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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Town Hall Regarding Climate Change. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired August 1, 2017 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: (voice-over): Tonight, the climate crisis in- depth.
AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: Every night on the news is like a major hike through the Book of Revelations.
COOPER: One of the world's leading voices on climate change, former Vice President Al Gore, taking questions about the most pressing issue for the planet, his warning to President Trump...
GORE: What were you thinking?
COOPER: ... and his call to action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: We're here for a special CNN town hall on the climate crisis with former Vice President Al Gore. I'm Anderson Cooper. I want to welcome our viewers watching in the United States and watching around the world.
Consensus in the scientific community is clear: Sea levels are rising. The oceans are warming. But there's not a consensus, at least among politicians here, what to do about it.
Now, 11 years after the release of the film "An Inconvenient Truth," Vice President Al Gore is out with a new film, "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power." Members of the audience have screened the film. And tonight, they're all going to have a chance to ask the former vice president their questions on climate change.
Please welcome Vice President Al Gore.
GORE: Hey, how are you all? Thank you very much, Anderson.
COOPER: Appreciate it. Nice to see you.
GORE: Thank you very much. Thank you, all, for being here.
COOPER: So, before we get to the audience questions, I got a couple questions for you and then we'll start.
COOPER: You know, one of the things the benchmark that you have talked about for a long time is that the Earth will warm by more than 2 degrees Celsius, which is about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, by the end of the century. There was just two new peer-reviewed studies that are saying the Earth may actually warm by more than that by the end of the century.
COOPER: I think a lot of people hear 2 degrees Celsius and think that doesn't sound like such a big deal. Why is it, in your opinion?
GORE: Yeah. Well, you know, if you have a baby and the temperature is 98.6 and it goes up to 100.6, and it keeps on rising, then you'd probably want to go to the doctor. These increases that seem like a small amount on a global basis actually bring incredible changes. The heat extremes go up, become more frequent. The ice starts melting faster. The water cycle is disrupted because a lot more water evaporates off the oceans and feeds the storms, so we get these rain bombs, these record downpours that have been coming so frequently now.
COOPER: Rain bomb is what they're calling it.
GORE: Yeah, that's what some scientists are calling them now, yeah, because so much more falls at the same time. In the last seven years, we've had 11 once-in-a-thousand-year such events here in the U.S.
I live in Nashville. Not too many years ago, thousands of my neighbors lost their homes and businesses in one of these events, and they didn't have flood insurance because it had never, ever flooded in the areas affected. And unfortunately, that's happening a lot more frequently.
It affects the spread of tropical diseases northward into the latitudes where so many Americans live. And the droughts get deeper and longer. So -- and by the way, the 2 degree figure is just -- it's not a, you know, a scientific threshold. It's just sort of a compromise between what the scientists say is getting into the real danger zone and what the politicians felt like it might be possible to hold the increase to.
But you're right. The new studies indicate we're in danger of going above that, although the Paris agreement a year-and-a-half ago gives us a chance to really mobilize public opinion around the world and take advantage of these fantastic solutions that are now available: Solar energy, wind energy, all the rest.
COOPER: Obviously, that gets us into the political realm. President Trump, prior to becoming president, had said that, I want to get his quote right, that climate change was a global warming hoax. He said it was created by and for the Chinese. I know you met with the president before while he was president-elect. I'm not going to ask you for what you talked about, because I know you won't reveal what you discussed privately. Does, though, in your opinion, do you think the president actually
believes climate change is real? Because the White House refuses to give a simple answer on that question.
GORE: Yeah, they're tongue-tied because the truth about the climate crisis is still inconvenient for the large carbon polluters. And they, unfortunately, have a lot of influence over this administration, seemingly. He's surrounded himself with a rogue's gallery of climate deniers. And I actually did feel there was a real chance that he might come to his senses and stay in the Paris agreement. But I was wrong about that.
COOPER: You thought that when you were sitting with him?
GORE: Yes, and the conversation continued after he went into the White House. And I had reason to believe that he might really decide to stay in, but he decided to pull out. And that really concerned me, because I was worried that other countries might use it as an excuse to pull out themselves, but I was gratified when the next day the entire rest of the world doubled down on the commitment to meet the terms of the Paris agreement.
And then, in this country, so many governors and mayors and business leaders said we're still in, we're going to meet the terms of the Paris agreement. And it looks like we have a real chance in the U.S. of meeting the terms of the Paris agreement regardless of what Trump does.
COOPER: You said he gave you reason to believe that he would stay in it. I mean, he ran on pulling out of the Paris accord. Can you say what impression you got that he was going to stay in it?
