Former Vice President of the USA addressed students at the final round of the Oxford MBA's GOTO programme.
Mr Gore, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for raising awareness of the climate crisis, said that the 'exponential cost reduction curve' seen in consumer devices like mobile phones can now be applied to sustainable technologies such as solar panels. This shift is challenging the dominance of fossil fuels, and could see hundreds of millions of jobs created to retrofit the equipment into buildings, he said.
Mr Gore spoke as the climate crisis is again brought into sharp focus, due to parallels with the Covid-19 crisis. Studies show that air pollution causes almost 9 million people to die every year, and is correlated with higher death rates from Covid-19. Across both crises, lives could have been saved had society listened to evidence from experts including scientists and doctors, said Mr Gore. Both crises have highlighted societal inequalities and discrimination which must be addressed. Businesses must now consider their impact on society, instead of focusing on short-term gains, he said.
But Mr Gore remained optimistic. Recognising the legacy and position of Oxford and its business school, he issued a rallying call for students to help tackle the climate crisis, which challenges the viability of human civilisation.
As part of the session, four MBA students posed questions direct to Mr Gore about the climate crisis, responsible investment, and sustainability.
In thanks, Peter Tufano, Dean of Saïd Business School said that one of the scarcest resources that the world needs today is the strong, principled and evidence-based leadership Gore has showed through his entire lifetime.
To close the session – part of the Leadership in Extraordinary Times series, a panel of academics revealed winners of the Oxford MBA's GOTO programme – which saw 500 students from 60 countries compete for £10,000 in cash prizes by devising systematic solutions to address the climate crisis.
Overall winners were Hemp – who presented ideas for a 'closed loop' fashion supply chain, to encourage use of sustainable materials. Runners up were Behsalal Gambia – who suggested ways to encourage use of renewable energy. In third place, and winners of an audience vote, were Ecobytes, who explored ways to make energy use and data centres more sustainable, and in fourth place were Rethinking growth in Ladakh – who studied how to balance economic growth with preservation of traditional cultural identity and ecosystems.