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Leaders ‘criminally negligent’ if they ignore climate science, says Al Gore

By Megan Rowling

MADRID, Dec 10 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore urged governments negotiating at U.N. talks in Madrid this week to ramp up their efforts to tackle climate change, saying humanity’s future was at stake.

“It is criminally negligent for the generation of leaders in power today to stick their heads in the sand and ignore what the scientists are telling us in ever more dire terms,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We have to stop using the sky as an open sewer for heat-trapping pollution. It threatens the future of human civilisation,” said Gore, who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for his work to raise awareness on climate change.

In 2015, almost 200 governments agreed to curb their emissions, to limit the expected rise in global average temperatures to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius, and ideally to 1.5C above pre-industrial times.

But the world has already heated up by about 1 degree, and is on track for warming of roughly 3 degrees, even if countries meet their current targets to curb emissions.

Scientists say such a temperature rise could lead to longer and more frequent heatwaves, widespread crop failures and water shortages, growing forced migration and surging natural losses.

In Madrid, U.N. officials, developing countries, young people and green groups have called on the world’s biggest and richest polluters to promise to cut their emissions further and faster in updated climate action plans due by the end of 2020.

Gore said Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg and millions of other young people “are absolutely right when they say not enough is being done, by a long shot.”

“They have every right and every justification to demand as loudly as they can that we adopt policies in the world that are worthy of their future,” he said.

In the United States, the increasingly evident effects of global warming are “leading to demands for change,” he noted.