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Al Gore calls on audience to reclaim “hacked” democracy

Former Vice President Al Gore pulled no punches in a 45-minute speech in Memorial Auditorium on Tuesday evening, calling on students to “change the conversation” around climate change and reclaim a democracy that has been “hacked” by the wealthy and special interests.

“Change often comes quickly, when consciousness changes,” Gore said, referencing shifts in public opinion on issues like civil rights, gay marriage and even technological advances. “We have to become conscious of the fact that our home is in profound danger… We are destroying the climate balance and destroying the ecological integrity of the earth.”

The sold-out speech was the first annual Stephen Schneider Memorial Lecture, named after the late Stanford biology professor who, as part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was named co-winner– with Gore– of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

Schneider, who passed away unexpectedly in 2010, was featured in a video before Gore’s speech. The two touched on similar issues, especially Schneider’s principal cause in his later life: the better communication of scientific information for policy change.

“This is not just an academic exercise, this is something we need to have people deeply engaged in,” Schneider said in a speech delivered to Climate One, an environmental advocacy group. “We’ve got to take back the airwaves in some way and make sure that what we’re hearing is credible.”

Gore spent some time discussing the planet’s current climate situation but reserved most of his wrath for special interest groups, which he argued contaminate the news media and paralyze the political system.

“What if I told you that after [the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks], we sought revenge by sending hundreds of thousands of soldiers to occupy a country that had nothing to do with the attack?” he asked to applause. “A country that just happens to have a lot of oil?”

Speaking without notes and pacing across the stage, Gore elaborated.

“I know [Iraq] is a lot more complicated than that, but it’s really not,” he said.

In tracing the causes behind Congress’ failure to tackle climate change, Gore pointed the finger squarely at corporations and interest groups.

“Corporations are increasingly demanding of quid pro quos,” he said. “The average congressman spends an average of five hours a day on the phone and at cocktail parties begging rich people and corporations for money.”

Gore used a number of current events to argue his case, referencing Congress’s recent failure to pass a bill legislating background checks on gun purchases despite polls showing an overwhelming majority of Americans as supportive.

On current environmental issues facing the United States, Gore was dismissive of much of the discourse surrounding perceived solutions.

“The tar sands? Please,” he scoffed. “When I was in Alberta a few years ago, I was asked… ‘Should we use [the tar sands]?’ And I said, ‘Well, junkies use veins in their toes when the ones in their arms and legs give out.'”

Even more detrimental, according to Gore, is the manipulation of the media by businesses.

“The airwaves are filled with ads for ‘clean coal’ and Exxon Mobil ‘solving it,’ whatever ‘it’ is,” he said. “When you see those ads to clean coal, they’re not designed to get you to turn to your dormmate and say, ‘Lets go down to the store and get some clean coal.’ They’re designed to condition political thinking.”

As he neared the end of his speech, Gore raised his voice in demanding more of Americans.

“Our democracy is in such pathetic disrepair that not a single reform [has been enacted],” he said. “Where is our pride? As Americans who believe in the majesty and integrity of democracy, it is time for us to stand up and restore it.”

Though his speech offered extensive criticisms of the political process, the media and consumerism, Gore concluded with a story suggesting that much can be changed in a short period of time.

Referring to the famous space challenge that President John F. Kennedy issued in 1962, he noted that many thought such a goal would be impossible to attain. When American astronauts landed on the moon in 1969, however, a cheer rose from the systems engineers in Houston, whose average age was 26. When Kennedy had issued the challenge, they were just 18 years old.

“You have a challenge,” Gore said to finish his speech. “I hope that you will decide to be a part of it. We need you.”

About Edward Ngai

Edward Ngai is a senior staff writer at The Stanford Daily. Previously, he has worked as a news desk editor, staff development editor and columnist. He was president and editor-in-chief of The Daily for Vol. 244 (2013-2014). Edward is a junior from Vancouver, Canada studying political science. This summer, he is the Daniel Pearl Memorial Intern at the Wall Street Journal.
  • Sy

    Cont believe Stanford allowed this lier and hypocrite to spread his nosense. There were so many lies in his movie.

  • Sy

    Can’t, liar, nonsense

  • gofer1

    Unbelievable that people are still talking about global warming. There has been no warming in over 17-20 years, depending on which dataset is used. It’s time to find a new doom to promote because the warming has died. Gore can take his 200 million and do what he accuses others of doing. Gore is the single biggest “special interest” in the whole scam.

  • james

    Most of Gore’s “inconvenient truths” have been discredited. This guy is part of the one percent of wealthiest Americans and is a total hypocrite. He continues to promote his climate agenda because it makes him big money. I hope he wasn’t paid a speaker’s fee for this although he probably was paid by somebody to come here. Gore doesn’t do anything out of charity.

  • james

    Gore keeps talking about how wealthy Americans should pay more taxes yet when he sold his TV network he used many questionable practices to avoid paying as much tax as possible. This guy is the ultimate hypocrite. Just like Buffet who says the wealthy should pay more in taxes at the same time his corporations are being sued by the IRS for $billions in unpaid taxes.

  • ppp

    I cannot believe that this guy is given any voice whatsoever here. As some other contributors have already pointed out, the hoax known as global warming has been already discredited. The Economist is usually a good barometer of intellectual fads. The climate warming crowd have lost them as well: http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21574461-climate-may-be-heating-up-less-response-greenhouse-gas-emissions . Climate warming as an “intelligentsia fad” has only one way to go going forward: down. And the final irony of all is Gore’s own statement that he sold Current TV to Al Jazeera because their “values”. Sure, “Big Oil” values, I assume.

