Combating Climate Change

Wednesday, June 26, 2019
Don Pollard
Jason Bordoff

Founding Director, Center on Global Energy Policy, Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs; Former Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Energy and Climate Change, National Security Council

Brenda Ekwurzel

Senior Climate Scientist and Director of Climate Science, Union of Concerned Scientists

Kanta Kumari Riguad

Lead Environmental Specialist and Regional Climate Change Coordinator in the Africa Region, World Bank Group

Karenna Gore

Director, Center for Earth Ethics, Union Theological Seminary

GORE: Good afternoon. I’m Karenna Gore. And I am director of the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary here in New York City. And I’m honored and happy to be here with all of you at the Religion and Foreign Policy Workshop at the Council on Foreign Relations, and especially delighted because we have three such distinguished panelists in this closing plenary session on the topic, Combating Climate Change. I’ll introduce them in a moment.

This is an important discussion to have in this place and time with exactly this group of people. The impacts of climate change are already here—stronger storms, record downpours and floods, deeper droughts, more destructive wildfires, melting ice and rising sea levels, loss of whole species of life in the sixth great extinction, and an increasing amount of strain and suffering among the most vulnerable peoples of the world. Week after week we see both scientific analysis and snapshots of experience. The news media is starting to connect the dots a bit more. This week, there are record high temperatures in Miami and Europe. This Friday, on the same day that our women’s soccer team is playing France in France, the temperature is expected to reach 113 degrees Fahrenheit in the southern part of that country.

The causes are also quite present among us. And if we can see them clearly, and confront and change them, we might be able to stop this tragedy from getting unimaginably worse. In addition to that, we must simultaneously work to adapt to the damage that has already been done to our ecological system, including those worsening impacts that will come no matter what we do now. And we must work to protect as many people from harm as we can.

The climate crisis is not merely an environmental crisis. It is an economic crisis. Yesterday’s New York Times included a report that Florida may have to build $76 billion worth of sea walls by 2040, perhaps causing some new thinking in that hotbed political state. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights Philip Alston issued a report this week saying, “Climate change threatens to undo the last fifty years of progress in development, global health, and poverty reduction. It could push more than 120 million more people into poverty by 2030 and will have the most severe impact in poor countries, regions, and the places poor people live and work.”

It is a political crisis. We are already seeing the effect of the new government’s policies in Brazil in the Amazon rainforest and, of course, in this country as well. The outlines of the future of public discourse on this topic are already taking shape due to the demands and actions of a younger generation that is living the consequences. As the Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg has said, “Since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago.”

It is a national security issue, as the United States military and intelligence communities have recognized and stated for decades. It is also a moral issue. It requires deep consideration of our moral obligations to one another across time and space. It asks us to consider our interconnections to nonhuman life, and whether we will value and protect it. It requires us to separate truth and delusion, and to have the courage to face down powerful interests as well as our own misguided habits and patterns. And for many, many people, it presents the question of the role of God or the divine, in whatever form or forms it takes, in the world.

Does God independently intervene in the course of events? Is God expressed within the laws of nature, in the chemistry, physics, and metaphysics of our world, in the very essence of the relationship between cause and effect, leaving us with free will to discern our fate? What is sacred? What is evil? The expertise of the world’s faith and wisdom traditions are seriously needed for this challenge. So please be thinking about your work and your questions as we talk with the distinguished guests here today. We will take questions at about 3:10.

Brenda Ekwurzel is a senior climate scientist and the director of climate science for the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. She is a co-author of the fourth National Climate Assessment Volume II. Dr. Ekwurzel is also a hydrologist, with expertise in groundwater issues, and she works to communicate climate science to diverse audiences, including various religious audiences such as the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Toronto, where I heard her speak last fall.

Kanta Kumari Rigaud is a lead environmental specialist at the World Bank, who currently serves as their regional climate change coordinator for the Africa region. She has been working and speaking in depth on the issue of migration, particularly internal migration, in the regions of South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America, and led a multidisciplinary team at the World Bank on a report on that topic entitled Groundswell: Preparing for Internal Climate Migration.

Jason Bordoff is a professor of professional practice at Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, SIPA, and founding director of SIPA’s center on global energy policy. He served in the Obama administration as special assistant to the president and senior director for energy and climate change on the staff of the National Security Council.

So, Brenda, let’s start with you. Can you tell us about the most recent reports on climate science?

EKWURZEL: Absolutely. As you said, I had the pleasure of participation in the Volume II of the fourth National Climate Assessment which was released on Black Friday after Thanksgiving. And that report, I participated in chapter twenty-nine, reducing risks through reducing emissions. And what we found was that over hundreds of billions of dollars of damages direct to the U.S. economy are at risk if we continue on our high-emissions pathway. And can you guess what the top three sectors are? I bet you could guess one of them.

Q: (Off mic.)

EKWURZEL: It is in there, but it’s not the top three.

Q: (Off mic.)

EKWURZEL: It’s in there, but not top three. I will tell you. Top one is labor hours. Over $100 billion annual costs by 2090 in labor. If we go on a low emissions pathway, just above Paris agreement, we could reduce that by nearly half. The second is extreme heat mortality. This is just in the United States. Again, over $100 billion annual damages from extreme heat mortality in 2090. But we could reduce that by nearly 60 percent. The third one, you might not be surprised, is coastal property damages. Again, over $100 billion per year. We could reduce it only 22 percent. And there’s science in there. I could explain that’s there later. But the point is, the level of emissions reductions that all the states are doing, and we highlighted in that chapter, are insufficient, because we still are on a high emissions pathway.

GORE: Thank you. Can you tell us a little bit about the difference with the IPCC reports and the National Climate Change Assessments as well?

EKWURZEL: Sure. One thing that happened with the special report on 1.5 degrees Celsius was because the Paris climate agreement said: Let’s hold the world to 1.5 degrees Celsius to 2 degrees Celsius. And how long would it take till we reached there? You may have heard we only have ten years or a dozen years. It comes from that report. If the Earth is very sensitive to our forcing, we could get there in about ten to a dozen years we’ll reach 1.5 degrees Celsius. Or it may take until, on average, 2045 or a little bit later. Two degrees Celsius, on average, we could reach at 2065. And the difference between those two—2 degrees we could lose nearly all the coral reefs. At 1.5 degrees, we only lost 50-75 percent, which is still pretty drastic.

GORE: Thank you. I want to turn to Kanta next. Can you tell us a little bit about the lived realities for people, and families, and communities in the regions that you work on?

