In the past decade, a lot has changed in our fight against climate change.
In a recent Q&A with Sen. Bernie Sanders published in The Guardian, former Vice President Al Gore pinpointed "two big things" that have changed since his groundbreaking documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" hit theaters in 2006.
Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for The New York Times.
One is rather promising. The other? Not so much.
1. First, the bad news: There's been a jaw-dropping increase in extreme weather that was considered relatively rare in 2006.
"The climate-related extreme weather events are way more common now, and way more destructive," Gore told Sanders. "Here in the U.S., in the last seven years, we’ve had 11 so-called 'once-in-a-1,000 year' downpours."
"1,000-year" is an official term used by organizations like the NOAA National Center for Environmental Information to describe the probability that such an event will happen in a given year. South Carolina's record-breaking October 2015 flooding — which The Weather Channel deemed "catastrophic" — was one of those events.
A man in Columbia, South Carolina, cleans up his home after much of it was destroyed in the floods that ravished the region in October 2015. Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images.
These events have become disturbingly normal, Gore said. On the other hand, we've also normalized many of the innovative solutions that help drastically cut back greenhouse gas emissions.
Which brings us to...
2. The thing that'll make you feel optimistic: When "An Inconvenient Truth" released in theaters over a decade ago, many solutions to reduce carbon emissions were still out of reach.
"In a growing number of cities and regions, electricity from solar and wind is cheaper than electricity from burning fossil fuels," the former vice president said. "Electric cars are becoming more commonplace. Efficiency technologies are coming down in cost."
In other words, going green has become good business.
Workers install solar panels in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 2016. Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images.
After President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the historic Paris climate agreement to dramatically lower the world's carbon emissions, many have argued the country will reach its targets anyway as sustainable technologies continue to boom.
An analysis by Morgan Stanley found that the economic benefits to switching to renewable energies is outweighing the pros to keeping up the status quo:
"By our forecasts, in most cases favorable renewables economics rather than government policy will be the primary driver of changes to utilities’ carbon emissions levels. For example, notwithstanding president Trump’s stated intention to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord, we expect the US to exceed the Paris commitment of a 26-28% reduction in its 2005-level carbon emissions by 2020."
As Gore put it, "The problems are worse, but the solutions are here."
We can't assume progress will happen, though; we have to work for it.
"All over the country activists are being energized," Gore said. And it's those activists — not just politicians in Washington — who will make the difference. "We are counting on people at the grassroots level."
Gore sat down to chat with Sanders to promote his new film on climate change, "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power," which opens in theaters on July 28, 2017. Watch a trailer below: