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Former Vice President Al Gore: Investors can lead climate change battle

  • Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore said investors could be a linchpin in leading progress against climate change
  • Gore pointed to "really significant" cost reductions for climate-saving technologies, such as solar, wind, batteries and electric vehicles

Former Vice President Al Gore pointed to investors, instead of governments, as a linchpin in leading progress on fighting climate change.

"Governments can be very fickle," Gore, who narrowly lost his bid to become U.S. president in 2001, said at the Milken Institute's Women Leaders' Summit in Singapore on Wednesday. "But once there is a big shift in the investment marketplace, then that generates a momentum that's really unstoppable."

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Earlier this year, President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris agreement, an international accord aimed at reducing the impact of climate change, despite the objections of many large corporations.

But Gore said the role of investors has become more important as climate change worsens. He pointed to recent extreme weather events, including Hurricanes Harvey and Irma as well as devastating flooding in Bangladesh, India and Nepal.

"This community [of investors] can avoid an avoidable risk and seize the greatest opportunities in the history of business and commerce by looking clearly at the new reality we face and deploying assets accordingly," Gore said.

He highlighted the "really significant" cost reductions for climate-saving technologies, such as solar, wind, batteries and electric vehicles, and noted that the fastest-growing profession is windmill technician.

The rise in global sea levels has accelerated since the 1990s amid increasing temperatures, with a thaw of Greenland's ice sheet pouring ever more water into the oceans, a team of international scientists reported in July.

In the U.S., the cost of climate change is expected to be steep. A Science study estimates that every one degree Celsius increase in global mean temperature will cost the U.S. 1.2 percent of its economic growth. Separately, a recent assessment by Lloyds estimated that flooding ranked high among the top five risks to global economic growth, and could cost upwards of $430 billion.

But Gore added that technological advances were providing solutions to slow climate change, noting that was one of the reasons for the recent release of his new documentary, "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power," the follow-up to his 2006 Oscar-winning documentary "An Inconvenient Truth."

Gore noted, however, that lobbying interests could intervene.

"The legacy power of fossil fuel companies in many countries is such that they still have the ability to slow down this transition," he said.

"But investors who can adopt a clearer view of where we're going in the future have the opportunity and, I would argue, the obligation to their asset owners and their clients to really advocate for a clear-eyed view of where we should be going instead of surrendering to the narrow interests that some of these lobbying communities are pursuing."

—CNBC's Matt Zdun and Lucy Handley contributed to this report.