RIGAUD: Sure. Thank you, Karenna.

I just wanted then to build on what Brenda’s just said. I mean, the science is unequivocal that climate change really has impacts. But what is also has said is that the impacts are disproportionately upon the poor and the most vulnerable, only because they have the least capacity to address those changes. So even as we’re trying to meet some of the development goals, there’s a lot of rollback on those development efforts because of the impacts of climate change acting through the pathways that Brenda just talked about. You know, for the first time FAO last year found that there are more food insecure people today than ever. And that’s really a travesty considering all of the technological developments we have.

When you look at the developing world—and take Africa for example, where 70 percent of the people are engaged in agriculture, but a large number of them are engaged in rain-fed agriculture, which means they are highly susceptible to the changing climate patterns, and changing weather patterns, and the seasonality. And so you have situations where they become more and more food insecure. And one thing that I wanted to share with you, Karenna, is, you know, we hear a lot about—these days about displacement and migration. And there are lots of stories and anecdotes. At the World Bank, together with partners including from Columbia University and others, we undertook a study looking at internal migration, particularly because that’s a development question. And three out of our four people actually move within countries.

But we were interested to find out with climate change what would be the scale, and the magnitude, and the trajectory of such kind of movements. And what we found was, just for the three regions that we looked at—which was sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and South Asia, which actually constitutes about 55 percent of the world’s population—there could be as many as 143 million people who could be moving in their countries, driven by climate-induced factors. Now, this is under the worst-case scenario, assuming that we do not meet the Paris targets. And I’m sure we’ll talk about that. But you know, on the other hand, if we did pursue those kind of strong targets as set in the Paris alignment, the good news is we could reduce those kind of movements by as much as 80 percent.

Because what we looked at was actually movement driven by three climate factors, slow set. One is drops in crop productivity, water stress, and sea level compounded by storm surges. In each of these areas, the impacts will play out much more potently if we don’t address climate change more directly. So I mean, the report then goes into policy options which are clearly about cutting greenhouse gas, which is clearly the paramount, but also the need to adapt, because countries have to adapt. Even with the best Paris agreement that we can reach, there is a locking effect in climate warming that we have to address. And the adaptation options are really important for those in the developing countries, but actually across the world, just as Brenda pointed out. The impacts are really global.

GORE: Thank you.

Jason, your work is at the intersection of energy, economics, environment, and national security. And you’ve done a lot of analysis of markets. Could you tell us a little bit about the energy systems right now and the choices that are before us going forward?

BORDOFF: Sure. It’s great to be back at CFR. Thanks. And my career has mostly been spent in policymaking or policy research, starting with work I did in high school and then a year I spent working in the D.C. office of the Reformed Jewish Movement on policy issues. So that commitment to achieving social justice through the policy dimension is sort of how I came to this work early on. So it’s really a pleasure to be with this group here, given how much impact you all can have.

And on that spectrum of social justice issue with a global perspective, I’m not sure there’s a more important issue than figuring out how to solve the challenge of climate change. And we are, as you just heard, in a pretty bad place dealing with the challenge of climate change. I think 1.5 degrees is technically, theoretically feasible, for all practical purposes almost impossible to achieve at this point. And achieving 2 degrees would require sort of heroic transformation of the global economic system on the scale we’ve never seen before. That’s just the reality we face given how much time we’ve allowed to pass, with emissions going up each and every year.

There are really promising developments. I remember a conversation I had in January at Davos. And it was, a group and everybody of celebrating. Someone said imagine if we were sitting here ten years ago and someone said: Ten years from now renewable costs will have fallen this much and renewable penetration will have grown this much. That would have exceeded any of our wildest expectations. And that’s true. And then I said, if someone had also said that emissions would go up each and every year for the next ten years—maybe flat one or two years—that would have been a huge failure. And both are true. And that’s just a reminder of the scale of the global energy system and how deeply difficult this challenge is.

We’ve had people talk about a clean energy transition. And you’ll see these charts of energy over time showing we were getting all of our energy in the 1800s from wood, and then a shift to coal, and a shift to oil, to gas, and now renewables is starting to grow. And so you see these great transitions as a share of the total. If you look at that same chart not as a percentage of the total but in metric tons of energy, which is what the atmosphere cares about—tons of CO2—we’ve never used less of anything, right? We’re using more wood today than we did in the 1800s, nevertheless everything else. What we’ve done is we’ve added to the stack to meet rapidly growing energy demand from global prosperity and growth with new, and different, and now increasingly clean forms of energy.

To deal with the challenge you just heard, we not only need to do that, but we need to get rid of the stack  of oil, and gas, and coal, that currently is 80 percent of the energy mix, and thirty years ago was also 80 percent of the energy mix. So that share hasn’t even changed. So that’s really difficult. And it’s difficult because even though the economics of renewables, and electric vehicles, and everything else, have improved a lot, they are—still struggle to complete with how cheap hydrocarbons are. Coal grew last year, oil grew last year, natural gas grew last year. Especially because people talk about the subsidies those fuels receive. And there are different forms in different parts of the world, but the main one is we’re not required to internalize the social harm when we use all of those things—through a carbon tax or some other mechanism.

So absent that to level the playing field, renewables are growing very quickly. They are by far the fastest-growing form of energy. But it’s off a very small base. And it takes a really long time to make a small number a big number, even with a rapid growth rate. And that’s the reality of what the market looks like right now, without much stronger policy to change that.

GORE: Thank you.

I wanted to ask about the way in which science is communicated in our public discourse. And I’d be interested in everyone’s answer to this, but I want to start with you, Brenda. There have been reports that there is an effort to suppress climate science in this administration. And I wondered if you could speak to that and also maybe comment as to whether or not there are other countries in which this is going on, and how we might deal with it.

EKWURZEL: Sure. Karenna, as you were speaking in your opening remarks it sort of struck me the Swedish thread that’s going through here, so I thought I’d tell you that I had my awakening on a Swedish icebreaker up near the North Pole. And it was easy going. And I’m not going to date myself to tell you which year, but I was a grad student at Columbia University. And I was shocked. I expected it would be hard going. So I already got an indication that we were on part of this long-term decline in summer sea ice extent. It was in June of a certain year. (Laughter.)

