First aired on The Sunday Edition (12/5/13)
Former U.S. vice president Al Gore has proven to be remarkably prescient in four decades of public life. As he predicted 20 years ago, the internet has revolutionized the world. And three decades ago, he warned that we should take action on climate change or it would become one of the most daunting challenges facing humanity. His thoughts on climate change helped him earn a Nobel Peace Prize and he is quickly becoming one of the world's most famous environmentalists.
Gore's new book has been in the making for the last eight years. He widens his scope and goes beyond climate change to take on the future of our civilization: it's called The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change. In the book, Gore identifies six "emerging forces" that are changing the world around us -- and outlines what we can do about them to protect the future. The drivers are:
1. Ever-increasing economic globalization: The world is no longer divided by local, regional and national economies. The speed at which money travels around the world is a game changer. "It's utterly transforming our global economy," Gore said in a recent interview on The Sunday Edition. He sees the global economy as a unified unit he calls "Earth, Inc.".
2. The worldwide digital communications: Acceleration extends not just to our physical abilities but to our cognitive ones. Worldwide digital communications connect the intelligence of people to the intelligence of machines, robots and databases. Gore calls this the "global mind."
3. The balance of global political, economic, and military power is shifting: Power is shifting from the West to the East. This will become a larger force in the future, according to Gore. "In relative terms U.S. power has been declining, there are those who are fully in the declinist camp," he said. "I am not, I think it is recoverable." However, Gore argues that the East is historically the driver of global power. In his book, Gore explains that for most of the last two millennia China and India have been the dominant economic powers in the world. We have just witnessed a 250-year break -- with the West in power -- thanks to the Industrial Revolution. Now with the digital revolutions of trade, China and India are recovering their traditional roles in the global economy.
4. A deeply flawed economic compass: Our current economic system is leading us to unsustainable growth in consumption, pollution flows, and depletion of the planet's strategic resources of topsoil, freshwater and living species.
5. Genomic, biotechnology, neuroscience, and life sciences revolutions: These fields are radically transforming medicine, agriculture, and molecular science -- and are putting control of evolution in human hands.
6. There has been a radical disruption of the relationship between human beings and the earth's ecosystems: Gore hasn't abandoned his focus on climate change. He believes there has been a revolutionary transformation of energy systems caused by humans. Gore's main problem with global energy is the focus on carbon-based fuels. "Earth Inc. now receives 85 per cent of its energy from carbon-based fuels," he said. And it's only recently we've started to understand the long-term consequences of this: "Back in the earlier decades of exploiting these resources no one really knew that it was likely to...threaten the climate balance upon which the future of our civilization depends."
Gore's book isn't all doomsday; he does offer a sense of hope for the future. He says there are other forms of energy that we can use but there are certain obstacles to using them. "The main problem that blocks our pathway to renewable energy is the political and economic power of the legacy industries that depend upon our willingness to continue using the Earth's atmosphere as an open sewer to all of this global warming pollution," he said. He blames a lot of these blockades on politicians and corporations in the U.S. Yet, he also sees potential in the U.S. as the only nation able to take leadership in global policy because of its strong tradition in leadership and its strong economy and military.