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Gore to Senate: Pass Stimulus Bill

Former vice president Al Gore testifies at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on global warming. (Jim Lo Scalzo/Bloomberg News)

Updated 12:41 p.m.
By Juliet Eilperin
Former vice president Al Gore urged lawmakers this morning to adopt a binding carbon cap and push for a new global climate pact by the end of this year in order to avert catastrophic global warming, calling the president's economic stimulus package a "down payment" on a new energy future.

Appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Gore delivered a short slide-show that amounted to an update of his Oscar-winning documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," lecturing some of his former colleagues that even if the world halted greenhouse gas emissions now the world could experience a temperature rise of between 2.5 to 7.5 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100.

"This would bring a screeching halt to human civilization and threaten life everywhere on earth, and this is by the end of this century," Gore said. He also called for the passage of the stimulus package, calling it "the first step" in regaining "control of our destiny."

"I urge this Congress to quickly pass the entirety of President Obama's Recovery package," he said.

The high-tech display included a graphic illustration of how the Arctic's permanent summer ice cover has melted in recent decades, a pulsating image the Nobel Peace Prize winner described as "thirty years in less than thirty seconds," and a short video clip of a scientist who ignited the methane gas seeping out of the melting Arctic permafrost.

After the audience watched the flames leap up and the researcher scurry away, Gore remarked, "She's O.K. The question is, are we?"

Gore received a largely-sympathetic hearing from the panel. The committee's chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) chided some conservatives who seized on the recent snowstorm in D.C. to question whether climate change is real, saying, "To the naysayers and skeptics and deniers still out there, let me add: a little snow in Washington does nothing to diminish the reality of this crisis."

Kerry delivered a lecture to developing nations as well from the dais, saying the U.S. would not make the mistake of leaving emerging economies out of any future climate agreement as it did during negotiations over the Kyoto Protocol in the early 1990s.

"In Kyoto people stiff-armed that discussion. But the landscape has shifted over the past decade, and now China is the world's largest emitter," Kerry said. "Developing countries will account for three-quarters of the increase in global energy use over the next two decades. A global problem demands a global effort, and today we are working toward a solution with a role for developed and developing countries alike, which will be vital as we work to build consensus here at home in tough economic times."

Gore didn't sugarcoat his message to senators today. While politicians including President Obama have touted the importance of exploring "clean coal technology," the former vice president said it was unlikely this technological advance "will occur in the short term, or even in the near term. We must avoid becoming vulnerable to the illusion that this is near at hand. It is not."

"That's a very direct and honest answer," Kerry replied, "and I appreciate it."

However Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, the committee's top Republican, asked Gore to draw on his experience as "a practicing politician" to explain how senators could muster a broad bipartisan majority for any international treaty that could come out of Copenhagen at the end of the year.

After distancing himself from his political past -- "I'm a recovering politician. I'm on about Step Nine." -- the former Democratic presidential nominee said developing countries' willingness to embrace binding climate goals coupled with the new scientific evidence of recent warming should boost the chances of a treaty passing the Senate.

Alluding to Obama's announcement this week that he would tighten U.S. auto emissions, Gore added, "President Obama's leadership, as manifested just two days ago, can itself be an important new element in [mobilizing] support for what needs to be done."

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who supporters a carbon tax rather than a cap-and-trade system, said he thought the only way to construct a bipartisan coalition on climate change was to be honest about what it means to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

"I think we can build consensus around transparency," Corker said, adding that when it comes to addressing global warming, "We're really talking about increasing the price of carbon."

Corker, who suggested Congress would be better off passing a carbon dioxide tax that would be fully-refundable to taxpayers, said even lawmakers who have some reservations about a carbon cap's economic impact need to acknowledge it will likely become reality.

"We're now firing with real bullets," he said. "The stars are aligning, and my sense is this year something may actually occur."

Gore's opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, follow:

We are here today to talk about how we as Americans and how the United States of America as part of the global community should address the dangerous and growing threat of the climate crisis.

We have arrived at a moment of decision. Our home - Earth - is in grave danger. 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.

Moreover, we must face up to this urgent and unprecedented threat to the existence of our civilization at a time when our country must simultaneously solve two other worsening crises. Our economy is in its deepest recession since the 1930s. And our national security is endangered by a vicious terrorist network and the complex challenge of ending the war in Iraq honorably while winning the military and political struggle in Afghanistan.