But this is a story of communication that doesn’t just involve at the highest levels in the United States leadership, I would say, spreading misinformation about the science. Let’s start back with Swedish scientist over two centuries ago, Svante Arrhenius, made the prediction that if we continued burning fossil fuels, knowing the heat-trapping capacity of CO2, he made predictions about what levels of temperature it would be. It turned out the science many years later, we have fancier and fancier tools, we’re basically proving what he predicted. The advance now is that we can actually attribute how much forest acre burns in the last thirty years in the United States—if half of it would not have occurred without this level of climate change. The amount of Hurricane Harvey, three times more likely in this level of 1 degree Celsius, 1.8 degree Fahrenheit. So we’re getting attribution science on that level. Fast forward to a young student Greta in Sweden raising the voices and saying: This is a moral hazard. Why didn’t we listen to Svante Arrhenius over two hundred years ago. And speaking in this century, she is calling us to action.

And scientists can only get us so far. That’s one thing. If we communicated more effectively, that is only part way. We can help with solutions. We can help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. We can help with all sorts of engineering. We can reduce costs. But the political will is a huge barrier. And that’s why everyone in this room is hugely important because the stories you tell is so important because the scientists, those numbers sitting on the shelves only come alive when you think about how it’s affecting people’s lives. And we’re talking about massive costs to the U.S. economy, massive costs to international trade, disruptions to our normal actions, and we can paint a vision of what this world is going to look like going forward which, actually, doing a lot of the solutions of climate change in my personal life, it’s a lot of fun.

GORE: I’m interested in you all also answering that question. And I wanted to ask about—specifically about markets. Oscar Wilde said about a cynic, that he knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing. (Laughter.) And sometimes I wonder why markets have not responded more to the scientific reports. Can you give us some insight into that?

BORDOFF: I mean, it’s not their job, right? Their job is to respond to the economic incentives that they have. So if you’re trying to decide what kind of insulation to put in your house, how to build a new factory you have a measure of corporate responsibility, and it depends on what extent one wants to be green. But there’s a limit to how much individual action can achieve for each of us or for a corporate entity, which may not control, you know, how the cement is produced when it’s creating—building a new factory, what kind of fuel is used in the planes that fly its people all over the world.

There’s a really interesting study that just came out of Stanford that looked at a lot of companies that have made a commitment to go to 100 percent renewables, right? So they say: We will produce a certain amount of solar—or we’ll buy an amount of solar equal to how much energy we consume over the course of the year. But that’s not actually all they do. At night, when there isn’t solar power, they buy from the grid, which is usually fossil fuels. And then they buy more at midday than their annual average.

As you have more and more companies that make commitments like that, the amount of energy being produced from solar at midday exceeds the total quantity of electricity consumed. And without storage, that’s a systemic change that has to happen. Firms are limited in their ability to do that. The Stanford study estimated by 2025 the total greenhouse gas reductions estimated from company commitments to go solar would be overestimated by 50 percent. And that’s just a reminder that in order to change the system policy actually has to step in to change the whole economic framework within which we work, because I think there’s also an element to which people don’t have much appreciation or understanding of where emissions actually come from.

So when we talk about the problem of climate change, when we talk about individual action, when we talk about the things that are most salient—electricity, cars—add up electricity and cars, that’s less than half of emissions. Where emissions come from in the industrial sector—heavy-duty freight, shipping, aviation, buildings—is less obvious to people and harder for people to know how to make different decisions there. So there are some things that investors mindful of this can do, but I think in order to achieve scale of the change we need it really requires wholesale systemic reform of the way our economy and our energy system work. And that doesn’t happen through market actors unless policy changes the playing field with a price signal or something else.

GORE: Is it—does the fossil fuel industry play a role in suppressing the science around climate change, Jason, from your experience?

BORDOFF: Well, I don’t have personal experience with that. I’m familiar with the public documents that are out there from the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, and the lawsuits that are out there. Scientists who are working on this today can speak to that. I haven’t seen it today. I think the more important question for the industry where 80 percent of our energy actually comes from is are they affirmatively blocking the sort of policy changes I just talked about—lobbying against a carbon tax, or a clean energy standard, or a fuel economy standard rollback, or rolling back methane regulations from the EPA—all those sorts of things, for which they should be called out?

And to what extent, if any, did they actually see pathway to be energy companies, not just oil and gas companies? And you hear different rhetoric from different parts of the industry, European companies different from U.S. companies. Some are changing their name to reflect that. You know, Statoil in Norway is now Equinor, because it didn’t want to state oil, and actually bidding now on some of the largest offshore wind projects in the U.S., even though the share of the capital budget they’re putting toward clean energy is still fairly small. And when you ask them about it, as we did when we hosted the chief economist of BP, who just presented their annual statistical review a few weeks ago, he was pretty forthright about it.

He said, yeah, it’s pretty small right now, because that’s what the world is telling us to do. Our job is to be prepared to meet energy demands, twenty or thirty years from now, and deliver the best returns to our shareholders. And policymakers are not taking these goals of the Paris agreement seriously at all. It’s not just the Trump administration. Almost no advanced industrialized economy are taking these targets seriously from a policy standpoint. So when we get signals that the world is going to change, you know, we’ll be prepared to change as well. Others talk differently about it and say: We’re prepared to be an electricity company twenty years from now. And you have seen some European companies let their oil reserves fall below the industry average, invest more in gas, and start to invest a lot in electricity.

So I think there’s, like, a lot of thinking going on about to what extent they want to follow or lead, and where this might be going, because right now unfortunately, it’s not clear that people are taking these targets seriously.

GORE: In regard to the intersection of science with your work, Kanta, I know that you’re working a lot on adaptation measures. And what does that look like now in a country in sub-Saharan Africa or Southeast Asia? What, practically speaking, are we talking about?

RIGAUD: I think in those countries and those regions, particularly I can speak more for Africa but same thing in Southeast Asia, but they’re more advanced economies where I think the transition to renewables is much more of the conversation. But in sub-Saharan Africa, I think it’s interesting how the landscape has changed in the last, I would say, about eight years. You know, about eight or nine years ago, when we had big adaptation resilience programs there and we went there, you were trying to explain to people what you meant. And fast-forward to the last two or three years, you know, particularly around the Paris agreement, but more particularly I think driven by the reality and the havoc that climate extremes are already causing in the countries.

So while you had a lot of difficulty, I think, some years ago engaging with the ministries of finance, you know, from the perspective of the World Bank where we do engage a lot with them, you would find it difficult to get the attention of the ministries of finance talking about climate, but not so anymore because you’ve seen recently, the Cyclone Idai hit Mozambique, and the kind of distress it’s causing throughout the country and to the system. So I think you’re having a different conversation now, where I think that they realized that climate, first of all, is not something that’s going to happen tomorrow. It’s happening today. It’s not something that can be divorced from their development pathways. It’s very much linked with delivering on their own sustainable development and poverty eradication.

