Climate Reality at 15: Who We Are and Where We’re Going
Following the release of “An Inconvenient Truth” in 2006, former US Vice President Al Gore created The Climate Reality Project to train the next generation of organizers and activists to spread the word about the climate crisis and catalyze solutions around the world.
That’s the (very) short story of how we got our start 15 long years ago. We were born of Vice President Gore’s grounded belief that together, we can and will solve the crisis.
A lot has happened in the years since – so we thought we’d take a quick trip down memory lane. Like sitting in front of a fireplace, reminiscing. Who can help it this time of year?
Who We Are
Did you know that Climate Reality was kind of born in a barn? Makes more sense why we’re so interested in the weather now, doesn’t it?
Jokes aside, our very first activist training really did take place in a barn on Vice President Gore’s farm in Tennessee all the way back in 2006.
“An Inconvenient Truth,” the vice president’s documentary, which would go on to win two Oscars, had just hit the theaters and struck a chord with a global audience. The film highlighted the warming of our planet due to our dependency on fossil fuels, and how we needed to switch to cleaner sources of energy to avoid the worst-case scenario of climate change.
That reality (see…) got people talking about the climate crisis in a way we’d never seen before. People began talking to their friends, their family members, and everyone they knew about what they’d just seen. And they’d all end up at the same question: “What can I do?”
Knowing that anyone could become a powerful messenger on climate and believing that when more people heard about the crisis from the voices they knew and spoke to every day real change could happen, the former vice president got to work.
He brought 50 climate activists to his farm in Carthage, Tennessee. Inside a barn, attendees watched and learned how to present the climate change slide deck made famous in “An Inconvenient Truth.” The one Vice President Gore had himself long been showing to awed audiences around the world. They were then able to take this tangible, real-world information back to their communities to spread the word about the crisis and its solutions.
And with that, a grassroot movement began.
42,000-Plus Climate Reality Leaders (and Counting)
Our trainings have changed significantly since that first one in Tennessee – but they continue to be real barn burners. (We’re sorry, it’s been quite a year or two, huh?)
What started with 50 concerned voices has transformed into a space for 42,478 trained Climate Reality Leaders around the world to join together and fight for the progress we need to prevent irreversible climate damage and justly transition to a clean energy economy.
The growth and change of our Climate Reality Leadership Corps training events has been truly extraordinary.
Since 2006, alongside Vice President Gore, Climate Reality has hosted 48 training events in 15 different countries. Those 40 thousand-plus Climate Reality Leaders? They hail from over 170 different nations all around the world.
Our multi-day training events feature star lineups of top scientists, elected officials, award-winning activists, incredible storytellers, and even celebrities.
And in 2020, like so much all around the world, they changed completely. The COVID-19 emergency shattered our sense of normalcy and forced us to grapple with the kind of world we wanted – and needed – when this crisis was over.
Even as we were no longer able to host our signature events in-person, we knew our advocacy could not be put on pause. The climate crisis certainly wasn’t sitting things out; no, global destruction at the hands of extreme weather events has continued apace throughout the pandemic.
Our transition to virtual programming has offered something of a silver lining during these difficult times. Beginning with our first-ever virtual training in July 2020, we realized that by taking our intensive, free learning events online, we opened the door to more audience members than we’ve ever been able to reach before.
Climate Reality Leadership Corps virtual trainings have brought a series of live and on-demand video sessions and learning exercises on the climate and justice crises and the solutions we have today to living rooms, bedrooms, home offices, classrooms, and so much more all around the world. The content has shifted from being global in nature to more regionally focused from training to training, with learning exercises and networking opportunities that allow attendees to localize their experience to their geographic area.
In 2021 alone, we trained nearly 11,000 new Leaders – the most we’ve ever trained in a single year. And we’re very much looking forward to hosting more trainings, both in-person and online, in the very near future.
