Technology & Science

Gore predicts climate treaty by next year

Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore says he's optimistic that a global climate treaty will follow the Copenhagen conference next month.

Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore said Wednesday he's optimistic that a global climate treaty will follow the Copenhagen conference next month.

Former vice-president Al Gore, centre, and environmentalist David Suzuki joined Jian Ghomeshi in the Q studios to talk about climate change and the Copenhagen conference. ((CBC))

The environmental activist thinks some good will come out of the climate change conference even though "the expectations have been scaled back."

"I'm optimistic that partway through next year, we'll have a treaty," he told Jian Ghomeshi on CBC Radio's Q. Gore also welcomed the news that U.S. President Barack Obama announced earlier in the day that he will attend the Copenhagen conference.

David Suzuki, who joined Ghomeshi on the program, criticized Canada's stance on climate change and Prime Minister Stephen Harper's decision not to attend the conference.

"Canada isn't really taking the issue seriously," he said.

Suzuki said the Harper government hasn't had much to say about global climate change.

"I'd like to hear a statement from this government that climate change is real and affects Canada enormously."

Gore praised Canada for "fighting above its weight class" on the world stage when it comes to peacekeeping and environmental action, citing the Montreal Protocol that banned CFCs in 1989.

"I have always been incredibly impressed with Canada's ability to take moral leadership," he said.

"I have been surprised in recent years at the appearance that some in the government were willing to turn their backs" on environmental agreements like the Kyoto Protocol.

"I understand there's a lot of money to be made in the tarsands," Gore said, but he called them "the single most dangerous and polluting energy source on the planet."

"Gasoline made from the tarsands gives a Toyota Prius the carbon footprint of a Hummer," Gore said.

Americans support fighting climate change: Gore

A recent poll suggests belief in the U.S. in climate change caused by human activity has decreased in the last two years. Gore said most of that decline has been politically motivated.

"If you look more deeply into the data in that study, it seems that 100 per cent of the decline is in conservative Republicans. It seems to me it shouldn't be a partisan issue," Gore said.

"Overall the strength of the consensus has been growing," he said, adding the same poll shows that two-thirds of Americans support strong action to combat climate change.

Suzuki said the decline in support for climate change policy can be traced directly to marketing efforts over the last 20 years by corporations that contribute the most greenhouse gases.

"The reality is, the scientific consensus was in 1998 and the height of the support was in 1988," said Suzuki, and polluters "have spent millions of dollars and created phoney-baloney websites," to make it look like the debate is ongoing.

"It's been an intergenerational crime," Suzuki said, adding it will be up to future generations to deal with a warmer planet.

"To the extent that there's a debate, it's very much at the margins, trying to figure out the details," said Gore.

Gore said science thrives on a certain level of uncertainty and debate. "The culture of science is very different from popular culture and the culture of politics," he said.

"There isn't a debate any more than there's a debate over evolution in biology," said Suzuki.

Telecom industry important in 'thinking green'

Gore is in Toronto promoting his new book, Our Choice, a followup to the bestselling An Inconvenient Truth that proposes solutions to the problem of climate change.

At a dinner and talk hosted by MTS Allstream on Tuesday night, Gore said the telecommunications industry will play a significant role in the new green economy.

"As we talk about thinking green and how that relates to an economic strategy for the 21st century … information strategies and telecommunications strategies really do play a very significant role," he said.

MTS Allstream president Dean Prevost said its technology allows more employees to work from home.

"For instance, in my own business, 700 of my own employees work virtually which means they don't commute. They can video conference," he said.

Suzuki recently won the Right Livelihood Award, known as the "alternative Nobel," for his work raising awareness about climate change. Suzuki will pick up the award in Stockholm on Dec. 4.