So there is a keenness, to engage on this issue. I think there are, of course, certain gaps, just as I think on the energy front just in terms of financing, technology, capacity. And whilst I think we’re finding there are lots of small pilot initiatives that are successful, what we really have to do is to transform at scale. It’s the same thing. You have to have the systemic changes in the policies that drive things to happen differently. Just yesterday, actually, the World Bank put out a really interesting report called Lifelines. And Lifelines is talking about the infrastructure in countries where, whether it’s the roads or whether it’s the power system or whether it’s the school system or whether it’s the education system, all of these infrastructure needs to be made resilient, especially in the context of these poorer countries.

Because take one extreme event, and when the roads get disrupted neither can you get food to them, neither can they get to the doctors or the hospitals. And so the whole system is paralyzed and sets them back again and again. So I think what the report is showing is that we really have to change the way we do our regular investment in infrastructure, in the soft side, to bring in that resilience thinking and embed that into the system. And sometimes it doesn’t always cost more. It’s about doing something differently. But I think they were also able to show that the returns of good, resilient infrastructure and investments is four times what you would put in. But still, there’s always a financing gap and a challenge. But I think getting some of the policies in place is critical.

But I think even on that front, with the NDCs, the Nationally Determined Contribution submissions, that all the countries have made to the climate convention, there is an update process that’s happening in 2020. And I think that we hope that at least in terms of their contributions of what they want to put into their policies would be a step up. But then I think it’s really for the community, and the global community as a whole, to come together to support, to make that happen in much more systemic ways, beyond the small, successful projects, which are very instrumental in showing us good lessons. But we have to move very quickly, as everybody has said. We have twelve years before things could get much worse. So urgency is really important.

GORE: I want to get at the sort of short-term versus long-term thinking in development models and in markets. And also, ask about another part of the science in this context, which is that forests and soil sequester carbon. And yet, often they are seen as resources and opened up for exploitation in the name of economic growth and short-term profits. Can you tell us a little bit—I would love for all three of you to speak to this and how this fits into the picture of the climate crisis. And maybe you could begin by explaining that science.

EKWURZEL: Sure. First off, as a climate scientist, we’re looking at every carbon we can sequester, or every carbon molecule we can keep from going into the atmosphere. But there are many solutions on the agricultural sector. There are many solutions in the bioenergy sector. And reducing deforestation, reducing blue carbon removal—which are wetlands, mangroves, that type of stuff which help you build coastal resilience, as well as the idea that we cannot go beyond the planetary boundary limits of how much land area there is for forest to grow. And we have to be better about having healthy fire and not have so much of the carbon go up during massive wildfires under our changing climate.

So when you’re investing in these resources that are—can hold carbon for—a pinyon pine tree can live 800 years in the southwest. That can help. Boreal forests, they don’t grow very fast. So where are most of the forests in the U.S., for example? It’s east of the Mississippi. Where are they in the world? The tropics are immensely important. So having incentives to really retain the biodiversity and our choices of—food choices, how we’re reducing tropical deforestation is important. But there is a limit. And to get to net zero, we are going to be relying on many ways to capture carbon dioxide and use it.

So you might be able to sequester it in products that are useful. We don’t want to have too much of the fossil fuels being brought up and capturing it. It may be too expensive than if we were able to capture carbon in a cheaper way. And so right now, for example, we want mobile sources of energy for our transportation. Right now many batteries are from a rare earth, lithium. That I expensive. That’s for wealthy nations to do. We need the cheap energy solution for around the world. And wealthier nations can invest in the science to help drive down the cost of carbon storage for all renewables, mobile storage. For example, ironically, carbon is one of those elements that may be useful in storage. So you have to use waste products, cheap elements, to find storage. And scientists are making breakthroughs in this area. And so venture capitalists are investing heavily in this. And this gives me hope.

GORE: Either of you two?

RIGAUD: Yeah. Well, I think forests are extremely important for all the reasons that we’ve said. And I think in the context of looking at some of the projects and the programs, particularly in the developing world, I think you look at forest as having multiple uses. It’s really important in terms of the ecosystem services it provides. It clearly helps with, you know, soil erosion and keeping the watersheds intact. But how you bring that into the sort of community landscape management is extremely important, because communities need to see a utility for it. They need to be part of the ownership and the investment that goes into it. So we have a really successful program in Ethiopia which is called the Sustainable Landscape Management Program, which worked with the communities to rehabilitate the forest. And that sort of employment that they got in terms of rehabilitating the forest and helping them to manage it also helped with the salt and water conservation. So you really have a regeneration of a system that vibrant, that provides the community with employment in a systematic way, and keeps the environmental services intact.

. So this holistic way of looking at it from the end to end is extremely important to meet the sequestration goal but also,  in helping the communities to increase their economic productivity and having the ownership, and seeing it in the longer-term context. Because once you do not have that, then I think they’re at odds with that particular landscape because we really don’t want a blowback on their livelihoods. And I think that’s one of the successful programs, and has been replicated at scale in Ethiopia, but also obviously elsewhere.

GORE: Thank you.

BORDOFF: I’d just add, I think it’s really important. Forests sequester about 15 percent of the greenhouse gas in the U.S. It doesn’t get talked about enough in conversations like this. And so I agree with everything that’s been said. I will just say, again, putting the technocratic policy hat on, it’s really hard. It’s hard to set up the policy and financial incentives to do this because you, in theory, put a price on carbon, you create a value where people who avoided deforestation or reforested would receive the benefit of the carbon was being sequestered by doing that. How do you measure that? How do you monitor that? How do you create market-based or other systems, just government spending I suppose, but actually know that what you’re doing is achieving real reductions? You’re not preserving something here and then the deforestation’s happening next door instead of happening here.

There was a study from Berkeley about a month or two ago looking at the offset program in California’s cap-and-trade program. So cap-and-trade, you put a cap on carbon. It creates a value for it. And you decide, what’s the cheapest way for me not to put a ton of CO2 in the air? I can go from coal to solar and wind. Or maybe it’s cheaper for me to, you know, have forestry offsets from South America. And they found about two-thirds of the estimated reductions from those offset programs were probably not real. So this is a really hard thing to do.