As we search for solutions to all three of these challenges, it is becoming clearer that they are linked by a common thread - our dangerous over-reliance on carbon-based fuels.

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.

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. Moreover, as the demand for oil worldwide grows rapidly over the longer term, even as the rate of new discoveries is falling, it is increasingly obvious that the roller coaster is headed for a crash. And we're in the front car.

Most importantly, as long as we continue to depend on dirty fossil fuels like coal and oil to meet our energy needs, and dump 70 million tons of global warming pollution into the thin shell of atmosphere surrounding our planet, we move closer and closer to several dangerous tipping points which scientists have repeatedly warned - again just yesterday - will threaten to make it impossible for us to avoid irretrievable destruction of the conditions that make human civilization possible on this planet.

We're borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet. Every bit of that's got to change.

For years our efforts to address the growing climate crisis have been undermined by the idea that we must choose between our planet and our way of life; between our moral duty and our economic well being. These are false choices. In fact, the solutions to the climate crisis are the very same solutions that will address our economic and national security crises as well.

In order to repower our economy, restore American economic and moral leadership in the world and regain control of our destiny, we must take bold action now.

The first step is already before us. I urge this Congress to quickly pass the entirety of President Obama's Recovery package. The plan's unprecedented and critical investments in four key areas - energy efficiency, renewables, a unified national energy grid and the move to clean cars - represent an important down payment and are long overdue. These crucial investments will create millions of new jobs and hasten our economic recovery - while strengthening our national security and beginning to solve the climate crisis.

Quickly building our capacity to generate clean electricity will lay the groundwork for the next major step needed: placing a price on carbon. If Congress acts right away to pass President Obama's Recovery package and then takes decisive action this year to institute a cap-and-trade system for CO 2 emissions - as many of our states and many other countries have already done - the United States will regain its credibility and enter the Copenhagen treaty talks with a renewed authority to lead the world in shaping a fair and effective treaty. And this treaty must be negotiated this year.

Not next year. This year.

A fair, effective and balanced treaty will put in place the global architecture that will place the world - at long last and in the nick of time - on a path toward solving the climate crisis and securing the future of human civilization.

I am hopeful that this can be achieved. Let me outline for you the basis for the hope and optimism that I feel.

The Obama Administration has already signaled a strong willingness to regain U.S. leadership on the global stage in the treaty talks, reversing years of inaction. This is critical to success in Copenhagen and is clearly a top priority of the administration.

Developing countries that were once reluctant to join in the first phases of a global response to the climate crisis have themselves now become leaders in demanding action and in taking bold steps on their own initiatives. Brazil has proposed an impressive new plan to halt the destructive deforestation in that nation. Indonesia has emerged as a new constructive force in the talks. And China's leaders have gained a strong understanding of the need for action and have already begun important new initiatives.

Heads of state from around the world have begun to personally engage on this issue and forward-thinking corporate leaders have made this a top priority.

More and more Americans are paying attention to the new evidence and fresh warnings from scientists. There is a much broader consensus on the need for action than there was when President George H.W. Bush negotiated - and the Senate ratified - the Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992 and much stronger support for action than when we completed the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.

The elements that I believe are key to a successful agreement in Copenhagen include:

* Strong targets and timetables from industrialized countries and differentiated but binding commitments from developing countries that put the entire world under a system with one commitment: to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other global warming pollutants that cause the climate crisis;

* The inclusion of deforestation, which alone accounts for twenty percent of the emissions that cause global warming;

* The addition of sinks including those from soils, principally from farmlands and grazing lands with appropriate methodologies and accounting. Farmers and ranchers in the U.S. and around the world need to know that they can be part of the solution;

* The assurance that developing countries will have access to mechanisms and resources that will help them adapt to the worst impacts of the climate crisis and technologies to solve the problem; and,

* A strong compliance and verification regime.

The road to Copenhagen is not easy, but we have traversed this ground before. We have negotiated the Montreal Protocol, a treaty to protect the ozone layer, and strengthened it to the point where we have banned most of the major substances that create the ozone hole over Antarctica. And we did it with bipartisan support. President Ronald Reagan and Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill joined hands to lead the way.

Let me now briefly discuss in more detail why we must do all of this within the next year, and with your permission, Mr. Chairman, I would like to show a few new pictures that illustrate the unprecedented need for bold and speedy action this year.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am eager to respond to any questions that you and the members of the committee have.