GORE: Well, a few years before that, you know, he signed a full-page newspaper ad with others in New York City calling on President Obama to do more to solve the climate crisis. So -- and he has some people in his inner circle who definitely wanted him to do that. And, you know, without violating the privacy of those conversations, I'll just say that I did have reason to believe that he might stay in.
COOPER: I want to show just a short preview from your new film. Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORE: Storms get stronger and more destructive. Watch the water splash off the city. This is global warming.
(UNKNOWN): I was so, so scared. Sorry.
GORE: Despair can be paralyzing, but this, to me, is the most exciting new development. We're seeing a tremendous amount of positive change. The basis is there, but it's still not enough.
(UNKNOWN): It's crunch time at the climate change conference in Paris.
(UNKNOWN): Still some really tough negotiations going on.
GORE: What would it take to shift to renewables?
I'm talking about breaking the impasse. Virtually every nation in the entire world agreed to get to zero greenhouse emissions. It is unprecedented.
TRUMP: It's time to put America first. That includes the promise to cancel billions in climate change spending. Our plan will end the EPA.
GORE: The next generation would be justified in looking back at us and asking, what were you thinking? Couldn't you hear what the scientists were saying? Couldn't you hear what Mother Nature was screaming at you?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: You recently said that the president doesn't speak for the country on this issue, which is a pretty astonishing statement coming from a former vice president. I mean, he was elected. Doesn't he speak for the country on this?
GORE: Well, I think that he was elected for a lot of other reasons, and surely some who agree with his decision on climate voted for him for that reason. But most, I think, had other reasons.
And now two-thirds of the American people, including a majority of Republicans, believe we should have stayed in the climate agreement at Paris and believe it's a serious problem that we need to address. A plurality of Trump supporters believe that he should have stayed in Paris. So I think that he has, in some ways, isolated himself from the overwhelming majority of public opinion in the country as a whole.
COOPER: Let's just get to our first audience question. The first question comes from Kevia Bolds from Louisiana. She's lived through two natural disasters. She's here with her daughter. Kevia, welcome. What's your question?
QUESTION: Hi, hello. Last year, my family and I went through the flood of Baton Rouge. Within a 24-hour period, the water went from being knee-deep to over eight feet of water.
QUESTION: Which meant that we had to be rescued by boat by my brother. Also, living in Louisiana, we're always receiving weather alerts, flash flood warnings trying to prepare us for the disaster, but nothing would have prepared my family or myself for having to start over after going through Katrina. So my question to you would be, how do you think the warming trends have affected these disasters? .
GORE: Well, is your family OK?
QUESTION: Yes, sir, we are. GORE: Well, God bless. And in that part of Louisiana, as in nearby
Texas and that area of the Gulf Coast, there have been an unusual number of these huge downpours and big flood events. And I'm so sorry you've had to go through that.
One of the things that's happening is that more than 90 percent of all the extra heat that's trapped by the global warming pollution is going into the oceans, and we all learned in school how the water evaporates off the ocean, then falls on the land, works its way back to the rivers, through the rivers to the sea. And when there's a huge increase in the water vapor in the sky, that makes the downpours much, much bigger.
In one year, nearby Houston had two once-in-500-year events, one once- in-a-thousand-year event, all in a 12-month period. And I was doing a training of climate activists down in Houston when another flood in Louisiana was taking place.
And, so, yes, the scientific community is nearly unanimous in saying, absolutely, this is disrupting the water cycle, leading to these much bigger downpours and the floods and, in some areas, mudslides that result from them.
So I'm glad your family is OK. I feel for you and your neighbors, because in that region, the prevailing winds coming north from the Gulf of Mexico are carrying a lot more water vapor and making these events a lot more common.
COOPER: We've got another question over here. This is from Stacey Moeller. She's a coal miner from Wyoming, who voted for Donald Trump in 2016. Stacey, welcome.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you for taking my question. I'm a lifelong Democrat, and I believe we have an incredible responsibility to our environment, but I could not vote for a Democrat this past election because I also believe in protecting jobs and the livelihoods of our coal miners and associated workers in Wyoming. We're hurting in Wyoming.
Do you see any moral or ethical issues in putting thousands of people out of work when there are no jobs in our communities to take the place of those lost? And it -- it's devastating my state and the people I love.
GORE: Yeah, I'm so sorry for what the coal miners have been going through long before the environment became a part of this. As you know, the coal companies began to mechanize the process a long time ago and the market for coal has been shrinking. The market capitalization of the industry worldwide's gone down dramatically in the last few years. Natural gas has been a part of this.
