CARTHAGE, Tenn. (CBS Morning News) — U.S greenhouse gas emissions, which are helping warm the plant, came roaring back in 2021.
New data show they 6.2% 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.
It would be easy to suspect he could be discouraged about the world's lack of significant action on climate change.
But in a wide-ranging interview with CBS This Morning, a hopeful Gore emerged. As Gore took a ride in his electric ATV, he showed off the 400 acre farm in Carthage, where he's been living since the pandemic hit.
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. All of it is sent to local market, but this land outside Nashville is also Gore's climate change laboratory.
"And then just push it in," Gore said as he was collecting a soil sample as he experiments with what's known as regenerative farming. "That means cut back on the plowing. There are better ways to plant.
There's actually 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 said 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."
He said mother nature is now making the most effective argument for climate action, and he's encouraged by the rapid growth of solar and wind power along with people buying electric vehicles in record numbers. But the planet is still rapidly warming, as humans 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," Gore said. "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."
After attending the recent climate conference in Scotland, Gore 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.
Right now, Gore 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. Looking at the app, Gore showed Middletown Steelworks in Butler County, Ohio. The app can track from specific power plants and factories to individual cargo ship and even forests, which release all of their stored carbon when they burn. Gore said he believes this will be an important tool to hold country's accountable for their pollution.
The group publishes the data.
"We're not the climate cops," he said. "We're maybe the neighborhood watch but our neighborhood is the whole world."
BEN TRACY: "Some people called you a kook for being too far left on the environmental stuff. In a kind of unfortunate way do you feel like what you've been saying all along has been validated?"
GORE: " Well I certainly wish I had been wrong and more to the point, what I've been saying is really just channeling what the scientific community has been saying."
BEN: "At the top of your film you say 'I've been trying to tell this story...
GORE: "...for a long time and I feel as if I've failed to get the message across."
BEN: "Do you now feel like you've succeeded in getting the message across?
GORE: "No. I have not succeeded yet, 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's still optimistic, mainly because of young people all over the world demanding change.
GORE: "The young people are really driving this."
BEN: "A lot of those young people seem pretty fed up with politicians.
GORE: "yeah blah blah blah as Greta says..."
BEN: " Exactly."
GORE: "...and I'm with her. I'm with her."
Greta Thunberg and her fellow climate activists accuse world leaders of not doing nearly enough. And Gore — a former politician — doesn't want them to tone down their criticism.
GORE: "No (laughs) I want 'em to - in the words of Spinal Tap - I want 'em to turn it up to an 11."
BEN: "feet to the fire."
GORE: "Absolutely. And 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."
And, he even still believes the climate crisis we created is one we can also solve.
"The direction of travel is clear and I do believe that we will get there."