Al Gore’s “New Thinking on the Climate Crisis”

By Sanath Jaishankar, Climate Reality Leader

15 June 2017

Al Gore’s narrative on battling the climate crisis—as a means of protecting the rights of future generations—highlights the responsibilities of the states as duty-bearers in ensuring the protection of rights for future generations. The power of political mobilisation, as a means to protect rights, is far more effective than human rights as a mobilising agent. Gore echoes this notion as he believes the most effective strategy towards improving the climate crisis is holding the leaders—and the state—accountable to ensure that they are protecting their citizen’s rights.

In his 2008 TED Talk “New Thinking On The Climate Crisis”, Gore further emphasised the responsibility of media as modes of gaining access to information—a fundamental human right. He pointed out that in the 2008 US elections, top journalists—on average—only asked two questions about the climate crisis, compared to the more-than-thousand other questions (TED Talk March 2008, 10’59). The reality of the augmentation of climate change has been disputed for several decades. States, as duty-bearers, should be responsible in ensuring that their citizens (right holders) have access to all information. If citizens are unaware of how the state is acting, on their behalf, then the state could be acting independently of the wishes of its citizens, which in turn would be a violation of the state as a duty-bearer.

Furthermore, Gore dispels the notion that the climate crisis only impacts future generations as he depicts the current effects the climate crisis is having on the world’s economy. The tragedy of the commons phenomena describes how “the old model is not working” (14’52) when it comes to our energy resources. Duty-bearers are accountable in ensuring that the rights of their constituents (right holders) are permanently realised. In the case of energy, citizens have a right of having access to electricity, which provides them with basic necessities such as food, sanitary water, access to information, etc. Relying on depleting resources, therefore, is unsustainable and there will be a point in which states will have to counter the depleting resources by accepting the realities of the climate crisis and invest in renewable, sustainable forms of energy.

Political mobilisation born from active citizenship is the best way to ensure that
the rights of future generations are protected.

Gore concludes by stressing the importance of protecting rights for future generations. In this, he realises that the task of working towards ending the climate crisis comes across as a “burden” (19’12) that the current generation has to carry. However, he reiterates how we would be violating the rights of future generations for not granting them the same rights to a healthy environment, which we—the current generation—were able to enjoy. Gore reemphasises the necessity of using political mobilisation that must be born from active citizenship as the best way to ensure that such future rights are protected (24’27). Citizens must “demand—change the laws. Change the global treaties” (24’27), and the way in which they can do this is by using media to gain more information and connect more people (24’27). As citizens vote for the leaders who share the same views as them, the responsibilities and actions of the duty-bearer will then be in sync with the values demanded by the citizens.

Reference: Gore, Al. “New Thinking on the Climate Crisis.” TED Talk. Mar. 2008. TED. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the African Climate Reality Project