But I think that we all have a moral obligation to give the coal miners opportunities to find jobs that are just as good, and hopefully better. And that may not be great comfort to you, but the solar jobs in our country are now growing 17 times faster than all other jobs in the economy. And you've got a great wind industry in Wyoming that's coming up real fast. The single fastest growing new job is wind turbine technician. The real bright spot in the global economy comes from all these jobs that are associated with coming up with sustainability solutions, renewable energy, and all the rest.
And the changes in the coal industry have been going on for quite a while. They're likely to continue, no matter what anybody says or no matter what policies are adopted. That's just -- that's the transition that we're going through.
You know, a long time ago, one of the oil ministers in Saudi Arabia said the Stone Age didn't end because of a shortage of stones. Something else came along. And the fossil fuel age is in a transition now. But that does not absolve any of us from our duty to look after you and your neighbors and those in the coal industry to make sure they get the training and the opportunities to get good, new jobs if they lose the ones they have.
QUESTION: Yes, sir. We're a bright, employable, and adaptable group. You know, we just need that opportunity, but that has not come to Wyoming yet, and that's where our pain is coming from. We've had a $4 million deficit in our education budget alone, and in a state with the population of half a million, that's quite a hit.
COOPER: Yeah, and there's a lot of coal miners who've turned from, you know, Democrats to President Trump this seem around.
GORE: Absolutely. Absolutely. And to put this in a larger context, we're seeing a big transition in our economy in the U.S. and globally. We're seeing a lot of retail jobs lost, for example. We're seeing intelligent automation bring some changes.
And some people have the philosophy, well, you just let the market take care of everything -- and I'm a big believer in capitalism and the market, but we've got to recognize that there are people who are hurting out there because of changes that they've had no part in creating. And so there is a role for us to be able to work together through the instruments of self-government, where necessary, to provide those new jobs and the new training and get the economy going again by putting people to work and helping to make this transition.
COOPER: Mr. Vice President, I want you to meet Father John Rausch. He's a Catholic priest in the Appalachian mountains of Kentucky and a member of the Glenmary Home Missioners. Father Rausch, welcome.
FATHER JOHN RAUSCH, CATHOLIC PRIEST: Thank you very much. Vice President Gore, as a priest living in Central Appalachia, I've come to realize that the climate crisis, I believe, is a crisis in spirituality.
RAUSCH: And I mean by spirituality a connectedness, a connectedness, a spiritual connectedness that we all are connected, we are connected to nature. We're also connected to God. OK.
Appalachia has really fueled the prosperity of America for a long time, through its coal and other natural resources. Now, many people in Appalachia have done very well by that, and we have some very terrific middle-class people in Appalachia. There are many who are living in poverty, and they're not only living in poverty, they're living right next to polluted streams and mountains that have been destroyed.
So my question, Mr. Vice President, how can we influence people to see a spiritual connection in their consumer habits that they can see the consequences of their buying, those consequences have on people in Appalachia and also in other parts of God's kingdom?
GORE: Well, thank you, Father.
And thank you for what you do. I'm a Protestant, but I'll tell you, because of Pope Francis, I really could become a Catholic.
GORE: He -- I'll tell you, he is really an amazing spiritual leader.
And one way to answer your question would be for people in all faith traditions to read "Laudato Si," the encyclical from Pope Francis, which really addressed the question that you're asking here.
My daughter, Karenna Gore, runs the Center for Earth Ethics here in -- at Union Theological Seminary. And she was part of a study group, multi-faith, reading that. And so I got deeply into it because of her.
And, yes, the habits of over-consumption and looking for happiness in just more things, that definitely is a part of the issue, for sure.
Now I was taught in my church that the purpose of life is to glorify God and if we are heaping contempt on God's creation, then we're not living up to the...
GORE: -- duty that God is calling us to.
And so this -- the way we live our lives is definitely connected to this. It is -- it's not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual issue. And thank you for bringing that up.
COOPER: We're going to take a short break.
We'll be right back with more from CNN's town hall with Vice President Al Gore.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL: TRUTH TO POWER")
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Souse the line on the ridge here?
GORE: Yes. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That gray line is where the ice surface was back in the '80s, not so long ago.
GORE: Not long ago at all.
It's amazing to think that just 30 years ago, where we are right now, it was all covered by the big ice sheet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that all of us are a bit shell-shocked by some of the changes. It's hard to believe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: What was it like for you to see that?
GORE: It was emotional. Really. I've been to Greenland several times, but going back last year, it was really obvious that the ice melt is increasing dramatically. They had a huge temperature spike in April of last year and you can see the glaciers just literally exploding with the pressure that's built up underneath.
COOPER: Yes, you said that in the film. I mean literally...
COOPER: -- it looks like an explosion.
COOPER: But I mean for -- again, for people who haven't been there, for people who are looking and saying, well, look, there's still a lot of ice, what is the big deal from that?
