make today.”
Heidi Kyser, staff writer, Desert Companion
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