I recently returned from Los Angeles where I attended Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership training. I’m excited to chronicle what I learned here, representing what I found to be the most important info about the climate crisis and about California’s unique situation. Hopefully I can also encourage you to apply for the next round and join an incredible growing community of climate activists!
A quick background:
These trainings are hosted a few times a year in cities spanning Berlin to Chicago, and welcome thousands of participants from all over the world (ours had 2,100 from 40 countries.) They are free to attend, provided you can fund your travel and lodging for the three days. Once the training is over, you’re officially in the greater network of Climate Reality Leaders. Leaders are expected to log “acts of leadership” in their communities following their training, like presenting to peers on climate science & contacting their elected officials.
It feels important to mention that the trainings aren’t just the brainchild of Al Gore. He’s there every day, sharing his expansive knowledge and facilitating discussions with incredible local leaders in the climate movement – just like he’s been doing for 10+ years. He made us learn, laugh, cry and minorly palpitate over the course of three days.
Because this training was hosted in LA, both the speakers and content were localized to California. The Climate Reality team did a great job of including many voices in their program curation, too – we heard from activists fighting for clean air in LA nearly as much as we heard from figures like Mayor Eric Garcetti.
What I learned:
California is a state of great complexity in regard to its climate action. It is considered a leader in the path towards a greener economy: ranking #1 in solar jobs, incentivizing electric vehicles, even working to phase out fossil fuels 100% by 2045 through a measure called SB100 (the state is already 50% dependent on renewables!)
Amongst all of this progress, California struggles with its role as our nation’s third largest oil extractor behind Alaska + Texas. The state even allows oil and gas giants to drill in the literal backyards of communities — 77% of which are low-income/immigrant communities– unsurprisingly causing harm to human health. (Learn more about the problem and what communities are doing to push back here.)
The climate science that participants learned came directly from Mr. Gore during his 2.5-hour-long presentation (a slide deck he updates every day with new info — often times, moments before he presents it).
And, folks, the situation is dire:
- As we know, the earth’s temperatures are rising as a result of human-caused carbon emissions & the burning of fossil fuels.
- 93% of this excessive heat directly deposits into the ocean. Rising ocean temps make hurricanes stronger & more frequent – think the succession of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria – and make rain downpours more intense. Ever heard of “rainbombs”? They can flood cities in ~15 minutes.
- That same excessive heat pulls moisture out of soil, causing longer and deeper droughts. Not only do droughts affect access to drinking water, but they create uninhabitable places, cause uncontrollable wildfires, crop failures + food shortages. All of this creates economic instability with long-lasting, far-reaching effects. (Read about how climate change helped spark the Arab Spring here.)
- The world expects 24,000 climate refugees annually through extreme heat, drought, and intense weather events.
Lucky for us, we’re seeing signs of hope:
- Renewable energy sources have proven to be abundant, reliable, and profitable options that are picking up speed. In Portugal this past March, the country produced an excess of energy from renewables: 104%. In Texas, some utilities are offering free electricity between 9PM – 6AM because they have so much excess wind energy.
- The popularity of solar energy is growing the solar job market (9 times faster than the overall economy) and lowering the cost of solar panels. The price of solar in CA has decreased by 53% in only five years.
- Cities across the States are committing to 100% renewable electricity, 130 global companies have made the same commitment, and countries like China and India are on track to overachieve their Paris Climate Commitments.
I’ll finish up with two quotes that will resonate with me for a long time:
- “[The effects of] climate change represents an erosion of privilege in our communities. In the words of Martin Luther King: ‘We may have all come on different ships, but we‘re in the same boat now.” – Mustafa Santiago Ali, SVP of Climate, Environmental Justice & Community Revitalization for the Hip Hop Caucus
- “Climate change is happening on our watch. Our children and grandchildren don’t deserve what we’re doing to them; let’s act like our future depends on it.” – Al Gore, former Vice President of the United States and Chairman of the Climate Reality Project.
If you’re interested in attending the next US training, I highly recommend signing up for Climate Reality Project email updates and keeping an eye out. The experience will be sure to inspire & propel you to action, just like it did for me.