GORE: Well, it's losing, I think about it, one cubic kilometer per day now and that the problem is, it's accelerating very rapidly. And that's driving sea level increases.
I went from there down to Miami, where I saw fish from the ocean swimming in the streets on a sunny day because the sea level rise has gone so much now that the high -- the highest of the high tides bring it -- brings it in to cover a lot of streets in Miami, Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Norfolk on up the East Coast, Galveston.
And, of course, in other parts of the world, you have these low-lying islands in places like Bangladesh, where tens of millions of people live in areas that are in danger of being inundated.
And the number of people that are becoming climate refugees already is beginning to create some political unrest and challenges to the governance of some countries that have a tough time even in the best of seasons. And these refugees from the drought-stricken areas also climate refugees, are beginning to create instability in parts of Europe. And this is just the beginning.
We need to get a handle on this and slow it down and ultimately solve it. COOPER: I want you to meet James Eskridge.
He's the mayor of Tangier, Virginia, which is a very small island in the Chesapeake Bay. It's now in danger of being swallowed by the sea.
In the last election, nearly 90 percent of the island voted for Donald Trump. They've asked the president to fund a sea wall to save their homes.
In June, after watching a CNN report on the issue, President Trump called Mayor Erskine and according to the mayor, told him that the island would be around for hundreds of years.
MAYOR JAMES ESKRIDGE, TANGIER ISLAND, VIRGINIA: Thank you.
Vice President Gore, Mr. Cooper, I'm a commercial crabber and I've been working the Chesapeake Bay for 50 plus years. And I have a crab house business out on the water.
And the water level is the same as it was when the place was built in 1970.
I'm not a scientist, but I'm a keen observer. And if sea level rise is occurring, why am I not seeing signs of it?
I mean our island is disappearing, but it's because of erosion and not sea level rise and unless we got a sea wall we lose we will lose our island, but back to the question, why am I not seeing signs of the sea level rise?
GORE: What do you think the erosion is due to, Mayor?
ESKRIDGE: Wave action, storms.
GORE: Has that increased any?
ESKRIDGE: Not really. I mean it...
GORE: Well, so you're losing the island even though the waves and -- haven't increased?
ESKRIDGE: Yes. This erosion has been going on since Captain John Smith discovered the island and named it.
GORE: Yes, well...
ESKRIDGE: And it's gotten to our doorstep now and we focus on it more.
GORE: Well, arguments about science aren't necessarily going to be of any comfort to you and I'm sorry for what you're going through and your neighbors on Tangier Island.
I read about you in the paper. There was an article in the "Washington Post," I believe...
GORE: -- after President Trump called you up. And it won't necessarily do you any good for me to tell you that scientists do say that the sea level is rising in the Chesapeake Bay and that you've lost about two thirds of your island already in -- over a longer period of time and that the forecast for the future is another two feet of sea level -- what would another -- if there was another two feet of sea level rise, what would that mean for Tangier Island?
ESKRIDGE: Tangier Island is -- our elevation is only about four foot above sea level.
ESKRIDGE: And if I see sea level rise occurring, I'll shout it from the house top.
ESKRIDGE: I mean we don't have, you know, the land to give up. But I'm just not seeing it.
GORE: Yes. OK. Well, one of the challenges of this issue is taking what the scientists say and translating it into terms that are believable to people where they can see the consequences in their own lives. And I get that and I try every day to figure out ways to do that.
It reminds me a little bit of a story from Tennessee about a guy that was trapped in a flood and it -- he was sitting on the front porch and they came by in an SUV to rescue him and he said, no, the lord will provide.
And the water kept on rising. And he went up to the second floor and they came by the window in a boat and said come on, we're here to rescue you.
He said, nope, the lord will provide.
And then he went on up to the rooftop as the water kept rising and they came over in a helicopter and dropped a rope ladder. He said, nope, the lord will provide.
Well, he died in the water and went to heaven and he said, God, I thought you were going to provide.
And he said, what do you mean, I sent you an SUV, a boat and a helicopter.
And I think that what we -- we have heaven sent, so to speak, enough solar energy in one hour to provide what the entire world uses for a full year. And from wind, we get 40 times as much energy as the entire world needs. We have the tools available now to solve this crisis. And whether you attribute what's happening to Tangier to what the scientists say it's due to or not, I'm assuming that if you could get cheaper electricity from the sun and the wind, that would be a pretty good deal for you, right?
COOPER: The -- in the film, you travel -- you talked about this a little bit. You travel to Miami Beach, which is already dealing with flooding...
COOPER: -- even on sunny days.
I want to show our viewers this map. This is from a group, Climate Central.
