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Posted: Feb 28 2010, 09:14 PM
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We Can’t Wish Away Climate Change

Published: February 27, 2010
It would be an enormous relief if the recent attacks on the science of global warming actually indicated that we do not face an unimaginable calamity requiring large-scale, preventive measures to protect human civilization as we know it.

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Open, N.Y.
Times Topics: Global Warming | Al Gore

Of course, we would still need to deal with the national security risks of our growing dependence on a global oil market dominated by dwindling reserves in the most unstable region of the world, and the economic risks of sending hundreds of billions of dollars a year overseas in return for that oil. And we would still trail China in the race to develop smart grids, fast trains, solar power, wind, geothermal and other renewable sources of energy — the most important sources of new jobs in the 21st century.

But what a burden would be lifted! We would no longer have to worry that our grandchildren would one day look back on us as a criminal generation that had selfishly and blithely ignored clear warnings that their fate was in our hands. We could instead celebrate the naysayers who had doggedly persisted in proving that every major National Academy of Sciences report on climate change had simply made a huge mistake.

I, for one, genuinely wish that the climate crisis were an illusion. But unfortunately, the reality of the danger we are courting has not been changed by the discovery of at least two mistakes in the thousands of pages of careful scientific work over the last 22 years by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In fact, the crisis is still growing because we are continuing to dump 90 million tons of global-warming pollution every 24 hours into the atmosphere — as if it were an open sewer.

It is true that the climate panel published a flawed overestimate of the melting rate of debris-covered glaciers in the Himalayas, and used information about the Netherlands provided to it by the government, which was later found to be partly inaccurate. In addition, e-mail messages stolen from the University of East Anglia in Britain showed that scientists besieged by an onslaught of hostile, make-work demands from climate skeptics may not have adequately followed the requirements of the British freedom of information law.

But the scientific enterprise will never be completely free of mistakes. What is important is that the overwhelming consensus on global warming remains unchanged. It is also worth noting that the panel’s scientists — acting in good faith on the best information then available to them — probably underestimated the range of sea-level rise in this century, the speed with which the Arctic ice cap is disappearing and the speed with which some of the large glacial flows in Antarctica and Greenland are melting and racing to the sea.

Because these and other effects of global warming are distributed globally, they are difficult to identify and interpret in any particular location. For example, January was seen as unusually cold in much of the United States. Yet from a global perspective, it was the second-hottest January since surface temperatures were first measured 130 years ago.

Similarly, even though climate deniers have speciously argued for several years that there has been no warming in the last decade, scientists confirmed last month that the last 10 years were the hottest decade since modern records have been kept.

The heavy snowfalls this month have been used as fodder for ridicule by those who argue that global warming is a myth, yet scientists have long pointed out that warmer global temperatures have been increasing the rate of evaporation from the oceans, putting significantly more moisture into the atmosphere — thus causing heavier downfalls of both rain and snow in particular regions, including the Northeastern United States. Just as it’s important not to miss the forest for the trees, neither should we miss the climate for the snowstorm.

Here is what scientists have found is happening to our climate: man-made global-warming pollution traps heat from the sun and increases atmospheric temperatures. These pollutants — especially carbon dioxide — have been increasing rapidly with the growth in the burning of coal, oil, natural gas and forests, and temperatures have increased over the same period. Almost all of the ice-covered regions of the Earth are melting — and seas are rising. Hurricanes are predicted to grow stronger and more destructive, though their number is expected to decrease. Droughts are getting longer and deeper in many mid-continent regions, even as the severity of flooding increases. The seasonal predictability of rainfall and temperatures is being disrupted, posing serious threats to agriculture. The rate of species extinction is accelerating to dangerous levels.

Though there have been impressive efforts by many business leaders, hundreds of millions of individuals and families throughout the world and many national, regional and local governments, our civilization is still failing miserably to slow the rate at which these emissions are increasing — much less reduce them.

And in spite of President Obama’s efforts at the Copenhagen climate summit meeting in December, global leaders failed to muster anything more than a decision to “take note” of an intention to act.

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Al Gore, the vice president from 1993 to 2001, is the founder of the Alliance for Climate Protection and the author of “Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis.” As a businessman, he is an investor in alternative energy companies.

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Wayne in WA State
Posted: Mar 1 2010, 01:39 AM
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Thanks for posting that article Erin. :good:
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Posted: Mar 1 2010, 05:50 PM
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Here's an e-mail Gore sent around about why he wrote that op-ed and what we can do to help the cause. Most of you have probably already received it, but for those who aren't on the mailing list . . .


Winston Churchill said, "Sometimes doing your best is not good enough. Sometimes you must do what is required."

Now is that time.

Our elected officials must rise to face the challenge of the climate crisis. And we must demand that they do what is required before it is too late.

That's what I wrote yesterday in the New York Times, and today I need your help to make sure our Senators pass a strong climate bill this year.

The good news is we could be very close. A bipartisan group of Senators is drafting a bill right now that could be introduced within weeks -- and critical negotiations over its content are taking place right now.

So starting Tuesday, a broad coalition of climate groups is launching a massive calling campaign to build grassroots pressure for the strongest bill possible. Will you join us by pledging to call your Senator on Tuesday?

Clicking here will add your name to the thousands who have already pledged to call.

It would be an enormous relief if the recent attacks on the science of global warming actually indicated that we do not face an unimaginable climate calamity. But the overwhelming scientific consensus remains unchanged. Every day we dump 90 million tons of global warming pollution into the atmosphere, as if it were an open sewer.

There is still a narrow pathway to stopping catastrophic climate change -- and it begins with a choice by the United States to pass a law establishing a clear cost for global warming pollution.

The House of Representatives has already passed comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation with bipartisan support. Now the Senate must follow suit, and the current effort may bring us closer than we've ever been.

To arrive at a strong bill, we must demand that our Senators take bold action on climate change. They need to know that we will support them if they do what is required.

That means you have to pick up your phone.

Pledge to call your Senator.

After all has been said and so little done, the truth about the climate crisis -- inconvenient as ever -- must still be faced.

The future of our nation and our world is depending on the United States Senate. Please join us this week to make sure they do what is required.


Al Gore
The Climate Protection Action Fund

P.S. To read my full op-ed, click here -- but don't forget to pledge to make a call here afterward.

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