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Gore to Congress: "The Planet has a Fever."
Jon Lebkowsky, 22 Mar 07
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Al Gore's had some great moments lately - he won an Oscar for "An Inconvenient Truth" and wrote the foreword to Worldchanging: A Guide to the 21st Century - and yesterday he spent hours testifying before Congress on global warming, saying "The planet has a fever."

If your baby has a fever, you go to the doctor. If the doctor says you need to intervene here, you don't say, `"Well, I read a science fiction novel that told me it's not a problem." If the crib's on fire, you don't speculate that the baby is flame retardant. You take action.

What's interesting about Gore's testimony, though, is not his argument that global warming is for real and needs mitigation. That's not news to those of you who read Worldchanging on a regular basis. What's interesting was Gore's attempt to have an impact on policy, and the specific kinds of policy that he's proposed. He suggested, for instance, that lawmakers should cut carbon dioxide and other warming gases 90 percent by 2050 to avoid a crisis. This would mean a ban on any new coal-burning power plants, unless they have state-of-the-art controls to capture greenhouse gas emissions. In place of coal, Gore sees the potential for a network of small-scale producers of electricity to emerge, a kind of Internet for energy production.

He also discussed other potential solutions, such as cap and trade systems, which incentivize controls on emissions by assigning them a cost, creating permits that assign a right to emit a specific quantity - usually one ton of pollution per permit. Companies that can reduce emissions at relatively low cost can sell their permits to companies that face a higher cost. This system sets a clear limit for emissions, and it allows companies flexibility in meeting their targets. Another suggestion: carbon neutral or "green" mortgages that are associated with offsetting programs to neutralized the carbon footprint of homes as they're financed.

Though in some ways it's advantageous for political icon Gore to use his visibility and connections to boost consciousness about global warming and create political support for mitigation policies, there's a down side: when you're a political figure, everything is about politics. For instance, Gore's message to Congress yesterday was overshadowed by speculation whether he'll run for office again. Even pundits who said that the answer is "no" burned many cycles explaining why they think so.

Even worse, Gore's involvement, despite (or perhaps because of) his passionate commitment and hard work, might be seen as continuing the politicization what should be a nonpartisan issue. It would be great to find prominent Republicans who would stand with Gore and argue that the planetary "fever" is everybody's concern, and not a plank on one party's platform. Maybe American conservatives could even take a page from the notebooks of their British and German counterparts (or even the Governor of California) and compete to prove that their solutions for slashing carbon emissions are better.

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Global warming is junk science at best. Algore, a "C" student once said to have a room temperature IQ, is a political opportunist. He is also a hypocrite in that he will not reduce his privileged standard of living in the way he wants everyone else to.

Why is it that liberal solutions to problems, real and imaginary, involve tax increases, humongous bureaucracies, and anti-business regulation? Face it, virtually all of the proposed "green" legislation will do nothing to combat global warming (since it is part of a natural 1500 or so year cycle anyway), but most will cut into our freedoms and wealth.

Global warming is not a significant threat to anything but our property and liberty. Liberal policies that cripple our economy and loot private capital while diverting government resources from things that really need to be done (such as successfully prosecuting the War on Terror)are much more likely to do us harm than any of Algore's doomsday scenarios.

Until you libs can explain how this planet has gone through several cycles of extreme cooling and warming long before man was on the scene or why it is that Mars is also apparently warming it seems like your rhetoric and politics are a lot more hot air than anything going on in the atmosphere.

Right Hook
Boots On Blog

Posted by: Right Hook on 22 Mar 07

Mr. Hook,

As noted in Mr. Lebkowsky's post, the discussion of these matters too readily lends itself to politicisation; at issue is not Mr. Gore himself (though personal choices certainly come into play in the public arena). More important are the real challenges we face in the incoming century. (If global warming is "junk science" then you must discount the evaluation of humankind's most respected scientists. Why, when science advances industry, are there so few questions about its legitimacy; yet, when scientists determine there is apparent harm caused by our activities, science suddenly has no meaning?)