On the left side of the screen is a model of what South Florida looks like now. On the right side of the screen, what it could look like if the planet warms to two degrees Celsius, which, as I said, is about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, which two new studies indicate will happen certainly by the end of the century.
Key Biscayne is located in that zone. The mayor of that city, Mayra Pena Lindsay, is joining us now.
MAYRA PENA LINDSAY, MAYOR, KEY BISCAYNE: Thank you.
GORE: Hi, Mayra.
How are you?
Key Biscayne, like many coastal cities in the United States, faces major challenges protecting its shoreline from the rising tides.
What can be done on a federal level to protect our coastlines from sea level rise and its environmental impacts?
GORE: Well, I know the communities in South Florida are really undergoing a big challenge and it's affecting real estate already. It's affecting some of the water -- fresh water distribution systems and the sewage systems and so forth. And I know that several of the mayors down there have joined together on a bipartisan basis to say hey, this is not political. We just need to solve this.
And I know the mayor of Miami, nearby, is a conservative Republican and he recently spoke up and said this has nothing to do with politics, let's solve this. In some areas in wealthy countries, sea walls will be feasible. In a lot of areas, unfortunately, they will simply prove not to be feasible.
And in the low income countries, unfortunately, they just don't even have the luxury of thinking about that.
So we will face, in the decades ahead, a real challenge in adapting to what we can't avoid, but we've got to avoid what we can't adapt to.
And unfortunately, some of this sea level increase is going to continue almost no matter what we do, but we still have the ability to slow it down. We still have the ability to prevent even worse sea level rise and even worse catastrophes that are also caused by the climate crisis.
COOPER: You know, one of the issues here is when people see maps like that, you know, weathermen can't even tell what the weather is going to be later today.
COOPER: I mean and you trust your local weather -- I mean no offense to local weathermen, but oftentimes, you know, you're told the weekend it's going to be raining and it's a sunny weekend.
Why should people believe projections which -- that -- of what Florida is going to look like so far in the future?
And just one example...
COOPER: -- I think in the first film, "An Inconvenient Truth," back to 2006, I think you said that within a decade, there will be no snows on Kilimanjaro. I -- Kilimanjaro today, I think there's a -- we've got a photo. That's from three days ago. There's still snow on Kilimanjaro.
GORE: Yes, but the ice pack and snow pack in mountains all around the world has been declining precipitously. I just came from Seattle yesterday and they rely on the snow and ice pack there for their -- part of their water supplies and it's been declining rapidly.
And all over the world, the ice and snow is declining precipitously.
But to your question -- years ago, a lot of the TV weathermen and weatherwomen had the view that you just articulated. You know, we can't even project two weeks, how can we project 20 years or 100 years? But now they're on side, they have come around, almost all of them to say, no, we get it now.
Projecting the climate is a different science than doing the day-to- day weather projections. And the predictions of the climate scientists in the past have, unfortunately, come true. When the first movie came out, you referred to it, one of -- probably the single-most criticized scene in that movie was an animated sequence showing sea level rise plus the storm surge would bring ocean water into the 9/11 Memorial site where the Twin Towers were and people said that's ridiculous.
But when Superstorm Sandy hit, sure enough years before it was predicted to occur, the ocean water flooded into that site.
COOPER: Did Sandy have something to do with climate change?
GORE: Absolutely. That hurricane, it was a hurricane out offshore, it crossed over areas of the Atlantic Ocean that were 9 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal. And that top layer of the ocean, when it gets warmer, feeds more convection, energy, into these storms and makes the winds stronger and loads it up with more moisture.
So, that storm was not even technically a hurricane when it hit, but it was so big and it had so much water that it really was devastating to southern Manhattan and the New Jersey shore and, unfortunately, to the 9/11 Memorial site.
COOPER: You know, in the film you feature a map that we want to show our viewers. It tracks the spread of tropical diseases from West Nile virus, to Zika, to new areas around the globe because of climate change.
I want you to meet Dr. Vicky Lopez-Beecham. She's an OB/GYN in Miami where there was a Zika outbreak last year.
COOPER: Doctor, welcome.
DR. VICKY LOPEZ-BEECHAM, OB/GYN IN MIAMI: Hi, good evening. I really enjoyed the movie. I thought it was very impactful. I hope it will continue to mobilize change. And thank you so much for championing this cause for so many years. Very grateful to you.
In my practice in Miami, I address women's concerns on a daily basis who are worried about, you know, Zika, the health of their baby and exposure to the Zika virus. Some patients have relocated during their pregnancy out of the concern. I have other patients who really think that they have to delay pregnancy or even starting a family all together.