    While many “intelligentsia” believers trusted Al Gore, he did what scam artists do best: becoming wealthy at the expense of his followers. The joke is now on said followers.

  • WasGoreRightToBlameMedia?

    Why doesn’t this article mention that Gore said he supports Stanford divesting from fossil fuels? Seemed like the biggest community news to me (I’m not involved in the campaign at all.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/jimmydollar Jimmy Dollar

    the only was is with 5 million people walking to DC with pmm’s and AK’s in both hands———–we live in the UNited States of Corruption

  • Oli

    While I’m sure Gore profits from his environmental agenda, it’s ludicrous and irresponsible to say that “Global Warming is a hoax,” simply because global ambient temperatures have increased slower than predicted. A lot of other metrics are dramatic and alarming, such as ice melting, sea levels rising, and crippling droughts. Global temperatures are allowed to stay cool for as long as there’s a lot of ice left to melt, but once those heat sinks are gone, temperatures will catch up to us. Don’t take Al Gore’s word for it, listen to the climate scientists here at Stanford.

  • ppp

    Climate scientists at Stanford who promote catastrophic global warming are as sellouts as Gore himself. Sellouts to whom, you might ask? To those who fund their research.

    For a critical view of catastrophic global warming, consult the work of Richard Lindzen, former IPCC member and professor at MIT, who has been warning for years of the lack of accuracy intrinsic to the models used to predict the catastrophic scenarios (the Economist has just acknowledged what he has been warning against as a lone voice against the so called “consensus”). As they say in computer modeling, garbage in, garbage out. The models used to predict the catastrophes were garbage, so it is not surprising that their predictions were garbage as well.

    To summarize. My position is not that there is no climate change or not even that humans might have something to do with it. My position is that none of the climate change hoaxers predictions is accurate and thus, basing serious policy decisions on something of such little accuracy is irresponsible and can only be justified from an ideological point of view (ie, “green politics”) not science.

  • Oli

    I would argue that Lindzen has a much greater economic incentive to be the lone poster-child for global-warming skepticism, for as long as their is a perception of discent within the scientific community, the oil industry can hide behind the veil of doubt. Meanwhile, countries like the Maldives will be entirely underwater in a few years because of a rapidly expanding ocean.

    Of course there is some inaccuracy in weather models, Earth’s climate is an extremely complex system, but there is no conspiracy of “hoaxers,” just differences as to the timeframe and severity of the impact.
    It doesn’t take a sophisticated mathematical model to show how much Ice disappeared from Greenland, how much the drought has raised food prices and dried up rivers, how the once-magnificent coral reefs have been turned to bleached-white skeletons. These things I’ve seen with my own eyes.

  • ppp

    I have made no claim of a “conspiracy”. You’ll have to find a conspiracy theorist somewhere else. All I am saying is that catastrophic global warming is driven by self interest and politics. There are many bad things that are driven by similar motivations without the need to invent any conspiracy whatsoever. Wall Street almost brought down our economy. Was there a conspiracy to do so? No, but obviously there was a lot of self interest and politics involved.

    From where I stand Lindzen’s academic credentials and honors (such as memberships in learned societies) are more impressive than those of the average climate scientist at Stanford. He has made a very cogent case as to why we should not trust the catastrophic scenarios predicted by the alarmist. And I remind you that science does not work by consensus. After all, the scientific “consensus” during Galileo’s times was that the Earth was the center of the solar system (even though Copernicus had proposed a more closer to the real one several decades earlier).

    With respect to “some inaccuracy”. Give me a break. Obviously you know little about data analysis/modeling of such complex systems. To give an easy example, if there are say 10 independent variables involved and each of them incurs in a 5% error, the cumulative error can be 40%, enough to make the most catastrophic predictions invalid. Now, I don’t think I have to work very hard to convince you that climate modeling is a much more complex endeavor, one that probably involves more than 10 actual independent variables (regardless of how many are modeled). This is the prime reason why short term weather prediction is more accurate than long term climate prediction.

  • ppp

    To give an example of one (out of many) failed predictions about “devastating” effects on climate that could be caused by human intervention http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_winter#Kuwait_wells_in_the_first_Gulf_War . This was a particularly painful one from my point of view because Carl Sagan has done more than probably any other human being on the planet to instill on me love for science. But being a great science popularized does not equal being right on the science.

  • ppp

    For those unfamiliar with the work of Richard Lindzen, here comes a lecture in which he deconstructs Global Warming Hysteria,

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-sHg3ZztDAw

    Your choice, you either take as “science” the word of a politician turned scam artist or you open your mind to what a true scientist, with impeccable credentials, has to say.

  • Janearther

    I agree with him about the dysfunction of the political system, but you can’t stand up to call for action on the climate crisis if you support those who support exacerbating it. Obama’s DOJ has also done nothing to reign in Wall Street. Changing the status quo requires letting go of the partisan politics and holding all accountable.

  • Janearther

    Oh look, the “Oregon Petition” hoaxster.

  • Janearther

    Lindzen spoke in front of Congress after receiving payments from EXXON.

  • Janearther

    Got to love those who come on here as “guests.” Check in the mail?

  • Leevi

    Invite Michael – https://www.facebook.com/mikepillsbury as a speaker!

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