COLUMN: Learning about climate reality with Al Gore

An op-ed column from Laura Sacks of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby

I recently had the privilege of attending Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership Training in Bellevue, Wash. I was selected as one of 35 Canadians, joining 800 people from 26 countries. This three-day training focused on the latest climate science, communication techniques, and ways to effectively collaborate with others to address the climate crisis.

The former U.S. Vice President was prominently featured throughout the training. After all these years, he is still passionate, humble, and genuine in his quest to educate others about the climate crisis.

His presentations were framed around three questions: “must we change, can we change, and will we change?” He answered the first two questions with a resounding “yes!”

But the answer to the last question, “will we change?” was left up to us to make happen at this pivotal time in history.

Gore moderated in-depth panel discussions on climate science and policy, climate change and health, and coalition building between different sectors such as the business community, people of colour, and the labour movement.

We learned about the self-organizing and rapidly growing resistance movement against Trump’s agenda. We heard from Washington’s governor Jay Inslee, who assured us that these are “great days and not dark days,” and described how he helped form a coalition of States committed to the Paris Agreement within hours of Trump announcing his intention to pull the USA out.

Other sessions emphasized communication techniques — such as telling our stories, public speaking tips, strategic messaging, and connecting with diverse audiences over shared values.

Participants also had the opportunity to get directly involved in a campaign to close a dirty coal plant. Actions included street canvassing, attending a town hall meeting, writing public comments and using social and traditional media to build public awareness.

As a Climate Reality Leader, participants agree to complete 10 acts of leadership in our community each year. These include giving the Climate Reality slideshow presentation using Gore’s up-to-date slide deck — hundreds of visually engaging slides covering a number of topics to help explain the crisis and solutions. I look forward to offering customized presentations to groups in our community who would like to be kept current about this pressing issue.

As a mother, I think about the future of my two daughters and other young people a lot — what kind of world are we going to leave them? This latest heat wave and rash of wildfires are yet further examples of our climate crisis.

If we don’t resolve the root causes of human-caused climate change, we are leaving our children a world where climate disruption gets considerably worse, including a refugee crisis the size of which humanity has never seen. But I find hope in collectively working with others to solve this crisis, including building the political will for policies that will accelerate our transition to a low carbon future.

Ten years have passed since the screening of An Inconvenient Truth, and some of the impacts of our changing climate have been alarming. Next month we will have the chance to hear more about these impacts and solutions when An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power is shown in theatres across the country. Let’s hope this spurs us all to action.

I end with this from my 21-year-old daughter, Kara: “Thank you for doing this crucially important work as a climate activist. Your recent training as a Climate Reality Leader is inspiring, and serves as a reminder of the imperative of taking action, no matter your age or place in life, on behalf of a better future for the planet.”

Laura Sacks heads up the local chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby and is a Climate Reality Leader. She can be contacted at

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