So my question is, what are some of the conditions that aggravated the Zika outbreak? And what are some of the things that might help us in our ability to contain it and control the spread?
GORE: Well, thank you, Doctor. And I know you had to deal with a tremendous amount of anxiety on the part of women and their partners who are trying to get pregnant and who are fearful of this. I know many people who are in this situation.
And in some regions of Central and South America last year, some of the doctors advised women not to get pregnant for two years until they get control of this. Boy, when a warning like that comes from doctors, that should be an alarm bell to the human race. And this was the first time that I ever remember in history where pregnant women were advised not to go to part of the United States of America.
So, what's happening? First of all, air travel and the transportation revolution has had a lot to do with spreading these tropical diseases elsewhere. But the changing climate conditions have affected where they take root and become endemic.
And, of course, in the case of Zika virus, it's carried by this one mosquito, mainly, and its reproduction rate increases when the temperature goes up and the incubation of the virus inside the mosquito speeds up dramatically. And since they're coldblooded, in the warmer temperatures, they bite more. And so -- and there was just a mosquito-transmitted case of Zika in Texas on the Gulf Coast the last few days.
But here is the good news. If we tremendously improve our public health programs, that can help us a lot to control these mosquitoes. It's important to also mention that the doctors often say this is also a disease of poverty because people without screens on their windows and don't have the ability to defend themselves are much more at risk here.
But we need to recognize that when these new diseases that I never heard of when I was younger -- and Zika's only one of them, there are several new ones coming. The scientists say that the relationship between humanity and microbes has always been mediated by climate, and a warmer, wetter, more chaotic climate favors the microbes and works against us.
So, we need to hear this as a wake-up call. We need to defend ourselves and we need to give the warnings. Not only to women, by the way, but to their partners. This was the first virus that causes catastrophic birth defects and the first one that they know of that's sexually transmitted also.
So, the partners of women who are trying to get pregnant also need to keep this in mind and use the mosquito repellent and take all the safeguards.
COOPER: And you see something like Zika, some of these other viruses, zoonotic viruses which pass from animals to humans, do you see that as a follow on effect, a ripple effect of climate change?
GORE: Absolutely. Mosquitoes reproduce faster. They expand their range. The Aedes Aegypti mosquito is the one -- it -- most fingered for this one. And it expands its range northward in the United States. It also goes to higher altitudes and it bites more frequently, as I said.
Also the same with tick-borne diseases which are really exploding this year and there are other so-called vectors is the way, the word they use and snails and fleas. And there are a bunch of them.
But, you know, in the higher latitudes far north in our hemisphere, there has been relative freedom from the overburden of these diseases that have really been an oppressive burden of people in the tropics and subtropics, and that is changing because of the movement of these climate bands northward.
COOPER: We're going to take a short break. We'll be right back with more from CNN's town hall with Vice President Al Gore.
COOPER: And welcome back to CNN's town hall on the climate crisis.
I mean, one of the things I think is so probably tough for you is just -- I mean, there's a lot of people who just don't believe what you're saying or just might believe that the climate's changing and things are getting warmer and maybe sea levels are rising, but that just economically, it's not feasible to try to fix it or that the fixes aren't enough.
GORE: Yes. There are really only three questions remaining to be asked and answered on the climate crisis. Must we change? Do we really have to change? Can we change? And then, will we change?
On the first one, Mother Nature has joined the debate. Turns out she's way more persuasive than any of us climate activists. There are a lot of groups out there been doing great work at the grassroots level, but these climate-related extreme weather events are really getting the attention of people, even folks who don't want to use phrases like global warming, but they're seeing the changes.
Now, the second question is really important. Can we change? Because you're right, if we decide we have to change, but we don't have the ability to, then, you know, I don't want to hear about it anymore. It's just a formula for depression and anxiety.
But luckily, we now have the solutions. People saw what happened with the cost reductions with computer chips and cell phones and flat screen TVs. The great news is that same pattern is happening with solar panels and windmills and now batteries and electric cars and LEDs and all kinds of efficiency improvements.
So, we really do have the ability to change now. Last year in the U.S., Anderson, if you look at all the new electricity generating capacity that was built, almost 75 percent of it was solar and wind. The balance was natural gas.
And that percentage is increasing. For the last seven years worldwide, the global investments in renewable energy have for exceeded the investments in fossil energy. And just since the Paris agreement, India and China have closed hundreds of coal-burning plants, they're rapidly expanding solar. There have been contracts signed for solar in the last few months in three different places at rates unsubsidized less than half of the cost of electricity from burning coal.
So, now, we really do have the ability to solve this. So, if the answers to the first two questions, must we change, can we change, are yes, the last question, will we change, is really up to us. And the Paris agreement is a real good sign that the answer to that may be yes, too.