By Web Politics Editor  |  January 28, 2009; 10:33 AM ET
Categories:  Barack Obama , Climate Change  
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Next: Holder Approved by Judiciary Panel


Some people just don't get it.

Sure Nuclear proliferation is something we should all work towards reducing, but ignoring climate change to focus on these issues is like not hitting the brakes when driving towards a cliff because you're worried you might get car jacked if you stop.

I wonder if the wingnuts would be against Global Warming action if it wasn't Gore leading the charge... America (and Australia) might just have the resources to mitigate the effects of climate change in the near to medium term, but what about the billions of people that will run out of fresh water, have their land washed away by rising sea temperatures (and hurricanes) and be increasingly exposed to diseases (Dengue fever, Malaria, etc.) due to shifting climate patterns allowing Mosquitoes to spread to new areas. Where do you think they’ll be looking if they’ve no where to live?

At this point I have to ask, are you stupid, mean-spirited or just plain apathetic? It's going to cost us all MUCH less to act now than in five or ten years (let alone longer), so how about at least showing some self-interest?

Good Luck to us all.

Posted by: AussieCraig | January 28, 2009 10:23 PM | Report abuse

I love reading the comments on any news article about Al Gore because he always sends the Right into absolute apoplexy. And that's a good thing!

Talk about "ad hominem" attacks, (the Right has just discovered this Latin phrase and is all over the Net with it's usage)Al Gore is one of the chief recipients of them. In fact the one thing that Right loves to do more then anything else it is to demonize their opponents. Don't tell me about "Bush Derangement Syndrome". You and your ilk are the masters of derangement syndromes starting with Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Gore has overwhelming science on his side and no matter of vitriol against him will be successful. You should learn by now after your efforts to silence Galileo failed.

Posted by: dldbug | January 28, 2009 9:10 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Gore, "green" stimulus should NOT be part of economic stimulus. Sounds like earmarks to me. As for climate change, I suggest you do more research: read the excellent The Sea Around Us, by Rachel Carson, and you will find the climate WILL change, no matter WHAT governments do.

Posted by: IIntgrty | January 28, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

"Oh Please, Please Pretty Please pass the Stimulus Bill that will make all my Stocks in "Green" Techs cash in!" ;~)

The hypocrite is in so deep with the benefiting firms, it SHOULD be a documentary for Fat-Boy Moore!

But, Sharks don't eat their own, now do they?

Posted by: SAINT---The | January 28, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Al Gore speech summary: Blah blah blah buy my company's carbon credits now so I can get a bigger private jet!!

Posted by: Cryos | January 28, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Man, the wingnuttery abounds here. As long as we're pimping our own links, I'll add mine:

Posted by: benintn | January 28, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse




The controversy over former Raytheon executive William Lynn's nomination as deputy defense secretary has yet to center on what should be the main objection...

...the fact that his former employer is a major producer of RADIATION WEAPONRY (a/k/a "directed energy weapons") capable of inflicting silent, potentially lethal injury and of inducing illnesses and ailments ranging from aneurysms, strokes and heart attacks to eye/vision damage and cancer.

This radiation weaponry has been, and continues to be, widely deployed among units of the military, intelligence and law enforcement, on the federal and local levels, as well as in other nations.

Imagine if rogue forces used such silent lethality on their POLITICAL enemies. Perhaps they already have.

This weaponry arguably poses a GREATER risk to humanity than nuclear weapons, since their wide availability virtually guarantees that they will be misused.

And there is evidence that such misuse already is happening -- perhaps with the knowledge of some government officials.

If Lynn makes it to the hearings stage, Congress should question him closely on the deployment of radiation weaponry among law enforcement agencies that deal with the general public.

Radiation weapons are "WMD" and should be BANNED entirely.

When will world leaders address this question... or will these weapons be widely deployed before anyone does anything about it?

Here is some source material:


Posted by: scrivener50 | January 28, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

i hate you repiglicans...i really do.

Posted by: lostharvestmovie | January 28, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Even Dick Fuld asking for the stimulus bill would not be a bigger indicator it was wrong. Say no to this bailout. Its the cost of 3rd world immigration that is bringing us down. Stop that. See Ed Rubenstein at Vdare with the numbers today.

Posted by: OldAtlantic | January 28, 2009 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Gore is old time politics. The new Political Parlor Game is much more sophisticated because the Oracle of Obama is managing the process. ............

Posted by: glclark4750 | January 28, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

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