“Every great social revolution has been led by young people.”

—Al Gore

Speaking to former Secretary of State John Kerry at the Yale School of Management, former Vice President Al Gore warned that before Americans can effectively address climate change, they must repair the nation’s political system.

“In order to fix the climate crisis we have to spend some time fixing the democracy crisis,” said Gore.

He noted that American democracy was “off kilter” before last year’s presidential election.

“Before Russia hacked our democracy, it was hacked by big money and lobbyists,” he said, noting that members of Congress spend four to five hours “begging” lobbyists and the wealthy people.

“Human nature being what it is, it’s inevitable that when they spend half of their working hours engaged in that pursuit, they begin to think less about how their speeches and proposals will resonate with their voters … and they think more about how their words and deeds will resonate with people on the next day’s telephone calling list,” he said.

He expressed hope that the modern Internet-based information system will provide more people with the platform and information they need to have a voice in the discourse over issues like climate change.

“If we sort out the echo chambers and the fake news and other problems, it brings with it the promise of a restoration of the kind of dialogue that made America preeminent among nations,” said Gore, whose new film, “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,” premiered in July.

The conversation, which occurred before a packed house at Zhang Auditorium, was part of the Kerry Conversations series presented by the Kerry Initiative at Yale’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs — an interdisciplinary program Kerry founded this year to tackle pressing global challenges through teaching, research, and international dialogue.

The conversation focused on combatting global climate change. Kerry and Gore expressed confidence that despite the current presidential administration’s unwillingness to acknowledge the issue, private businesses and state and local governments in the United States would continue taking steps to curb global warming. They agreed that technological advances, such as building more powerful batteries and more efficient energy sources, are key to stopping global warming.

Gore and Kerry emphasized multiple times that young people, including Yale students, must lead the effort against climate change.

“Every great social revolution has been led by young people,” Gore said.

Kerry, who as secretary of state played a key role in brokering the historic 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, asked Gore what Yale students can do to tackle the issue.

“Use your vote, use your voice, use your choices,” Gore said. “Use your voice to win the conversations on climate. Be kind. Be generous. React to deniers with goodwill and give them the gift of listening … win the conversations.”

He called on students to vote for candidates who understand the urgency of climate change and to register others to vote. He urged them to use their choices as consumers to support climate-friendly products and services.

“I hope you’ll become part of the solution,” Gore told the crowd near the end of the more than hour-long talk. “I want to recruit you … we can do this. People doubt we have the political will. Just remember that political will is itself a renewable resource. Go out and renew it.”

Watch the video of the talk


This story originally appeared in YaleNews