A year ago, Dave Mowat, the chief executive officer of Vancity Credit Union, was one of those who thought global warming was something that was going to happen, some time, way in the future.
But yesterday in a speech that might be termed "Al Gore Light," he preached about the immediacy of the problem to a most unlikely audience -- the Vancouver Board of Trade. And he got a warm reception from about 200 attending the event at the Marriott Pinnacle Hotel.
"Months ago, years ago, it was climate change, whatever . . . maybe it'll be happening in 60 years, 100 years," he said.
Mr. Mowat, who heads Canada's largest credit union, said his thinking changed radically this winter, when a series of extreme weather events brought the global problem home to British Columbia.
Juxtaposing the mudslides that fouled Greater Vancouver's water supply this winter and the storms that devastated Stanley Park, with the hurricanes, droughts and floods occurring elsewhere in the world, he realized that global warming had already arrived.
Then Mr. Gore's Oscar-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, sealed his conviction.
"It is happening right now," he said at the event, which was headlined: "Can you handle the truth about climate change? Time for corporate action."
Mr. Mowat was so impressed by Mr. Gore's documentary that he applied to attend a seminar the former presidential candidate had offered to 1,000 selected delegates from around the world.
In January, Mr. Mowat spent two days with 200 other business leaders, environmentalists, academics and stars -- including actress Cameron Diaz -- at a retreat in Nashville.
Using a short selection of the slides from An Inconvenient Truth, supplemented with local images of B.C.'s pine-beetle-killed forests and storm-ravaged Stanley Park, Mr. Mowat gave what he called a "Core Gore" presentation.
He urged the audience to not only take action in their own personal and corporate lives, but also to play leadership roles as society grapples with the climate change problem.
Mr. Mowat used his own business as an example of how a company can become more environmentally sensitive -- while still turning a profit.
He said over the past several years, Vancity, a business that has long promoted environmental awareness, has cut power consumption by 50 per cent, through converting to LED signage and taking other steps, saving nearly $2-million. "And we're still profitable," he said.
Mr. Mowat said Vancity is committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2010, and he has set that goal for himself personally as well.
Mr. Mowat said the media is deluged at the moment with images and stories about the dangers of global warming, and many people are starting to feel overwhelmed by the problem.
"We want to go out and slit our wrists on the whole thing and get it over with," he said.
But Mr. Mowat said the technology already exists to make drastic cuts in carbon production and he urged people to look for solutions rather than giving in to despair.
"We have the ability . . . [to solve]what seems a great, unsolvable problem."