Watch CBS News

Al Gore on his hopes for the planet: "Job number one is to stop using the sky as an open sewer"

Al Gore on the "State of the Planet"
Fifteen years after "An Inconvenient Truth" documentary, Al Gore speaks about climate change 07:14

U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, which are helping warm the planet, increased by 6.2% last year as the economy rebounded after pandemic lockdowns—fueled by a rise in coal-generated power and pollution from trucking. 
Former Vice President Al Gore has been warning about the climate emergency for decades. 
He's been living on his 400-acre Tennessee farm since the pandemic began. Most people would not consider Gore to be a farmer.   
 "I don't think so and truth to tell, I don't have many calluses on my hands either," Gore joked with CBS News' senior national and environmental correspondent Ben Tracy. 

His team handles most of the farm work, tending to the sheep and raising the animals that help fertilize the land where they are growing everything from carrots and beets to a variety of greens. 
They are sent to local markets, but this land outside Nashville is also Gore's climate change laboratory. 
He is collecting a soil sample as he experiments with what is known as regenerative farming, which Gore said will "cut back on the plowing." 
"There are better ways to plant," he said. 
There is three times more carbon stored in the topsoil of the earth than all the trees and plants combined. By plowing less and making that soil more fertile, scientists believe that farmers could help trap massive amounts of additional planet-warming carbon emissions in the ground. 
"Job number one is to stop using the sky as an open sewer for all this man-made global warming pollution," Gore said. "That's what's making the weather crazy and dangerous—leading to all of the consequences that are on the TV news almost every night now." 
Gore says Mother Nature is now making the most effective argument for climate action, and he is encouraged by the rapid growth of solar and wind power and people buying electric vehicles in record numbers.   
But the planet is still rapidly warming as we continue to pump near-record amounts of pollution into the sky, leading scientists to declare a code red for humanity. 
"A realist will tell you 'Look, we've done some damage, some of it regrettably is not recoverable.' But we go from where we are. You want to avoid tipping people into despair because some people go from denial to despair without pausing at the intermediate step of actually doing something about it," Gore said. 
After attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, he said 2022 is the year world leaders need to stop talking and actually start cutting their greenhouse gas emissions.   
"Some of the pledges are still weak and we need to measure what they're doing and we need to keep an eye on them," Gore said. 
He is a major investor in a new tech platform called Climate TRACE. It uses satellites, sensors and artificial intelligence to track greenhouse gas emissions around the globe, from specific power plants and factories to individual cargo ships and even forests which release all of their stored carbon when they burn. 
Gore believes this will be an important tool to hold countries accountable for their pollution. 
He has been sounding the climate alarm for more than four decades — first as a young congressman and then 15 years ago, with his film "An Inconvenient Truth." 
It earned him an Oscar, a Nobel Peace Prize, and plenty of scorn from climate change deniers. 
Despite all his accolades, Gore said he has not succeeded in getting the message across. 
"This crisis is still getting worse faster than we're deploying the solutions. There is a remaining question about whether we can solve it in time," he said. 
He said he's still optimistic, mainly because of young people all over the world now demanding change—including Greta Thunberg. 
She and her fellow climate activists accuse world leaders of not doing enough and this former politician does not want them to tone down their criticism. 
"The more they march, the more noise they can make, the more demands they insist upon, the faster progress we'll make. I'm a firm believer in that," said Gore.   
He still believes the climate crisis that humans created is one that can be solved. 
"The direction of travel is clear and I do believe that we will get there," said Gore. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.