Saturday, April 29, 2006

More on Al Gore and Global Warming

Eleanor Clift of Newsweek (web exclusive) has an interview with Al on the MSNBC site. I posted yesterday on David Corn’s review of the new Gore film, An Inconvenient Truth, and almost immediately found this interview from Newsweek (web exclusive) and a follow-up editorial by Clift about the possibility that Gore may run fro president.

This is from the interview:

You use the phrase “connect the dots” quite often. You delivered a speech on Jan. 15, Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, that was critical of Bush for acting unlawfully in eavesdropping on Americans. Connect the dots from that speech to what you’re doing now.

This is different from that speech. I’m enjoying life, doing several different things that all fit together coherently for me. And one thing I do from time to time is when I can’t stand it anymore, I give a speech trying to contribute to the public dialogue about what we’re doing as a country. And the massive and almost certain illegal wiretapping of Americans outraged me and that’s why I gave that speech. That’s why I gave a speech on torture—several speeches on Iraq, et cetera, et cetera. But that is my contribution as a citizen to what Madison called an informed citizenry to take part in the political dialogue—but as a citizen. Now where the global-warming mission is concerned, I am a single-minded advocate to deliver a message that I think is crucial for our future. I don’t think that is a partisan message. I don’t think it should be a partisan message. I try to make it nonpartisan. And there are a few jabs that are just my authentic representations how I’ve evolved and come to the issue, but people who see this movie don’t see it as a political movie. And Republicans don’t find anything that they object to. Paramount has done these focus-group screenings, and they don’t see it like “Fahrenheit 9/11” at all. They see it as nonpolitical. So I don’t connect that to my periodic speeches on issues of the day. It is one of the issues of the day, but it’s one that I’m really devoting myself to, and I see it as different from the speeches I make.

Gore is pretty clear that he is all about the global warming issue now and sees this as his mission in life. He deflects any talk about possibly running for president in 2008 with the "been there, done that" approach. But people cannot stop talking him as a possible candidate. Clift followed up the interview with an editorial on Gore’s approach to being a candidate, assuming despite his claims to the contrary, that he will run in 2008.

Gore told NEWSWEEK that he’s in the middle of a campaign, but it’s not a campaign for a candidate. “Been there, done that,” he said.

Nobody believes him. By not playing the overt political game, Gore may be putting in place the first issue-driven campaign of the 21st century, one that is premised on a big moral challenge that is becoming more real with soaring gas prices and uncertain oil supplies. A senior Democrat who once ran for the White House himself but harbors no illusions the party will turn to him in 2008 looks at Gore and marvels, “This guy is running the best campaign I’ve seen for president.”

Whether he is or isn’t running almost doesn’t matter. Gore has the luxury of waiting until late in the political season to announce. He has universal name recognition, a proven ability to raise money, and he can tap into the machinery to launch a grass-roots campaign. Unlike front runner Hillary Clinton, there is no doubt about where Gore stands and what he believes in. He opposed the Iraq war, he was against the Patriot Act and he spoke out forcefully against President Bush’s torture policies and warrantless eavesdropping. Gore has become the darling of the left, yet global warming is not, or shouldn’t be, a partisan issue. The days when the first President Bush mocked Gore as “Ozone Man” are over, relegated to the dustbin of history. Conservative evangelical Christians see themselves as stewards of the earth.

Clift draws a parallel between Nixon’s loss to Kennedy and his resurgence in 1968 as the party’s best hope after Goldwater’s defeat in 1964. For many Democrats, the scenario is similar. After Kerry’s pathetic campaign in 2004, and with a lackluster field holding national name recognition (Feingold might be the exception here), Gore looks pretty good to a lot of Democratic strategists.

The question is not whether or not Gore could win in 2008 (many think the GOP has no one to offer aside from McCain, who is digging himself a deep credibility hole by sucking up to the radical right Christian groups), the question is whether or not Gore thinks being president is more important (or a better strategy) than working to solve the climate change crisis.

And make no mistake, this is a crisis. Gore talks about having ten years in which we can turn this thing around, assuming that everyone gets with the program. There’s no hope of that happening. Gore, as vice president, spoke in China (to their leaders) about climate change, but it seems to have fallen on deaf ears. With their massive push to become a world economic power rivaling the US (they want their currency and their language to be as ubiquitous as the dollar and English), they have discarded all concerns for the damage to the environment being caused by their industrialization process. We have no power to persuade them to change course. They point to our history (on nearly every issue) and say, "This is exactly what you did to become a great nation." This is their response to the crimes against humanity in Tibet, and it is their response to industrialization.

Some people argue that we are already past the tipping point for global warming, and the money being wasted on slowing it could better be used to solve other more immediate crises. Here is a quote:

To be sure, global warming is real, and it is caused by CO2. The trouble is that today’s best climate models show that immediate action will do little good. The Kyoto Protocol will cut CO2 emissions from industrialized countries by 30 percent below what it would have been in 2010, and by 50 percent in 2050. Yet, even if everyone (including the United States) lived up to the protocol’s rules, and stuck to them throughout the century, the change would be almost immeasurable - postponing warming for just six years in 2100.

Likewise, the economic models tell us that the cost would be substantial-at least $150 billion a year. In comparison, the United Nations estimates that half that amount could permanently solve all of the world’s major problems: it could ensure clean drinking water, sanitation, basic health care and education for every single person in the world, now.

Bjorn Lomborg, author of this article, is very critical of the Kyoto Protocal. He advocates that every nation on the planet pledge 0.1 percent of their GDP on research and development of non-carbon-emitting energy technologies. This would fairly distribute the burden such that rich nations pay more and carry more of the research burden.

If this were done, would we find ways to slow or reverse the inevitable?

Lomborg claims that global warming will primarily effect developing nations who are too poor to respond, but he apparently hasn’t seen Gore’s film, with its maps showing more than half of Florida under water, or the simulations showing how much of Beijing, New York City, Holland, and San Francisco would be flooded by rising sea levels.

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