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Al Gore urges Iowans to make climate change an issue

He brings his program to Cedar Rapids amid presidential rallies

Al Gore, founder and chairman of The Climate Reality Project, speaks during a Climate Reality Leadership Corps Training in Iowa symposium at the Double Tree by Hilton Convention Center in northeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Tuesday, May 5, 2015 (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Al Gore, founder and chairman of The Climate Reality Project, speaks during a Climate Reality Leadership Corps Training in Iowa symposium at the Double Tree by Hilton Convention Center in northeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Tuesday, May 5, 2015 (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Iowans can help make climate change an issue in the next presidential election cycle, former Vice President Al Gore said Tuesday during a presentation in downtown Cedar Rapids.

“More and more Iowans care about the climate crisis. Iowa is a leader in renewable energy. And Iowans can exert influence in their conversations with candidates” leading up the state’s first-in-the nation presidential caucuses, Gore said at a climate leadership training event at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel.

“We’ve got to put a price on carbon in the marketplace and put a price on denial in politics,” he told about 400 people attending a three-day Climate Reality Program intended to increase their advocacy skills.

Gore, who served under President Bill Clinton, brought his program to Iowa as presidential aspirants are campaigning throughout the state.

The 2006 Oscar-winning documentary film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” featured his campaign to make global warming an issue. He founded the Climate Reality Project, which seeks to mobilize action among volunteers.

At his presentation, Gore ticked off a succession of recent climate-related disasters and presented climate scientists’ projections of doomsday conditions by the end of the century.

He also expressed confidence that wider understanding of the issue, coupled with increasing cost effectiveness of alternative energy sources, “can turn our most serious challenge into our greatest opportunity.”

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Solar and wind energy are rapidly gaining ground on fossil fuels and may replace them in the not-too-distant future, the former Democratic vice president and environmental advocate said.

Grid parity — in which alternative energy costs less than or equal to electricity purchased from the power grid — “is already here in much of the world,” he said.

“We will see grid parity in China and in 47 of the 50 states next year,” he said.

Gore lauded Iowa for meeting almost 29 percent of its energy needs through wind turbines — the highest percentage of any state — and noted that the cost of installing solar panels has fallen much more rapidly than experts had predicted.

Gore said an increasing percentage of Americans believe the burning of fossil fuels is causing disastrous climate changes.

“Mother Nature is making that point over and over from the 2008 flood in Cedar Rapids to the drought in California, and people are connecting the dots,” he said.

In Iowa, a leading agricultural state, the greatest immediate threats, he said, are drought and extreme rainfall events.

Projected temperatures in the Midwest will increase 5 degrees in the next 40 years under a business-as-usual energy scenario, he said.

“At the end of this century, Iowa will be hotter than Texas is now,” he said.

Iowa dew points, a measure of water vapor in the air, are 3.5 degrees higher than they were 35 years ago — a reflection of the fact that warmer air holds more moisture, Gore said.

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“The downpours get bigger, resulting in floods and crop failures, More rain comes in big storms, with longer dry spells, which can stretch into droughts, between them,” he said.

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