Al Gore, who emerged from political defeat to attain celebrity status as a
harbinger of the hazards of global warming, told thousands of scientists
Thursday in San Francisco that they have a responsibility to translate their
research into possible policy solutions.
Former Vice President Gore, presidential candidate turned climate
crusader, spoke at the annual meeting of the world's largest scientific
society, the American Geophysical Union.
He urged scientists to communicate the climate crisis "in ways that arouse
appropriate alarm that can motivate changes in behavior.''
From his opening line ("I am Al Gore. I used to be the next president of
the United States'') to his closing advice to speak out against censorship and
manipulation of research, he used dry humor and impassioned pleas to encourage
the scientists to play a new role in society.
"For civilization as a whole, we've somehow persuaded ourselves that we
don't have to care about what happens to future generations,'' he said to about
7,000 scientists, including 3,000 in an overflow room at the Marriott Hotel.
"We have a duty to act on the basis of the best evidence."
Even after 40 years of following the science of climate change, he said he
was surprised to learn this week about new, earlier projections for when the
Arctic sea ice will completely melt during the summertime. That research came
from scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of
"I was shocked that their horizon was 34 years under a business-as-usual
scenario. If we allow it to go, it won't come back under any timetable relevant
to the human species,'' Gore said.
Gore said he understands scientists' "frustration of completing work and
having it mischaracterized.
"Some information is misused,'' he said, and there are efforts to silence
He spoke of a news story Thursday about the Bush administration
instructing U.S. Geological Survey scientists to submit scientific papers and
other public documents for screening by supervisors. Other federal scientists,
such as those at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, have also
He also criticized the closing of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
libraries and purging of data, contrary to congressional direction.
Gore called it an effort to politicize science.
He now runs Generation Investment Management and Current TV as well as
serving as a consultant to Google and as a board member of Apple. His book, "An
Inconvenient Truth,'' is a best-seller, and his documentary is being talked
about as a possible Oscar nominee.
He appeared at the Commonwealth Club later Thursday afternoon with a panel
including Sen. Barbara Boxer, who is chairwoman-elect of the Senate Environment
and Public Works Committee; Duke Energy CEO Paul Anderson; and Stanford
University climate scientist Stephen Schneider. The experts, along with venture
capitalists Vinod Khosla and Dan Reicher, discussed ways to curb carbon dioxide
emissions with Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club.
The business people agreed that there are generally technological
solutions for improving energy efficiency and replacing oil, coal and plastics.
"But no solution works in the marketplace unless it's cheaper than fossil
fuel,'' Khosla said.
At present, there is no real incentive for corporations to invest in ways
to cut emissions because there has been no clear signal from Washington on what
the future regulatory picture will be, Duke's Anderson said.
©2006 San Francisco Chronicle