I will say that I think in addition to agriculture, the carbon capture and removal technologies are—and utilization are really interesting. You can drive an hour from here to Piscataway, New Jersey, I was there a week or so ago for a tour of Solidia, which is a facility that’s producing cement out of CO2. And that not much more expensive, in some cases it’s actually cheaper than the way we do cement and concrete today. And there’s a variety of reasons I think that hasn’t taken off yet, but it’s a really interesting technology. Cement and concrete are about 5-7 percent of emissions—like, more than people realize. And things like that are pretty transformative if we can start to create the technology. And there’s a ton of faculty at Columbia that are doing groundbreaking work on this. It’s fascinating to work with them, and then figure out how to create the incentives so that people use that cement, right?

So then I went back to Columbia and I said: We’re building a whole new campus in Harlem. Are we building it with concrete like this? And everyone’s like, I don’t know. Who thought about that? Who had the right incentive? Which person in the contracting structure of the university would have made that choice? Building systems in so that that happens is what we have to do next.

GORE: Thank you. So we’re going to open it up to questions now. And please, when you ask your question, state your name and your affiliation, and try to keep it reasonably brief. We’ll start with this woman here. Thank you.

MCGRAW: Hello. Thank you for taking my question. I’m Barbara McGraw from the Center for Engaged Religious Pluralism, St. Mary’s College of California and the Bay Area.

When you’re talking about carbon sequestration, what do you think of some of the approaches like Allan Savory’s approach where it’s actually about land reclamation and using herds of animals to reinvigorate the land. And within one or two years it will actually turn it around, create much more greening, bring water back, and so forth. And also it stops indigenous peoples from burning the dried grasses, which also puts carbon in the atmosphere. I wonder if you all know anything about that, and how effective do you think that is? Thank you.

EKWURZEL: So, we have to start iterating on all these ideas. There has to be some learning as we go, and to see which of these ideas start taking off and start having the economic returns. I will say that there are planetary boundary limits. I don’t think we’re going to do this just on the backs of livestock, grasslands, and forest. But it’s a really, really important part of, one, having a habitable planet that we enjoy living on. Two, that it’s valued, and so on all the other aspects of livelihoods and just jobs and everything else it’s very, very important—and water resources.

And at the same time, we have to start forestation—those trees take 80 years to mature. We have to start those projects now, and start learning as we go, even if we don’t have the perfect accounting. Don’t let science be the barrier to use learning as we go. Secondly, we are going to have to try some of these technical solutions as well to sequester in a long-term way massive amounts of carbon because it’s a lot of science but the pulse of carbon that we’ve put into the atmosphere means that we have longer legacy of that carbon than if we put a little bit pulse. And so every carbon dioxide molecule we release today is way worse than it was fifty years ago. And there’s a lot of basic science around that, but that’s the reality we’re in. So every time a tree can suck it up, they’re very good at it, I love it. (Laughter.)

GORE: Can I ask a quick follow up on that? Because some people when they hear the promotion of the technologies around carbon sequestration are a little suspicious that it’s being used to justify continuing this current energy system. Is that your experience? Or is it really something that’s brought up as one thing, in addition to the transition to renewables?

EKWURZEL: You have to really watchdog this, because I’ve seen some charts that look like bring up CO2 from the fossil fuel, burn it, use it, burn it again. And it’s like enhanced oil recovery forever. And there is no arrow to sequester. And 45Q is one of those policies that are to try to help drive the innovation and the cost. And we have to really do the accounting of how much—it’s about an $8 trillion energy system around the world. A former BP employee who was in charge of their solar program, was saying, maybe we need $8 trillion a year just to figure out the sequestration part of this. This isn’t cheap at today’s understanding of the technology. So your point is good. We cannot be holding out hope for something that may be quite expensive. It may be cheaper to go for that carbon storage solution for battery and mobile sources and renewables. It may be cheaper, and the economics may win out compared to the sequestration.

But the problem is, we have to clean up our mess. So we need some level of sequestration. That’s the problem. And we may be willing to pay a lot for that, given the impacts and the costs and impacts to people and livelihoods.

BORDOFF: Yeah, I mean, the danger is that people will throw it out there as a promise of a technology, and maybe it doesn’t materialize, it’s not real, and then we don’t transition. It is real technology. We’re doing it today. So we know the technology is there. But there are a lot of questions about scale and cost. I guess I think about it—the simplest way to think about it in my mind would be an abatement cost curve. If you’re going to reduce a certain amount of CO2 the first molecule you reduce is really cheap. It’s probably negative. You save money by doing it. And then gradually the next ton, the next ton is a little bit more expensive than the last.

And so the first things you want to do are the cheapest. And we know that’s not carbon capture and removal. That’s energy efficiency and more renewables. And then eventually it does get more expensive, especially in the harder to abate sectors. Not the power sector but heavy industry, aviation, shipping. And that over time then this technology starts to look more and more attractive. And we want to be working now and investing in R&D to bring the costs of that technology down.

GORE: OK, over here, please. And then the next one will be way in the back.

KNOTTS: My name is Bruce Knotts. And I represent the Unitarian Universalists at the United Nations.

So, say 2020 we have the government we really want. What would be your five top recommendations to that government?

BORDOFF: So I wrote an essay in Democracy Journal, it’s sort of a progressive policy journal, a few months ago with my take on the Green New Deal. And it was an effort to sort of say what does it actually look like to give policy meaning to the ambition of the Green New Deal. The Green New Deal now has totally changed the conversation. We’ll see tonight in the debates how many questions are about climate change. I’m pretty certain it will be the same as in 2016 and the same as in 2012, where the number was zero. But if it passed tomorrow, nothing would change. It’s a set of goals and ambitions. It’s not policy that changes things on the ground.

And so you can walk through what those things are. I do believe that a price on carbon is critical. It’s not sufficient, but it is necessary. And that’s something that I think would be really important to do. We can debate what set of other complementary policies for clean energy standards, or mandates, or subsidies might make sense or not make sense. We’ve published some stuff on this, along with a price on carbon. I’d think you want to have policy targeted in addition to CO2 at the non-CO2 greenhouse gases—agriculture and around methane emissions and other things. I think we need a significant scaling up of government R&D in clean energy.

I think it’s really important—and there have been actually a couple of candidates but not enough, in my view—who have released not just domestic climate plans but foreign policy climate plans. So if we don’t like the fact that China, through Belt and Road, is financing coal projects around the world, you can’t beat something with nothing, what is the approach of the U.S. government, maybe working with multilateral development institutions, to think about providing an alternative, to sit down with the government of Pakistan and talk about how do we meet their energy needs? I think that is really important.