Chapters and Campaigns Creating Change
Began in 2017, Climate Reality’s chapters program continues to be the primary means by which US-based Climate Reality Leaders and members of the public work together to achieve meaningful climate action. Chapters are self-directed by volunteer Climate Reality Leaders, with support from Climate Reality HQ and our growing team of regional and campaign-specific organizers.
Our 107 community and 26 Campus Corps chapters are running 206 different climate action campaigns across the country, looking to do everything from end coal ash pollution in Georgia and shut down pipelines in the Great Lakes region to reduce air pollution in and around Baltimore, Maryland.
Many of them – 55 to be exact– have been working closely with Climate Reality staffers on Our Climate Moment, our federal advocacy campaign launched in early 2021.
(Those same chapters held 117 meetings during two “virtual fly-in” events in June and September to develop and strengthen relationships with key decisionmakers on Capitol Hill and encourage their support of strong climate action. Who’s talking truth to power and getting things done? Climate Reality chapters, that’s who!)
Climate Reality campaigns like 100% Committed – over 170 municipalities, universities, and businesses have joined us to commit to transitioning to 100% clean electricity by the year 2030! – and past initiatives like Why? Why Not? have mobilized activists at all levels in ways that extend beyond the traditional green movement, pushing schools and local businesses to commit to clean electricity and pressing world leaders to act on climate change.
But with Our Climate Moment, Climate Reality’s commitment to climate justice has taken center stage. The campaign brings together activists from across the US to push Congress to embrace bold policies that clean up the pollution hotspots killing families of color and accelerate a just transition to clean energy that creates good jobs and opportunity everywhere from our big cities to rural communities.
In the last few months of 2021, much of that effort has focused on the passage of both the bipartisan infrastructure plan and the Build Back Better Act through the US Congress. While we got there with the one, the other is still a bit up in the air. Things might look a little grim at the moment, but this is no time to lose hope. We are pushing harder than ever to get major climate legislation signed into law in the new year!
Climate And Environmental Justice
Part of that drive is born of absolute moral necessity.
As an organization, Climate Reality has since its founding stood up for those most affected by climate change, and over the last few years in particular, we have redoubled our efforts toward building a more just and equitable world – one where all voices are heard.
We’re certainly listening. And one thing we’ve learned ourselves from frontline communities is this: To build a winning coalition and beat the climate crisis, we need to understand and respond to how social inequities intersect with the climate fight. Only then will we be telling the real story of climate change – a crisis that doesn’t affect everyone equally, a challenge that in many instances impacts those already enduring other hardships more acutely.
We cannot fight for a better future while looking past the real evils plaguing the present.
To that end, the fight for justice has become central to our work. Because there cannot be climate justice without racial justice. End of story.
For years, our Climate Speakers Network has been working alongside faith, minority, youth, and low-income communities across the US to bring the global challenge of climate change down to street level. And our Climate Justice For All grant program was launched in 2020 to support marginalized communities in the US facing ongoing environmental injustices.
These grants provide not only financial support to BIPOC-led grassroots organizations for climate-specific projects in their communities, but also a network to amplify their stories, share their experiences, and connect them with others in the fight for a better, more-just, and sustainable tomorrow.
The point is this: We are committed to showing up. To standing with, supporting, and fighting as one with our partners, colleagues, employees, friends, over 42,000 Climate Reality Leaders, and all people who experience social injustice and racism of any kind.
And then together, fighting the climate crisis and winning.
Where We’re Going
Because – with the costs of clean energy decreasing all the time and people rising up around the world to demand their leaders take action – we can win. And we will win.
Our work is far from over, though; especially in this rare moment when real progress feels so possible.
In the past 15 years, with our movement propelling it forward, the world really has made incredible progress in fighting the climate crisis – in areas from advancing climate science and rapidly growing renewable energy technologies to awareness-building and international cooperation. But we have so much more to accomplish by putting all we’ve learned over those same years to work.
Looking ahead, all we see is possibility.
There really is a path to limiting global warming and ending the climate crisis. We really can do it while lifting everyone up and providing justice to those who’ve contributed the least to climate change but experience its impacts first and worst. We really can do it all – together.
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