Yes, there are threats from militant ideologues; however, we cannot ignore any one matter to focus solely on another. I fear we tend too much to segregate our world into "issues" (as if any one thing is completely disconnected from another). There are a thousand strands of weave connecting terrorism, the arms trade, corruption, education, health, water, and so forth. I hope you can see the things you are concerned about, at some level, will connect back to the health of the environment. Of what use are low taxes and liberty in a place ruined and overrun with the refuse of our "freedoms"?

The Earth does not care whether this is a "conservative" or "liberal" argument. Whilst we argue over semantics, the world will continue to react to the damage inflicted upon it. And, yes, there are long-term trends of warming and cooling, however our actions are acting as an accelerant. Also, there are billions more people on the planet now than during prior cycles. Whereas, in the past, it may have been feasible for a people group to uproot and relocate over time, where do we expect the many hundreds of millions of people living in coastal areas to go on such short notice?

Unfortunately, we have no other Earth to deal with; we must come to a consensus of thought and action or, in short order, we may no longer have this world at all. I do not care for doomsday rhetoric; the words too quickly stray into the realm of religion and fanaticism. However, there is a difference between the fanatic and the pragmatic; not all people concerned with the environment are "flaming liberals." These things are happening all around us; nay-saying will not stem the coming realities.

Posted by: Jason Nicholas on 23 Mar 07

Kudos to Worldchanging for keeping the Denier posting up. It shows you're not afraid to face your critics (if they deserve to be called that.)

It is horribly frustrating to deal with these people. You feel like a rat in a wheel.

I keep my temper by remembering how horribly the Abolitionists were treated, and the Suffragists.

Posted by: rob on 23 Mar 07

"and the only cure is MORE COWBELL"

I'm delighted to see the global movement to ban incandescent bulbs. I discussed that as an indicator of taking energy efficiency seriously on WC several years ago and apparently we've hit the threshold. Also strong evidence that my thesis about environmentalism being mainly about banning things that are bad for everybody is not out of the running...

By the way, I'm a fairly solid environmentalist - helped edit "Small is Profitable" and "Winning the Oil Endgame," invented the hexayurt refugee shelter and on. Quite a solid rep.

And, you know what? I don't believe our current models of climate change are worth a damn. I don't think that, until we can explain things like the temperature record over the past 1000 years - never mind the past 10,000 or 100,000 - scientists have any business running around telling people that they are 100% sure of anything. It's unscientific.

HOWEVER, that said, if you're 80% certain that a 50km asteroid is going to hit the earth in 20 years, do you wait until you are 100% certain before doing the research to stop it and launching probes?

I think the answer is no. But for anybody who is CERTAIN about anthropogenic global warming, I have a question:

"In 100 years, how much of our current climate modeling will be regarded as accurate understandings of the global climate system?"

If you answer "not much because by then we'll know a lot more hopefully" then you must admit the converse - right now we don't know very much and are fumbling in the dark in a potentially very risk situation indeed.

It is an acute problem that we do not know, for sure, if we are causing the climate to heat up. It is an acute problem that we can't figure out how to cut our carbon output enough to rule out that as a cause of warming or to solve the problem.

I worry. But that doesn't mean that I'm sure. I retain a healthy respect for the gaps in our models.

Posted by: Vinay Gupta on 24 Mar 07

I think we're finally at a turning point. I just heard that Gore will be running with Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2008.

I think they will be unstoppable, they will win both the green liberal vote, the vote of everyone who is sick of the war and pretty much all the action movie meatheads.

Vote Gore Schwarzenegger 08!
Finally Climate Change issues are being taken seriously.

Posted by: Brian on 24 Mar 07

Vinay said,

I don't think that...scientists have any business running around telling people that they are 100% sure of anything. It's unscientific.

True enough, such a stance would be unscientific, Vinay, but please name the scientists who say that anthropogenic global warming is 100% certain. You must not have read the IPCC's Summary for Policy Makers, most denialists fault the IPCC because they say they are only 90% certain.