And you want to think not—unfortunately, I think even if the White House changes it’s unlikely Democrats will be a place in Congress to pass legislation around this. So you want to think carefully about what you can do with existing executive authority, which is not going to be at the scale of change we need. But there is more we can do there with first putting back some of the things that have been rolled back around fuel economy and methane regulations. But there are a set of additional things that can be done as well.

GORE: Anyone else on that one? OK.

EKWURZEL: Yeah. I would say that, number one, we really have to have those discussions within the threat multiplier, security, and how much the economic damages are affecting the United States, so that the U.S. government is actively helping with reducing global emissions in all the ways that we can, because the holy grail of access to energy that’s cheap and not climate harming actually affects our own self-interest, as well as global interest. And if we had true education across all political spectrums, across all sorts of businesses to understand the cost to your business, to your institution, and how you could be a role model for solutions, we could start a thousand ideas in every institutions that could come up with better ideas than we have here today. Because I have an understanding of some of those conversations, we could actually have faster change than we’re discussing today.

We didn’t evolve out of the Stone Age because we ran out of stones, as the saying goes. We came up with better ideas. And the same thing—as you look at lower Manhattan, there’s a famous picture of horse-drawn carts and then ten years later it’s all automobiles. It’s ten years. And we could have done a lot in the last ten years. And we really don’t want to waste the next ten years. (Laughs.)

BORDOFF: One thing I’ll just add as well, I do think if the White House changes there’ll be an opportunity—with a Republican Senate and, presumably, Democratic House—for a massive infrastructure bill. And you want to think about how to design that in a way that really puts climate change concerns near the top of the priority list.

HALL: My name is Danny Hall. I’m public affairs director in D.C. for the SGI-USA Buddhist Association.

You partially answered my question because you were talking about the need for systemic policy change, but there was no direct mention of the Green New Deal. What would be necessary for this to be politically viable? For example, last week myself along with others representing ICAN, International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons, met with Congressman Jim McGovern and Congresswoman Barbara Lee to present a report called From Warheads to Windmills, which is talking about transitioning from a nuclear weapons industry to a clean energy economy, and finding great parallels in amount of funding that would be made available by making the transition, and also that the skilled labor force necessary to fill the jobs that would be necessary to fill a green economy would be made available as well.

And if that can be detailed and communicated to the public, it makes it politically viable within congressional districts that have constituents currently employed in those industries, that would have job security by transitioning into a green economy. Something like this I think would be—of course, would require international cooperation in order to stay below 2 degrees, let alone 1.5 degrees. But if there were major efforts to link these two existential threats—the threat of nuclear weapons and the threat of climate change and showing how you can address both in a way that creates jobs—it seems like it could be politically viable. Just wanted to get your thoughts on that.

BORDOFF: I’d have to think more about that specific example. I do, by the way, think among the zero-carbon solutions that need to be part of a mix if we’re going to get to where we need to be, advanced nuclear technology is one of those, given the pace where we could scale purely renewables given—from the starting point we are and how far we need to get. The bigger question you’re asking is about the political economy of climate change, and what the Green New Deal has done to change the conversation about it. I think it has clearly changed the scope of ambition.

And you can look at all the plans that the candidates are producing—net zero by 2050, and whether that’s ambitious enough. But, like, the benchmarks for what’s ambitious enough are just different today than they would have been a year or—right? In 2016, Bernie Sanders supported a carbon tax. And that was so far to the left Hillary couldn’t go there. And now a corporate tax is a feeble incrementalist corporate scheme because everyone else is, like, way over here. So it’s just really shifted. And I think that’s a really positive part of what the Green New Deal has done, which is elevate the level of ambition and the urgency around this.

I have a little bit of a concern that that urgency manifests itself in a series of actions that don’t actually move the needle on the missions. We have a pretty big history of programs, and policies, and pronouncements that do less than we think they’re going to do to actually make a big dent in carbon emissions. It’s a hard thing to do. I do worry a little bit that one of the metrics of ambition for how much you want to achieve with the Green New Deal is how much government money you’re going to spend. I think we need more government spending, but that’s not the primary gating factor right now, or even the most important thing for how you’re going solve this.

Whatever amount of government money you think is possible to deploy is dwarfed by the amount of private capital that is available out there to move into the energy sector. And so that’s why I come back to these policy changes that I think are really going to change the incentives for individual economic actors, firms, companies on a regular basis. And I don’t want to lose sight of those, because I think they’re really important. I think telling a story about how dealing with climate change is linked to economic growth, and prosperity, and job creation, and health care is helpful from a political standpoint. I worry a little bit about overselling it because I’m not sure that the solutions to the health care crisis, the inequality crisis, and the climate crisis are actually the same from a policy standpoint.

RIGAUD: I would say social scientists, artists, theologians are going to be the bigger jobs because, as the IPCC scientific report says, this is a scale of transformation of the human dimensions that are on an unprecedented scale and timeframe than we’ve ever done. And who better than artists, than creative individuals, theologians to internalize what we all are working for, because this is a climate crisis that affects us all, front line communities, less-resilient communities, and no one really escapes, no matter what your socioeconomic status. And that’s what I think has not been internalized. And a lot of people in this room can help us with that story.

LABERGE: That was actually going to be my point. I’m Carmen LaBerge. I host a radio program.

And all the conversations that we ever have related to this are not with people like you, because the assumption is that Evangelicals are not thinking about climate change, and we’re not concerned. And yet, every conversation that we have with Evangelicals who are on the front lines of relief efforts and rebuilding communities and congregations and outreach, they are in the communities that are most affected by climate change. And so when we talk about compassion fatigue, that is your best point of intersection with people who are actually on the ground in these communities in terms of people of faith, because it is real, and it is costly, and it is cyclical, and it’s exhausting. And so in terms of the human impact and the impact on religious communities who are on the front lines, I would say that is the best place to find the stories, and to activate Evangelicals on this—in this conversation.

EKWURZEL: Also, just from a practical standpoint, I would think the religious communities are going out all different places around the world. And you’re starting to see that if you look at the projections of a high-emissions pathway and how hot it will be as you’re doing work in these communities—in Southeast Asia, Southern Europe, South America. It is intense. North America is not as bad. And so it’s really important that you carry those stories from the field—and even changing the time of maybe a pilgrimage because people are going to be putting their lives at risk as they’re crowded together doing a pilgrimage These are really life-threatening types of changes we’re talking about.

