It may be entrepreneurs who end up saving the planet.

That's according to Al Gore, the activist and former vice president, who spoke recently at the Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal, about the growing number of businesses that are committed to areas such as energy, sustainability, and reducing the carbon footprint.

"There's a collision between human civilization and the ecological system of this planet," Gore said. "At the same time, we're in the early stages of a sustainability revolution that has the magnitude of the industrial revolution but the speed of the digital revolution."

Gore, who now serves as CEO of the sustainable investment firm Generation Investment Management, enumerated the technology companies that are seeking to mitigate the effects of climate change. Taiwan's Gogoro Global makes inexpensive electric scooters, for instance, while Kenya's M-Kopa Solar connects poor households to kerosene-free lighting. "We've seen cost reduction in [areas including] solar and wind energy, battery storage and electric vehicles," Gore said. "The efficiency improvements are too numerous to mention."

Gore's remarks come at a time when many critics say Trump's America is moving backward in terms of environmental policy. In June, the President vowed to pull the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord, the landmark 2015 agreement that aims to limit the average global temperature increase. The move prompted Tesla founder Elon Musk to depart the president's (now-defunct) economic advisory council, insisting that "climate change is real."

More recently, business leaders have expressed concern over the direction of the Environmental Protection Agency under Trump. Last week, the administration confirmed William Wehrum to serve as Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, despite the fact that he's reportedly sued the EPA more than 31 times over the past decade and has deep ties to the oil and gas industry. 

Gore sees entrepreneurs as triumphing over the "slow" politicians in Washington.

Inasmuch as these businesses are driving revenues while also trying to mitigate the effects of climate change, Gore says entrepreneurs are the most likely to have an impact. "Those of you who are building exciting new businesses can have much more influence than practically anybody else," he continued.

Ultimately, Gore likened the so-called 'sustainability revolution' to other major social movements throughout history, including the civil rights movement and, more recently, the LGBT rights movement in the U.S. These are all characterized by the verve and tenacity of their leaders, he said, even and especially in the face of political opposition.

"Now is your time," the politician concluded, "and remember that every great social movement that has advanced the cause of humanity has been led by young people."

Gore framed the conversation in no uncertain terms, his voice reaching a fever pitch: "Everything is at stake."

Published on: Nov 14, 2017