The former Vice President challenged the country to commit to producing 100% of electricity from renewable and carbon-free sources within 10 years.

As well as helping to reduce the impact of climate change, this major overhaul of the American energy sector would also renew the country’s economy, escape the problem of rising energy prices and avoid international conflict over oil, he said.

“I ask you to join with me to call on every candidate, at every level, to accept this challenge – for America to be running on 100% zero-carbon electricity in 10 years,” he said.

“It’s time for us to move beyond empty rhetoric. We need to act now.”

Comparing his challenge to John F Kennedy’s successful 1961 challenge to put a man on the moon within 10 years, Mr Gore said this goal was just as achievable.

“To those who say 10 years is not enough time, I respectfully ask them to consider what the world’s scientists are telling us about the risks we face if we don’t act in 10 years,” he said.

“The leading experts predict that we have less than 10 years to make dramatic changes in our global warming pollution lest we lose our ability to ever recover from this environmental crisis.”

Solar energy, wind energy and geothermal energy could provide enormous supplies of electricity to the US, he said.

However, he acknowledged that it would require a major overhaul of the country’s electricity grids to create a unified, national grid.

Responding to his speech, democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said: “I strongly agree with Vice President Gore that we cannot drill our way to energy independence, but must fast-track investments in renewable sources of energy like solar power, wind power and advanced biofuels, and those are the investments I will make as President.”

Meanwhile, his rival, republican John McCain, proposed a $300m prize to improve battery technology to make electric cars and plug-in hybrids more widely available as part of his Lexington Project to break America’s dependence on foreign oil.

Kate Martin

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