RIGAUD: One thing that I think is really transformational in terms of different kinds of training or professions is it’s really the human capital side. And there’s some very serious research that shows that when people are educated or when they’ve gone to school, their ability to sort of counter some of the extreme events and climate impacts is so much more. And particularly in communities that do not have formal education, what they’ve found is that women who are educated were able to protect the households much better. And didn’t mean tertiary level education, but sometimes it was just about them being literate.

And that’s where a lot of civil society and faith-based groups have helped a lot of the communities to get to that level. And that, itself, is really one level of capacity that is needed. It is not where we want to end up, but I think it’s where I think every little matters. And it’s not just maybe sort of technocratic jobs that we look at, but just simple human capital. And when women are educated or capacitated, it has an intergenerational impact, which is really even more profound and important. So just wanted to put that on the table.

GORE: I think back there, and then up here.

DASA: Hi. Anuttama Dasa, director of communications for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, which is a Vaishnava Hindu group.

It came up this morning in the early panel too about food security, you mentioned that a couple of times. So, you know, food security, water shortage crisis, deforestation, overall climate change. At least some of the religious traditions represented here, supported by some very substantial scientific research, advocate if we really want to find for food, address these issues of water waste, climate change, et cetera, the first thing we should talk about is our diet. You mentioned food choice and to promote a vegetarian diet, a meatless diet. A major source of deforestation occurs in the Amazon region for meat production, as an example. I live in Maryland. Everyone’s concerned about the Chesapeake Bay. And you just read the second paragraph and it tells you it’s because of all the chicken farms on the Eastern Shore. But nobody asks the question, well, why do we need the chicken farms on the Eastern Shore? Can we get by without the chicken farms, et cetera?

So, you know, obviously you’re aware of that. Sometimes you hear, if you’re going to do one thing—if you can’t do anything else, you can’t drive a Prius, you can’t recycle, become a vegetarian. And I’m sure you’re aware of that research. Most people are not. So my question is, why if there’s a simple step that everybody could understand—if you’re going to do one thing, do this—why isn’t it prioritized? Why is it so few people know about it? Why is it talked about so rarely?

EKWURZEL: Sure. It’s a really important point. How do you separate the small actions that don’t make as much difference, compared to the small actions in your personal life that do make a big difference? And we took an exercise to do that, to take two years of economic analysis of everything happening for people living in the United States. It’s getting a little dated, but it’s called Cooler, Smarter, Practical Steps to Low-Carbon Living. And we looked at food choices. And we found that actually it was the carbon emissions on the farm or going out and harvesting fish, protein is really huge. And the vegetables are tiny. And so the local source of vegetables, it’s more on-farm emissions that are more important than getting it to you, for example, depending on if the food is flown by airplane, so avoid that. But kiwi comes by ship, not so bad, even though it’s far away. So you have to know the story of your food.

We did find for the U.S. public at the time it was only 14 percent of the emissions. The biggest part was buildings and how we energy—heat and cool our homes, and places of work, and how we move around in space. And because of the clean power plan, started reducing emissions, and there’s transitional to natural gas, it’s now the mobile sources sector. So your choice point about how you move around in space, and how you clean and, you know, heat your home, there’s lots of personal choices you can make in the diet that have global implications, even if it’s a small part of the U.S. emissions. It has global implications for food security. And we can—we can grow stuff in a water-rich region, transport it to a water-poor region, and that’s a water export through food. If we had no corruption and no wars, it would work out nicely. (Laughter.)

VISOTSKY: Hi. I’m Burt Visotsky. I’m with the Jewish Theological Seminary. I’m on the advisor board of the Center for Earth Ethics Union.

And I actually want to ask Karenna to speak about an issue. Would you say a few words about the Green Seminary Initiative, and how that can help us?

GORE: The Green Seminary Initiative is out of Drew Seminary and others, Laurel Kearns, Fletcher Harper, these are some of the people that have been working on how to make the places where people are studying for ministry to be engaged in ecological issues. So this comes in the practical ways similar to what you were just discussing, how to green your building, energy efficiency, recycling. And also, in deeper ways around how people are exploring theology and moral philosophy, church history, the things that are taught in seminaries. And so it’s very exciting to see that work done in a deep way. At the Center for Earth Ethics we do an annual minister’s training. And I was just in Methodist Theological Seminary of Ohio, where they have a farm. And so the seminarians are farming. And to the point about agriculture, that connection with the soil, with the food source as part of an experience of spiritual life as well as academic study for ministry is very exciting. So thank you so much for asking about that. (Laughter.) Appreciate it.

And we’ll go to the center there, thank you.

ELSAYED: Shaker Elsayed from Washington, imam of Islamic Center Dar Al-Hijrah.

I want to thank you bringing this very vital issue. And I was wondering, the two most pollutants everywhere are the general population and the governments. That’s true. We pollute the oceans. We pollute the air. We pollute everything. So is there any central proposal, scientifically proven, where the government has gone wrong and where it should go right? The cheapest way they could correct what they have done? Also for the public, I believe we need a channel on the environment. We need a TV channel, YouTube, ten thousand channels that are authentically giving ideas to people who are interested in protecting the environment. Those are resources that will generate, over at least one generation, a huge movement that will bring all your dreams to reality. Thanks.

BORDOFF: Or even like a secret channel for people who aren’t interested, so they think they’re watching something else but they’re actually learning all this stuff. (Laughter.) That might be what we need even more. The—I mean, government is huge consumer and producer, usually the number-one energy user. So there is an important role for governments to think about the procurement chains, the fuel in the military, to lead on advanced technologies like low-carbon aviation fuels, which the Navy did under President Obama. I think your question is also important because we talk about how to change incentives. And if you price carbon, if you do something else, firms will make different choices and that all works the way through the U.S. Granted that’s so of where the oil companies are, and we’ll focus on these big companies with the lawsuits and everything.

That’s not where most of the energy is produced. Most of it’s produced by state-owned enterprises in the Gulf states, in Asia. So if you want to—that’s a challenge in some ways, because those economic incentives don’t flow through the same way to the CEO of Sinopec as it might to the CEO of Shell or Exxon. But it’s also an opportunity, because governments that want to make change happen have a much greater tool and lever to actually drive change by working with state-owned energy companies. And that’s something we have a project underway that we’ve been working on that I think is really interesting, and actually especially in kind of the way these issues are talked about, sitting here in the U.S. or Europe or something we don’t appreciate enough. I think it’s pretty important.

GORE: Anyone else on that? OK. Let me go here, and then the woman in the back.

LESLIE: Hi. I’m David Leslie. I direct the Rothko Chapel in Houston.

