Gore sees transformative power of Web in politics

Al Gore discussed the transformative power of the Web in politics at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco Friday.

Barack Obama had a lot going for him already in this year's election, but his creative use of the Internet played a huge role in making him president elect, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore said Friday.

"It couldn't have happened without the Web," Gore said.

Gore closed this year's Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco by discussing the role of the Web in the election, his involvement with an Internet TV company and the dangers of climate change. The full-capacity crowd at the Palace Hotel greeted him and sent him off with standing ovations.

Obama's innovative use of the Web during his campaign, for everything from encouraging supporters to vote to raising funds, marks a turning point in how politicians use the Internet and in how citizens can participate for social change, Gore said.

"What happened in the election opens up a whole new range of possibilities," he said. "Now's the time to really move swiftly to exploit these new possibilities."

Gore also talked about how his company Current TV, of which he is chairman and cofounder, is attempting to use the Internet to break television's decades-old monopolization of information, which he said has had negative consequences.

"A reason why the political system hasn't been operating very well until this election is the deadening influence of the TV medium as it has been operating," he said.

Asked by conference chair John Battelle if he is worried that this Web-powered social involvement among citizens will lose steam, Gore said: "No, I'm not. It's very much in its infancy, barely beginning. We aren't many years away from TV sinking into the digital world and becoming a part of it."

"The social activism that's made possible by these new tools is just beginning to take off," he added.

Gore, who has become a leading voice in recent years for the protection of the environment, said President-elect Obama should be bold in his goals to address climate change. For example, he should set a national goal for the U.S. to get all its electricity from renewable and non-carbon sources within 10 years.

"We can do it," he said, amidst heavy applause from the audience.

He cited various imminent dangers for the environment, including the 75 percent to 80 percent chance that in the next 5 years, the North Pole ice cap, which has been around for about 3 million years and is almost the size of the continental U.S., will disappear.

"This is an apocalyptic signal from the planet itself," Gore said.

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