On Tuesday in Cedar Rapids, former Vice President Al Gore addresses climate change. Gore founded the Climate Reality Project in July 2011 to better educate the public about the science and solutions of climate change. (The Daily Iowan/McCall Radavich)
CEDAR RAPIDS — Slightly more than 400 attendees from across the United States and the world, representing 22 countries, roared with applause as former Vice President Al Gore entered for a training presentation reminiscent of his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth.
He stood under starry green lights representing his Climate Change Reality Project at the DoubleTree Hotel in Cedar Rapids behind a podium displaying the state of Iowa hugged by a green ring.
“The most ignored benefit of undertaking this historic mission of solving the climate crisis is that we will have organized principle and a goal worthy of humanity’s best efforts, where we can mobilize to make this a better place to live with higher quality lives, and less hunger, and less disease, and less extreme poverty, and less politics, and a brighter future,” Gore said.
The project, started by Gore, encourages citizens to gather and promote a clean-energy future by promoting renewable resources and electing politicians that agree. Attendees spend three days learning about climate change and how to be active in communities.
Though the issue will be a topic of heavy discussion for the 2016 presidential election, the event itself was nonpartisan. The rhetoric simply promoted discussion.
Gore pleaded for a sense of unity, referring to the Wright Brothers, who spent their early lives in Cedar Rapids, as a remembrance of what can be accomplished when people are inspired and motivated.
“When we have a goal that is worthy of our best efforts, then we get lift as well as momentum, and we, too, can take flight,” Gore said.
Mario Molina, the head of the Climate Change Reality Training Leadership Program, said he would refrain from endorsing any candidate, but he wants to encourage voters to press all candidates on issues pertaining to climate change.
“It is important for any candidate running for office to acknowledge that climate change is real, climate change is manmade, [climate change] is urgent to solve, and that we have the technology and economic systems to solve it,” he said.
Molina also said he prioritizes this issue above other topics of debate because it is beneficial for both the earth and its economies.
Organizers said the group chose Iowa for this event because the state is a nationwide leader on renewable fuels — specifically wind energy — and because Iowa is a major player in the 2016 election.
“We want to make sure the people of Iowa are prepared to bring climate change to the forefront of the conversation as candidates come here,” he said. “[Also] to find out what [the candidates’] stances are on climate change and make sure they call them to talk on the tough questions.”
Attendee Kate Morand, a retired educational administrator from Madison, Wisconsin, said she wouldn’t consider voting for any candidate who denies the science of climate change. She favors Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., as a leader for the movement.
“I can’t think of any bigger issue than climate change,” Morand said. “If we can fix it and change things, everything will fall into place.”
Zack Davis, a field director of NextGen Climate, a 501(c)(4) group that promotes candidates taking action on climate change, said his main focus in attending and what he saw as the greatest benefit was the introduction of climate change into the Iowa caucuses’ narrative.
“We see this as the definitive issue of our generation,” Davis said. “When we talk to the next generation of Iowans, we see support for wind and solar, clean energy for the future,” he said. “People recognize the health outcomes and know that means stronger economy for Iowa pushing forward and will lead to better health for them now and in the future.”