And we just did a climate change symposium, very much like somebody mentioned here, very multidisciplinary, artists, theologians, energy sector experts, et cetera. And I think it was interesting, post-Harvey there was that little glimmer of hope that, you know, you could reimagine your community. That lasted for a little bit, and I think it’s still ongoing, but not at the macro level. And I keep thinking about—and maybe you have some insights into—how do you reimagine your economy and your community? Because even your point about state-run energy sector, the private sector in Houston’s very much involved in a lot of these state-run enterprises. Right now, Texas is the number-one—I think the number-one state in wind producing energy. And in the very same fields in West Texas they’re looking for new exploration of the Permian Basin, right? So we live in this. Our neighbors work in these fields. They’re engineers. They’re the bankers. We benefit from this. So how do you start to imagine unwinding and reimagining your community’s economy at this kind of scale, because I think we’re on a good track but I also worry it’s not going to be fast enough.

GORE: Anyone?

RIGAUD: There’s an interesting process underway which is called the 2050 Development Platform. And I think it does kind of what you say. It kind of brings people together in a room—and they’ve done this for communities, but also some of them are now trying it at the national level through the process—partly to align with the Paris agreement, where you’re trying to reimagine. And you’re kind of working backwards. You’re imagining you’re in 2050, no constraints, no barriers, where would you want to be? What would you see to be part of the green economy and delivering on this low-carbon climate resilience? And then looking at it first from the different sector perspective, and then bringing out the common threads of what is it that all of these pathways are saying from a sectoral and from a geography perspective?

And I think it’s interesting because sometimes it come down to a few of—a few recurrent themes. And I think much to what Jason says, that some systemic policy changes have to be there. You know, the carbon pricing always come up. If we don’t get that right, it’s not going to serve as a level of change across, and then the resilient element comes up in different ways. And then I think it’s the behavior change element, which always comes up. So, there are these exercises that are ongoing, which I think are very instructive in some ways, because sometimes we think there’s a lot to do, but sometimes when you begin to unpack it I think it comes down to a few of these levers. So I don’t know if that answers your question, but I think it’s a way of thinking that I hope becomes sort of more mainstreamed, because it really does get us to unpack the complexity.

BORDOFF: Your question’s also important to, again, like with private companies or state-owned enterprises, sort of think about—in my view, you can speak to this better—from an emerging market standpoint. And we can talk about going to Kentucky and teaching a coal miner to code instead, and whether that is realistic, feasible, or politically salient. But the countries that are most exposed to the dangers of climate change, largely not of their own action but the economic prosperity we’ve all enjoyed, which is a moral and ethical issue, are where the emissions growth is coming from. Those are the places that are most rapidly growing their energy use because now they’re enjoying prosperity, as they should.

Look at the advances that Prime Minister Modi’s made of expanding access to electricity which has been remarkable. And say, could he have done that without any coal at all? That would have been hard to do. But in addition to that, the coal industry employs half a million people in India. The rail sector, which moves coal more than anything, employs one and a half million people. There are entrenched economist interests in the job creation that comes from where the energy sources are coming from. And thinking about transitioning that in countries that have, you know, far lower per-capita incomes than we do is a real challenge. You need to be really sensitive to it, I guess that’s what I’m saying. I think people feel lectured to in that part of the world a little too much.

RIGAUD: But I think another way to look at it is in the context of sub-Saharan Africa. Two out of three people do not have access to power, electricity. And it’s a moral imperative that they be provided that access. Now, I think that  as a global community if we can get them to get it through renewables, then I think it’s that same carbon turn we’re trying to remove here, which is everywhere the same. It’s where we need to sort of put our effort to ensure that they get into the renewable space as the first course of action. So I think it’s some things that are low-hanging fruits, but still not low enough, I guess, is the point, right?

GORE: It’s exciting that the cost of renewables is falling and the energy storage is up there, so we’re not just looking at those choices.

RIGAUD: That’s right.

GORE: Do we have time for one more question?

ELLSWORTH: Thank you. Eleanor Ellsworth, the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego.

I want to know what your comments are about educating at the elementary and secondary levels of our children in this country. Obviously we have a state system of state education. But who’s the guru? Who’s really watching out for how our children are being educated about climate science, and policy, and policy solutions? Thank you.

EKWURZEL: You raise a really important question. And for example, Texas buys the largest number of textbooks. And there have been efforts to misrepresent some of the science in some of the education. So we do have to keep a watch on that. One thing we joke about is that a lot of times the children are way educated on this and are so scared. For example, I was just at Brigham Young University and talking to the faculty there, that want to change their core curriculum because the students are demanding knowledge in this space, at that age group about how to talk to their parents, because they really are scared about talking to the parents that they know are opposed to change, and changing even things in their own household. Because they want to be part of the solution, but they feel that intergenerational dialogue could help with that. And it’s really exciting that they’re thinking of doing core curriculum changes, because it’s not that we have to educate our children as much, as we have to educate the adults who are in power right now who are holding back progress.

BORDOFF: My daughter, who’s fourteen, at dinner a few weeks ago, unprompted, said: Daddy, is it true that we’re all going to die in ten years because of climate change? So this is how the IPCC report makes it ways into her Instagram feed. And that’s a complicated question to try to have an in-depth discussion about, well, what does 2030 actually mean, and deconstruct what all of this is. But I thought it was really interesting that that was how she was hearing about climate change. And it’s clear in the polling that the younger generation is much more concerned, on both sides of the aisle, starting from a different point with this issue, which is working in a university helps to keep you a little bit optimistic.

GORE: Final comment, Kanta?

RIGAUD: Well, thank you very much. It’s, first of all, a privilege to be here, and to have this conversation with the panelists and yourself. Climate change is a really important issue that we address headlong. It affects everybody. And from where I sit, in working with some of the poorest countries, I think it’s a reality that I think we can’t afford to sort of delay action on. So urgency’s, I think, the word from me.

GORE: Wonderful. Well, let’s thank our panelists, and thank you to the Council. (Applause.)

Top Stories on CFR


The meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Moscow helped both give the impression of a united front, but underlying tensions were also discernible.

Immigration and Migration

Edward Alden, the Bernard L. Schwartz senior fellow at CFR and Ross Dist Visiting Professor at Western Washington University, sits down with James M. Lindsay to discuss the crisis at the U.S. southern border and the domestic debates over U.S. immigration policy.


The mass protests that have rocked Peru since December threaten to upend regional supply chains, intensify migration flows, and strain Lima’s bilateral relations.