Al Gore’s challenge to America: kick the oil habit in a decade

Al Gore making Climate Challenge to America - courtesy New York Times

“There are times in the history of our nation when our very way of life depends upon dispelling illusions and awakening to the challenge of a present danger. In such moments, we are called upon to move quickly and boldly to shake off complacency, throw aside old habits and rise, clear-eyed and alert, to the necessity of big changes. Those who, for whatever reason, refuse to do their part must either be persuaded to join the effort or asked to step aside. This is such a moment. The survival of the United States of America as we know it is at risk. And even more – if more should be required – the future of human civilization is at stake.”

With these words, climate crusader Al Gore opened a powerful speech delivered in Washington DC on 17 July 2008, in which he issued what he called ‘A Generational Challenge to Repower America’ to take bold steps towards solving the climate crisis.

At one point he told fellow Americans: “We’re borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet. Every bit of that’s got to change.”

Having outlined the environmental, security and economic implications of America’s addiction to oil, Gore challenged his nation “to commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years”.

I was immediately reminded of President Kennedy’s pledge to Congress on 25 May 1961 where he said:
“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him back safely to the earth.”

In fact, later on in his speech Gore referred to this saying: “When President John F. Kennedy challenged our nation to land a man on the moon and bring him back safely in 10 years, many people doubted we could accomplish that goal. But 8 years and 2 months later, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the surface of the moon.”

Al Gore’s full speech, according to a video recording posted on YouTube, lasted 27 minutes — but the We Campaign has released the highlights of the speech running for 5 minutes:

Read the text of his full speech on the We Campaign website.

Read The New York Times coverage of Al Gore speech

The We Campaign is a project of The Alliance for Climate Protection — a nonprofit, nonpartisan effort founded by Nobel laureate and former Vice President Al Gore. Our ultimate aim is to halt global warming. Specifically we are educating people in the US and around the world that the climate crisis is both urgent and solvable.

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