If 80% is good enough for asteroids would you not admit that 90% certainty is good enough for global warming?

You seem to imply that we should be doing something, so why spread disinformation?

Posted by: Tavita on 25 Mar 07

Mr. Hook says

"Until you libs can explain how this planet has gone through several cycles of extreme cooling and warming long before man was on the scene or why it is that Mars is also apparently warming it seems like your rhetoric and politics are a lot more hot air than anything going on in the atmosphere."

Sorry, Hook, your black and white libs vs. conservatives world does not exist. Why not ask President Bush why he thinks anthropogenic global warming is real? Here's what the conservative Bush administration thinks of the latest IPCC report.

"The Administration welcomes the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which was developed through thousands of hours of research by leading U.S. and international scientists and informed by significant U.S. investments in advancing climate science research," U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman said. "Climate change is a global challenge that requires global solutions. Through President Bush's leadership, the U.S. government is taking action to curb the growth of greenhouse gas emissions and encouraging the development and deployment of clean energy technologies here in the United States and across the globe."

“I congratulate my colleagues at the IPCC for their years of research, and look forward to using their scientific findings as we continue America’s efforts to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions,” said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. “Through our commitment to sound science and innovation, the Bush Administration has built a solid foundation to address the environmental challenges of the 21st Century.”

Or why not ask Dennis Hastert?

A lot of those recommendations are more regulations and more taxation," said former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., though he added that he agrees with Gore that the scientific debate on climate change is over. "I think we can find answers to use the coal energy, to use the natural gas we have."

Posted by: Tavita on 25 Mar 07

jon lebkowsky: i just read a gallup poll that said,

Gallup typically sees greater concern for environmental problems from Democrats than from Republicans. Global warming may activate even greater partisan disagreement, given the Bush administration's general downplaying of the problem and the fact that Gore is the issue's most visible champion.

this, and some of the comments here, imply that right-wing and conservative opposition to global warming mitigation is tangled up in the bush-v-gore junk, so it's not just political, it's electoral political.

the trouble seems to be a lack of altruistic geeks in high office... whoever steps up with him from the republican side will have to be doing it from a business position, because it's sort of an earth-sciences desert over there...

Posted by: hibiscus on 25 Mar 07

*"electoral political" meaning there's a logic like, "george bush was fairly elected and that proves global warming is not a serious issue."

Posted by: hibiscus on 25 Mar 07

On Climate Change Technology
Without rereading the entire essay from Stephen Schneider in "Wisdom for a Livable Planet", climate modeling software / technology has had its bumpy history for sure - but I think it was the accuracy demonstrated some years ago by the rising temperatures associated with specific volcanic activity that started to drive home the coherency of what is an admittedly complex phenomenon (clmate change). Skeptics need the facts.

On Information, Media and Politics
Why so much misinformation? What a waste of time and energy! How long is it going to take network owners to understand that serving the public interest is good for everyone's long-term bottom line? Dumbing down and even editing out what's originally delivered as scientific fact is grossly negligent regarding management of the public trust. People have a right to know the facts regarding climate change and so many other related topics regarding our kids' future. Narrowing the content destroys public understanding, discourse and demand for competent leadership and sustainable solutions. Greater depth and diversity of content is vital, as news journalism is a significant if not complete source of one's understanding of what's going on in the world. Pressing for better information and journalism, by way of diverse ownership of media, is absoultely necessary. Claims to serve the public with objective journalism, while excluding or downplaying highly-significant announcements from what's understood to be a global scientific consensus, is dangerous and stupid, given the status quo's consequences.

Posted by: Francis Battaglia on 25 Mar 07

Actually, I am NOT OK with leaving "Denier" posts up...unchallenged. I like to counter them with sites that offer honest, reasoned, logic-based refutations, like these links:
Of course, as the saying goes, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink."

Posted by: Scott on 25 Mar 07



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