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Former Vice President Al Gore Headlines Sustainability Conference

University of Hawaii Sea Grant host Gore to discuss climate and sustainability

by Mary  J. Donohue, University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program

At the invitation of the University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program (UH Sea Grant), former Vice President Al Gore gave a rousing seminar to a full house at the University of Hawaii Stan Sheriff Center on April 15, 2014. Vice President Gore educated and entertained nearly 8000 people, including almost 3,000 students, who attended the free seminar to hear the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize recipient discuss climate change science and sustainability.

With equal doses of Southern charm and spitfire, Vice President Gore rallied the audience to take actions, large and small, to lesson the impacts of a changing climate.  Vice President Gore delivered an impassioned call for the moral courage to face the real risks posed by humankind’s alteration of our environment. In closing, Vice President Gore acknowledged the politics of climate change, “…The only thing we need is political will, and political will is a renewable resource…” Clips of Vice President Gore’s seminar can be found at: 

Vice President Gore’s seminar was the capstone event of a day-long conference hosted by UH Sea Grant, the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM) Office of the Chancellor and the Office of U.S. Senator Brian Schatz: “Ascent: Building a Secure and Sustainable Water and Energy Future for Hawaii.” Bringing together academics, business leaders, elected officials and others from within and outside Hawaii, the conference focused on actionable outcomes. An opening plenary by U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer preceded an expert panel that set the foundation for afternoon working groups focusing on Energy, Green Building, Community Design, Water and Implementation/Funding.

These working groups have remained active to achieve actions and projects identified during the meeting. For example, the Green Building group, led by faculty with joint appointments in the University of Hawai‘i College of Architecture and UH Sea Grant, has partnered with UHM Facilities Management to reduce the use of potable water in cooling towers, conduct water catchment feasibility studies and educate the campus community about demand-side management of coupled water and energy known as the “energy-water nexus.”

To help understand and address the economic complexities of the adoption of distributed renewable energy systems in Hawaii and resultant policy and regulatory implications, the Energy group, led by faculty with joint appointments in the University of Hawaii College of Social Sciences and UH Sea Grant, is conducting research and outreach specific to the unique circumstances of insular communities. Other working groups have also remained active.

In addition to the public, faculty, and students, Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz and a host of other state and national leaders participated in the conference. “Vice President Gore has been a true friend and ally in the climate change fight. He is a leading voice on clean energy and I am honored he is joining us to discuss Hawaii’s future…,” said U.S. Senator Brian Schatz, Chairman of the Senate Water and Power Energy Subcommittee.

The seminar was the fifth UH Sea Grant Stephen and Marylyn Pauley Seminar in Sustainability. These seminars were established to bring to Hawaii individuals with extraordinary achievement and vision in their respective fields and who have demonstrated an ongoing passion to connect scholarship to application for the betterment of humankind. More information on the seminar series can be found at:

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