Gore: Iowa could shape dialogue on climate change

Source: By Brianne Pfannenstiel, Des Moines Register • Posted: Thursday, May 7, 2015


Iowa could have a critical role in shaping the national conversation about climate change ahead of the 2016 presidential election, Al Gore said Tuesday in Cedar Rapids.

“It’s hard to miss the importance of a state that is simultaneously the first contest in the presidential contest and the number one producer of wind electricity in the country with a fast-growing solar economy also,” Gore told The Des Moines Register. “You put those two things together and I think Iowa has a tremendous potential for pushing this onto the agenda of (presidential) candidates in both parties.”

The former vice-president-turned-environmental-activist is in Cedar Rapids this week trying to ensure climate change and other environmental issues play an important role in the coming caucus season.

His Climate Reality program, which launched in 2011, is conducting a three-day training session for people who want to advocate for solutions to climate change. They’ll hear from experts and participate in workshops to learn how to talk with local, state and national leaders about what they see as a critical issue.

“This training was put here in Cedar Rapids this year for a very simple reason,” Gore said. “All of the presidential candidates in both parties are crisscrossing the state this year.”

Cedar Rapids is one of four cities chosen to be part of the program this year. The others are Miami, New Delhi and Toronto.

Gore says he’s hopeful that as presidential candidates begin making stops in coffee shops and Pizza Ranches around the state, Iowans trained through the program will be able to push candidates to consider making climate action part of their policy platform.

Public support

NASA reports that 97 percent of climate scientists agree the climate is changing and it is very likely the result of human activity. But there remains a steep partisan divide on the issue and little support among Republicans.

Some candidates for the Republican presidential nomination have publicly denied the human influence on climate change.

While that prompts Gore to hit his forehead with his palm, he says he’s hopeful that candidates will adjust their positions as the election progresses.

“One of the things I learned during the years I was in politics is that when there’s enough public pressure, candidates can and do change their minds,” he said. “If enough regular folks make it known that they’re going to be attending the caucuses and put their thoughts on the scale, it will tilt way toward doing the right thing.”

Making the business case

Iowa’s wind energy production makes it a unique place to have this conversation, Gore said.

About 28 percent of Iowa’s power comes from wind, the highest in the nation. And since 2004, about $10 billion has been invested in Iowa’s wind energy industry, supporting about 6,000 jobs that are tied to manufacturing, operations and design.

“I think business has been leading the way,” Gore said. “What they’ve done to make solar and wind so much cheaper than it used to be is changing everything,”

He said that as alternative energy forms become cheaper than traditional fossil fuels, people — regardless of political ideology — will turn to them. It shifts the conversation away from politics and toward practicality.

He related a story of a woman named Debbie Dooley who gave a presentation immediately following his at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference in New York City.

Dooley is a national Tea Party activist. She’s also a major advocate for solar energy.

“Debbie Dooley doesn’t talk about climate,” Gore said. “We can have a great conversation and work together but we don’t talk about climate together. She just says, ‘Hey, solar energy’s cheaper. I don’t want to be tied to this electric utility monopoly. I want to do it for myself and put solar panels on my roof.’ … And that’s spreading all over the country.”