In what turned out to the largest side event of the two-week climate change conference in Poland, hundreds from around the world jammed into the general assembly hall to hear from former Vice President Al Gore.
Gore, who visited President-elect Barack Obama on his way to Poznań, urged early action now.
“Once the process of change begins, the task often becomes easier in the doing,” he said. “It does stimulate the economy; it does create jobs.”
Gore cited Obama’s November 18 statement to climate change leaders in Los Angeles, when Obama said:
“Once I take office, you can be sure that the United States will once again engage vigorously in these negotiations and help lead the world toward a new era of global cooperation on climate change. Now is the time to confront this challenge once and for all. Delay is no longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response. The stakes are too high. The consequences, too serious.”
Gore said not to “discount these words” and called for more action from heads of state around the world not just next December in Copenhagen but by meeting several times throughout 2009. Gore also singled out the U.S. media’s lack of focus on climate change.
“We have to overcome the paralysis … rather than spending so much time on O.J. Simpson, Paris Hilton and Nicole Simpson,” he said.
In what proved to be a speech that brought both applause and tears from the audience, Gore cited Ghandi’s term, “Satyagraha,” which means “truth force,” or a relentless search for the truth.
“The reason you have been able to move forward is because you understand the truth,” said Gore. “This is not a political issue but of course a moral issue and a spiritual issue. This one affects the survival of human civilization. We have to bring together that truth force … Our children have a right to hold us to a high standard.”
In packed dining rooms following the Gore speech, attendees credited Gore with changing the mood of the conference. One World Bank employee from Washington D.C. said her boss cried following the speech.
“To those who are fearful that it’s too difficult, I say it can be done and it must be done. Don’t take the pressure off!” said Gore. “Even though I don’t have the opportunity to speak formally for my country, I can tell you what I’ve heard all across America this year: ‘Yes We Can.’”
In another development, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday he is considering organizing a summit on climate change during the next UN General Assembly session in New York in September 2009.