COOPER: Got a question on our solar. This is Dominick Mach. He and his husband recently installed solar panels on the roof of their Brooklyn home. I didn't know you could do that here in New York, Dominic.
DOMINICK MACH, INSTALLED SOLAR PANELS ON ROOF OF HOME: You can.
So, our -- the decision to install solar was mainly to save some money, but it was spurred on by President Trump's decision to remove us from the Paris accord. And so, but not everyone has the resources or incentives to do so.
And so, my question for you is, how can we lower the entry barriers to going solar? Which is cost prohibitive to so many households that could otherwise be participating in the alternative energy.
COOPER: Do you know how much it costs for you to do this?
MACH: Our solar system costs $30,000.
GORE: And what's your payback period, did they tell you?
MACH: Almost three years.
GORE: Three years. Well, that's not bad.
GORE: And your electricity bills get lower in the meantime?
GORE: So, that's fantastic.
In many areas, by the way, in California, for example, there are -- in several states, there are companies that will come to you and say, we'll put solar panels all over your roof for free and your bills will go down 20 percent the next day and you owe us nothing.
Now, the subsidies are pretty meager in these states and on a global basis, the subsidies for coal and oil and gas are 40 times larger than the subsidies for renewable energy. So, if we get better policies, we can eliminate these entry barriers so that you properly focus on so that more people can take advantage of it.
Now, I wanted to say one other thing. It's really interesting to me that you and your husband made this decision partly in reaction to President Trump's decision. You know, that is a phenomena that I have seen go on all over this country. There's a law of physics that we all learned in school. It sometimes
works in politics. For every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction. Some people have called it the boomerang effect. And when all those other countries said "Donald Trump's pulling out, well, we're going to step up the" -- and when a lot of government policy officials got more committed to it after his announcement, you see the same thing. That sometimes happens, and I think it's a good thing. And thank you for making that decision.
COOPER: I want you to meet our next questioner, Captain Keith Colburn. He's a crab fisherman from Washington state. He also appears in "The Deadliest Catch," which is a TV show. Captain...
GORE: Oh, man. I love the show. I'm glad you're alive.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. My question -- well, first, I've been fishing in Alaska for 32 years, and I've been witnessing firsthand the oceans changing. In the last decade, we've seen the coldest year ever and three of the warmest years recorded in 100 years.
QUESTION: My question is, how do we convince the skeptics that climate change is scientifically real?
GORE: Yeah. Well, thank you, Captain.
COOPER: You should go around with the captain, I'd say.
GORE: On the deadliest boats? Are you kidding me?
You've got more guts than I do, man. I've watched your show. That's really some hair-raising stuff.
But it's interesting that people who work close to nature -- fishermen, farmers, ranchers -- the biggest change in opinion has been among people who are outdoors on a regular basis. There's a new book that's called "Farmer Rancher Fisherman" -- something like that -- that makes this point. And you see it firsthand. Now, when you come back to port, where's your port?
QUESTION: Seattle, Washington.
GORE: OK. I was there yesterday. And, of course, some of the oystermen are really having problems because of ocean acidification, which is also connected to all that CO-2 going in the oceans. But when you come back to port, do you ever get into conversations where you try to convince people about this who disagree with you?
QUESTION: I've tried. I mean, you know, because I am on the show, I'm out there pretty visible. And, you know, I'll have people come up to me. And they'll be like, "I saw all that ice on the boat. What about global warming?" I'm like, climate change is erratic weather behavior...
QUESTION: ... which your new movie points out very specifically, and intensified weather behavior.
QUESTION: And so, I mean, you just got to -- I do my best to just try and say, hey, just watch the weather and tell me if it's getting worse or better.
GORE: Yeah. Well, I think that's a real good technique that you're using there. The answer to your question that you've put to me is something I try to come up with every single day. I find advice I got a long time ago is pretty good. Seek first to understand. Try to figure out where the person is coming from.
If they're, you know, running an internal TelePrompTer with something from Fox News or Rush Limbaugh or something, then, you know, it may not be a time to get an opening. But if you just hang in there and try to figure out where they're coming from, you sometimes can find ways to convince them.
But, again, as I said earlier, I think Mother Nature is more persuasive than any of us. And by the way, it is, unfortunately, getting worse. And, you know, a few years from now, it's going to be easier, still, to convince people, unfortunately.
But we're running out of time. We're in a race against time, because the longer we wait to really take hold of this, the greater the risk we run that we'll cross some of these tipping points that will bring consequences that we would wish we did not have to run.
COOPER: You know, you talked about solar, why does the U.S. only get about 1 percent of its electricity right now from solar, I mean, if it's so great?
