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Al Gore calls for a green building revolution

November 12, 2009 |  3:27 pm

AlGoreSaying he "used to be the next president of the United States" and is now a "recovering politician," Nobel laureate and former Vice President Al Gore spoke Wednesday night at Greenbuild, the world's largest sustainable design conference, calling for a green revolution to solve the country's problems.

"We have a climate crisis at the same time we have an economic crisis at the same time we have a national security crisis," Gore said to a cheering crowd of thousands at Chase Field in Phoenix. "We need to create millions of good new jobs. Well, I know where we can get at least 2.5 million good new jobs: by building green buildings and retrofitting."

Gore and wife Tipper live in a 100-year-old house in Nashville that they green retrofitted, winning them the first gold LEED standard in the state from the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. Gore's New York office is in the only platinum LEED skyscraper in that city, the Bank of America building.

"Almost 40% of the global-warming pollution in our country comes from old, inefficient, leaky buildings that don't have to be that way," said Gore, pointing out yet another inconvenient truth of American living to attendees of a conference that has drawn 28,000 this year and runs through Friday.

He pointed out that the U.S. market for green building products and services has grown from $7 billion in 2005 to $12 billion in 2007 to a projected $60 billion for 2010. He urged the green building movement to keep environmental standards high and to speak out against greenwashing. And he condoned continuing national legislation that would help homeowners pay the upfront costs of investments in green technologies.

"It's crucial to change the lights and windows, but it's even more important to change the laws and policies, so we as citizens have to speak out," he said. "Every single day in this world we're putting 90 million tons of global-warming pollution into the atmosphere. ... National academies of science in every major country have reaffirmed that finding, and they're shouting from the rooftops to say you have to do something."

Calling the environmental crisis "a challenge to our system of democracy," he also said Americans will be able to solve it.

"We have all the tools we need to solve three or four climate crises. We only need to solve one," he said.

Evoking the memory of John F. Kennedy's call to put a man on the moon in the 1960s, Gore said, "We as Americans have the capacity to do what we put our minds to. We have the ability to solve this crisis. We can do it."

-- Susan Carpenter in Phoenix

Photo: Al Gore at George Washington University in Washington, a previous stop on his speaking tour. Credit: Olivier Douliery / Abaca Press / MCT

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