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Gore Pushes for Climate Change Commitment

It's Icy in Washington, but the Nobel Prize-Winner and Former Vice President Has the Dangers of Global Warming on His Mind

Z. Byron Wolf and Teri Finneman

Former Vice President Al Gore testifies about climate change at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 28, 2009. (Larry Downing/Reuters)

With the Washington, D.C. encased in ice from a winter storm, climate change crusader Al Gore argued for President Obama's economic stimulus plan, saying it will help fight global warming.

Despite the deep freeze outside Capitol Hill, the former vice president
urged lawmakers to move quickly to make investments in renewable energy
and clean cars to address the "dangerous and growing threat of the
climate crisis."

The former vice president appeared before the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee to promote Obama's economic recovery package. "The
plan's unprecedented and critical investments in four key areas --
energy efficiency, renewables, a unified national energy smart grid,
and the move to clean cars -- represent an important down payment and
are long overdue," Gore argued.

It would be a step, he said, in "beginning to solve the climate crisis."

It was unclear whether the endorsement by Gore, who has reached
an exalted standing among environmentalists, would affect congressional
support for the measure.

The stimulus plan is expected to be passed in the House today,
and be debated in the Senate next week. Obama hopes that differences in
the bill are worked out in time for him to sign it into law by

Gore showed up on Capitol Hill with an updated version of his
2006 documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," including time-lapsed photos
of melting glaciers, images of forest fires, diagrams of disappearing
polar ice caps and videos of methane bubbling out of Canadian lakes.

He also urged Congress to consider a cap-and-trade system for
carbon dioxide emissions,
whereby the government caps the amount of carbon that can be emitted by
businesses. Those that produce less carbon earn credits that can be
sold to businesses that produce more carbon.

Sen. Bob Corker, a Republican who holds the Tennessee Senate
seat once held by Gore, suggested that a carbon tax, refunded to
companies that produce less carbon, would be a better avenue. Gore said
a cap and trade policy is more likely to be enacted on a large scale

And for the United States, an over-reliance on carbon-based fuels is also a risk to national security and the economy, he said.

"As long as we continue to send hundreds of billions of dollars
for foreign oil -- year after year -- to the most dangerous and
unstable regions of the world, our national security will continue to
be at risk," Gore said.

"As long as we continue to allow our economy to remain shackled
to the OPEC roller coaster of rising and falling oil prices, our jobs
and our way of life will remain at risk," Gore said.

International Commitment to Combating Climate Change

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairs the Foreign Relations Committee and
said the United States should play a leading role in helping draft a
new global treaty on climate change at a conference in Copenhagen
later this year. President Bush withdrew the United States from the
1997 Kyoto treaty, which a sought a cap-and-trade system. But President
Obama seems more likely to support such an international system.

Gore said beyond what this country does within its own borders,
an international approach is imperative to address climate change.
"Otherwise it's like a bucket with a hole... The United States is the
only nation that can lead the world. And this is the worst challenge
the world has ever faced," Gore said.

More and more countries understand the need for action, and
there should be a worldwide commitment to reduce emissions and other
global warming pollutants, Gore said.


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"We have arrived at a moment of decision. Our home -- Earth --
is in danger," Gore said. "What is at risk of being destroyed is not
the planet itself, of course, but the conditions that have made it
hospitable for human beings."

"The Science is screaming at us," said Kerry, who, like Gore is a former Democratic Presidential candidate. Kerry also has his own tome on the threat of global warming.

"To the naysayers and the deniers out there, let me make it
clear the little snow in Washington does nothing to diminish the
reality of the crisis that we face," Kerry said.

The two former Presidential candidates ignored usual committee
rules on time and for more than an hour with their opening statements
and a riffing series of question and answer on what should be done.

The treaties and the cap-and-trade policy will have to follow, Gore said.

Nuclear Power, Greening the Economy

Unlike in testimony before Senate Environment Committee in 2007, Gore encountered no doubters as to the existence of climate change.

But there was some skepticism about how to address U.S. reliance on carbon-based fuel.

Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said the United States should encourage more nuclear development.

"If you accept every dire circumstance of climate change and you
take a clean and reliable source of energy off the table you make it
much more difficult to get where you're going to," Isakson said.

Gore countered that private investors tend to be wary of
nuclear development, which requires enormous investment up front. He
said nuclear plants in Europe are financed mostly with public money.

Investing in energy efficiency, renewables, a unified national
energy grid and clean cars will create millions of jobs, hasten the
economic recovery and begin to solve the climate crisis, Gore said.

Gore also pointed to the increase in weather-related disasters
-- fires, hurricanes and drought -- occurring due to climate changes
that "will increase even more dramatically the longer we delay action
on this."

Kerry said he would provide Gore's testimony to every member of the Senate.

"If ever there was an underscoring of the urgency, I think you've given it to us," Kerry said.


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