GORE: Well, it's increasing rapidly. And the big change in the cost reduction has come just in the last few years. And where technology particularly is concerned -- also politics, sometimes -- there was a great economist who died a few years ago, Rudi Dornbusch, and he said this. He said, "Things take longer to happen than you think they will, but then they happen much faster than you thought they could."
And we've seen that with all these technological advances, like the smartphones and so forth. We've seen it in politics, also. When I was a boy growing up a lot of the time in the South, I remember when the civil rights movement was gaining momentum. I'll tell you, the resistance to civil rights laws was just as fierce, if not more so, than the resistance to solving the climate crisis. But ultimately, we crossed a political tipping point and people realized, oh, it's just really a question of right and wrong.
Take the gay rights revolution. If somebody had told me even five years ago that in the year 2017 gay marriage would be legal in all 50 states and would be accepted, honored, and celebrated by two-thirds of the American people, I would have said, "Well, I sure hope so, but what are you smoking? Because it doesn't seem very likely."
But it happened when the strawmen were pushed out of the way and the underbrush was cleared and you saw that it was really a choice between what's right and what's wrong. The climate movement is getting to that point now, and the solar energy revolution is getting to that point. When my movie came out a decade ago, that technology curve had just started to go up. Now it's gone way up. It has really increased dramatically.
COOPER: You know, one of the things critics have -- some critics have pointed out is that you've invested personally in green technologies.
COOPER: I guess their implication or suggestion is that that may influence your, you know, proselytizing this message. Does it?
GORE: Well, first of all, I put my money where my mouth is. But I've put anything that I've made back into the climate reality project and training more climate activists. But I'm proud to put my money where my mouth is, and I hope it's even more successful in the future.
COOPER: We're going to take a quick break. We'll have more with Vice President Al Gore.
COOPER: And we're back with Vice President Al Gore at CNN's town hall on the climate crisis. We have time for one more question. It comes from a 15-year-old, Arden Astin. Arden, welcome.
QUESTION: Hello. Well, when I was 11 years old, I experienced the horrible wrath of Hurricane Sandy. I lost everything I owned. My family struggled; my neighbors struggled. And Sandy consumed Rockaway's every street and home within hours. It was crazy.
And so my question is, how does climate change affect -- how will climate change affect weather in my generation's future, if we continue our current behavior as a society?
GORE: I'm sorry for what you and your family and your neighbors have gone through. And I saw firsthand some of that. I saw many pictures of the Rockaways, and I'm so sorry.
I mentioned earlier that as the oceans get warmer, these ocean-based storms get a lot stronger. So that's one thing. Now, there may not be more hurricanes, but the ones that do come are on average likely to be much stronger. We get these bigger downpours, also, as I've mentioned.
And your generation is by and large way more committed to doing something about this than those of us who are older. I remember when I was a little bit younger than you, I was 13 when I heard President John F. Kennedy announce his inspiring goal to put a person on the Moon and bring him back safely in 10 years. And I remember older people in that day and time saying, "Oh, that's a waste of money. We might fail at that. It's ridiculous." But eight years and two months later, Neil Armstrong set foot on the surface of the Moon.
And when he did so, in Houston, Texas, at Mission Control, a great cheer went up, and the average age of the systems engineers in that room was 26, which meant their average age when they heard that challenge was 18. And they changed their lives to get the skills and knowledge that they wanted to get to be a part of the solution.
And what I'm seeing all over the world now is your generation really taking hold of this and saying we want to solve this. And this is going to have an even bigger impact on your generation than mine. And we owe it to you. Because I don't want to see a time when you get to the age I am now, and if you encounter a world with all these horrible consequences the scientists are predicting would come if we don't solve this, I don't want you to look back and ask of us, you know, what were you doing, watching "Dancing with the Stars"? Didn't you really take this seriously?
I want you to live in a world where we're really on the way to solving this and tens of millions of new jobs. And I want you to be able to look at young people when you're my age and say: Your lives are going to be better still. And ask, how did you find the moral courage to rise up and solve this?
And part of the answer will be that, you know, the news media had initiatives like this one to say, hey, let's look at this and let's really take an objective look at it and spread the word about the problem, what the solutions are, and how people can be a part of it.
Use your voice. Win the conversations on climate. Use your vote. Become politically active. Use your choices in life. When you tell businesses you want the more climate-friendly alternatives, that sends a powerful message. And I hope you'll go see this movie that opens this weekend, go to the website, inconvenientsequel.com. The movie opens on Friday.
COOPER: All right. We want to thank Vice President Al Gore for joining us. The film, as you said, "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power," is in theaters nationwide this week. Stay with us.
GORE: Thank you all.