Sunday, 6 May 2007

Al Gore debates climate change with sceptics

March 21, 2007

06:23:43 pm, Categories: Global Warming and Climate Change, Politics and Science, 1374 words

Gore Returns to Senate to Butt Heads With Climate Change Skeptics, Propose Real Solutions

Update: The full video of Gore's testimony before the Senate Environment Committee is now up on the homepage of CSPAN. (Currently it's the second link under "Recent Programs")

As soon as the Democrats took both houses of Congress, one thing became inevitable: Gore was coming back to the Senate, if only to address his all-consuming passion, climate change.

Today at 2:30 EST, Gore got 30 minutes to speak before a packed house. Immediately after, noted climate change skeptic Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), who famously declared that global warming "is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American public," got a chance to lay in to the former vice president, at one point even attempting to ambush him by embarrassing him into signing a pledge that he reduce his emissions energy use to that of a typical American household.


The gloves were off: it was political theater at its finest. Unfortunately, that meant that, save Mr. Gore and, in his better moments, Sen. Inhofe, few of those present addressed the science of climate change in a way that made it sound like they'd done their homework. To wit:

  • When Senator Kit Bond (R-Missour) declared that sun spots were just as likely a cause of global warming as human emissions of CO2, I just about fell out of my chair. So did Mr. Gore.
  • Sen. Inhofe declared that the Antarctic is gaining ice, not losing it. This makes a nice sound-bite (gee, if the coldest place on earth is growing, not shrinking, doesn't that mean the earth is cooling and not warming, or something?) until you realize that the climate models actually predict increased snowfall over antarctica, mitigating to some extent the sea-level rise that will come about as a result of global warming. It's also worth noting that this data is patchy, at best, and only goes back a few decades.
  • Inhofe also whipped out a poster with "over a thousand names" on it of scientists who don't agree with the consensus on global warming. This was a nice touch, but Gore responded appropriately: the IPCC just declared the evidence for anthropogenic climate change to be unequivocal.
    • the IPCC say "Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global
      average sea level" (page 5)
    • Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations. (page 10) (Summary for Policymakers pdf)
  • The National Academies of Science of the 16 most developed countries all concurr. In other words, for every name on that poster, there are a dozen, maybe a hundred scientists, maybe more, who don't dispute the basics of anthropogenic climate change. (It was also nice to hear Gore cite the September 2006 single-topic special issue of Scientific American on the future of energy, even if it was only to note that in it the editor in chief declared that the debate on anthropogenic global warming is over.)

    To me, Inhofe's poster o' climate change skeptics is the equivalent of trotting out a bus full of young-earth creationists--sure, there are people on this Earth who think that dinosaurs and humans co-existed, but that doesn't make it so, nor does it mean that there is any real debate about whether or not our planet is 6,000 years old.

To his credit, Inhofe did bring up one point where Gore may have exaggerated in his film: the link between global warming and an increased number of hurricanes. Certainly scientists believe a warmer earth will cause more intense hurricanes. But more hurricanes overall? The jury's still out. Chris Mooney, who is about to come out with a book on just this subject, has more at his blog The Intersection.)

  • IPCC say "it is likely that future tropical cyclones (typhoons and hurricanes) will become more intense, with larger peak wind speeds and more heavy precipitation associated with ongoing increases of
    tropical SSTs. There is less confidence in projections of a global decrease in numbers of tropical cyclones. (page 16) (Summary for Policymakers pdf)


Some folks may still think this is a political issue, but the many Republican Senators on the Senate Environment committee who were more interested in talking about solutions than debating the science would disagree with those folks. It was gratifying to finally see this becoming a bipartisan issue.

Here is Gore's 9-point plan for dealing with climate change, starting today, directly from his speech:

1) I think we ought to have an immediate freeze on co2 reductions and start from there.

2) We should use the tax code. What I'm about to propose I know is is very much outside the range of what is now politically feasible.

I think we ought to cut taxes on employment and make up the difference with pollution taxes - principally CO2 taxes. Some countries are talking about it seriously.

In the developed world our big disadvantage is that these developed countries have access to tech and container shipping. We don't want to lower our wages - but we don't want to pile on top of those wages these taxes.

We ought to use some of the revenue [from carbon taxes] to help the poor with the adjustments that are coming forward.

3) I'm in favor of cap and trade and I supported Kyoto. but I understand the realities of the situation.

I think the new president should take office at a time when our country has a commitment to defacto compliance with Kyoto. And I think we should move the start of the new treaty period from 2012 to 2010. We need a tougher treaty that starts in 2010. And we need to find a creative way to get China and india involved sooner rather than later.

That's important not least of which because China's emissions will exceed ours in the next couple of years.

We need to ratify a cap and trade system so the market will work for us rather than against us.

4) We should have a moratorium on new coal plants that are not fixed with carbon capture and sequestration technology.

5) I think our congress should fix a date beyond which incandescent lightbulbs are banned. [aside: Australia is about to do this.]...

It's like wal-mart. It's not taking on the climate crisis simply out of the goodness of their heart. They care about it but they're making money at it.

6) The creative power of the information revolution was unlocked by the Internet.

We ought to have [an analogous] electro-net and we ought to encourage widely distributed power generation. We ought to take off the caps and let individuals sell back as much as they want on the grid.

7) I think we ought to raise the CAFE standards. Don't single out autos, but as part of it.

8) Pass a carbon-neutral mortgage association. Here's why: buyers of new homes and buyers and sellers all focus on purchase prices. But the expenditures that go into more insulation and window treatment and those that don't pay back immediately but pay back over 2-3 years, those don't get counted as savings. Put those in a separate instrument - then have a Connie May [like the government's Fannie Mae, which handles mortgages] which can create a separate instrument. So that people can save and reduce co2 at the same time.

9) Require corporate disclosure of carbon emissions. Investors have a right to know about material risks that could affect the value of their stocks in the future.

reposted from: sciam
my: highlights / emphasis / key points / comments

No comments:

Post a Comment