al goreNobel Prize winner and former vice president Al Gore gave a wide-ranging, passionate talk at VentureBeat’s GreenBeat 2009 conference yesterday in San Mateo about combating global warming. We already liveblogged Gore’s talk, but for folks who don’t want to read the blow-by-blow description, here’s a summary.

Perhaps the most significant point: That energy efficiency is “the single largest solution to the climate crisis,” and the Smart Grid will “play a crucial role” in achieving that efficiency.

The Smart Grid will have a number of advantages, Gore said. It will reduce the carbon emissions that accelerate global warming.  It will give us more access to alternative energy sources like solar and wind, and will equip us to cope with the inconsistency of those sources. It will create jobs. And it will be cost-effective, eventually paying for itself by preventing grid failures and blackouts.

“The analogy to the internet is close to exact and very relevant,” Gore added. Like the internet, the Smart Grid is moving from a centralized to a distributed model, and it will spur the creation of new devices and applications.

Gore also talked about the obstacles facing the Smart Grid and other efforts to fight global warming. Those obstacles involve politics, economics, and short-term thinking. But those challenges must be overcome — because he said members of the next generation will ask one of two questions.

If the climate crisis has come to a devastating head, they’ll ask, “‘What were you thinking? Were you watching Dancing with the Stars? Didn’t you hear the scientists? Didn’t you care?'” Or they may see that we’ve taken the political, economic, and technological steps necessary to create “a new renewable energy platform and sustainable environment,” and they’ll ask, “‘How did you find the moral courage to rise and solve a crisis that so many people said was impossible to solve?'”

[photo:David Lin]