Al Gore to the tech world: Help me fix the climate crisis

"Everything is at stake," says the former US vice president, but the right technology can help turn the fate of the planet around.

Katie Collins Senior European Correspondent
Katie a UK-based news reporter and features writer. Officially, she is CNET's European correspondent, covering tech policy and Big Tech in the EU and UK. Unofficially, she serves as CNET's Taylor Swift correspondent. You can also find her writing about tech for good, ethics and human rights, the climate crisis, robots, travel and digital culture. She was once described a "living synth" by London's Evening Standard for having a microchip injected into her hand.
Katie Collins
3 min read

Al Gore delivers a speech during the 2017 Web Summit in Lisbon.

Patricia De Melo Moreira / AFP/Getty Images

Tech is already making the world a better place. It is helping refugees integrate into society, it is empowering people with disabilities, and connecting communities.

Al Gore believes it can been instrumental in reversing climate change.

"My purpose here is to recruit you to be part of the solution to the climate crisis," he told the audience at Web Summit -- Europe's biggest tech conference -- in Lisbon on Thursday. "You can have a bigger impact than practically any other group in the entire world."

It's the latest pitch by the former US vice president as he continues his mission to protect the environment. Gore, the man behind the award-winning documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" and chairman of Generation Investment Management, an investment fund focused on sustainable companies, believes change is coming.

Artificial intelligence, machine learning and the internet of things are trends that Gore said will help future generations more easily preserve the planet.

"Our world is now in the early stages of a sustainability revolution... that has the speed of the digital revolution," he said.

Energized about energy

An area where tech is making a real impact is in making alternative sources of energy, including solar, battery storage and wind farms, more viable. When it comes to the generation of electricity, the cost of solar power has fallen so fast that it is now significantly cheaper in many parts of the world than other forms of electricity, Gore said.

"Tech is helping us to displace fossil fuels to generate electricity from new, sustainable sources," he said. "We can match it up to the transportation system by shifting over to electric vehicles as quick as we possibly can."

Solar energy and electric vehicles are close to Gore's heart but also his business interests. His group backs a solar energy company based in Africa, along with a number of clean energy-based mobility startups, including Gogoro -- an electric scooter company based in Taiwan.

"Gogoro was founded with the fundamental premise of doing good and doing well," Gogoro's CEO and founder Horace Luke said in an interview. "We share Al Gore's strong conviction for igniting the sustainability revolution and we are honored to have his support."

Life after Paris

Gore stated several times in his speech that he would try to restrain himself from touching on politics. But when it came to discussing the Paris climate agreement, he couldn't help but comment on the US withdrawal from the treaty, which every other country in the world has now signed.

The US is still signed up to the Paris agreement until at least 2020, he said, adding: By the way, if there is a new president, a new president can simply give 30 days notice and the US is back in the agreement."

Thanks to the attitudes of individual states and businesses, the current figures show that the US will still meet and even exceed its commitments under the agreement. "We are going to do our part in spite of Donald Trump," Gore said.

But that doesn't solve the bigger problem. "If you add up all of the commitments," he said, "they still don't add up to enough to solve the crisis."

This is where the tech community has a chance to step in.

Gore reassured entrepreneurs in the audience that there were plenty of investors out there that weren't just funding tech "to make a quick buck," but to make a real difference in the world.

"I want you to know that there is a growing market for the kinds of initiative that many of you have labored long and hard to bring to fruition," he said. "Everything is at stake. Now is your time."