Gore warns of 'planetary emergency' from global climate change
Testifying before a Joint Committee hearing this morning in the House of Representatives, former Vice President Al Gore warned of a "planetary emergency" resulting from the warming of the Earth's climate. But he also told the Congressional members assembled at the hearing that there was a "sense of hope in this country that this US Congress will rise to the occasion," and take action to respond to global warming.
The former Vice President and recent Oscar winner for his documentary An Inconvenient Truth pointed to the importance of Congress taking action by comparing Congress to the Spartans of the film 300 who fought to preserve democracy.
"This is one of those times, rare though they may be, when a relatively small group is called upon to show courage because the results of what they do because the prospects not only for themselves, but for all future generations," he said. "This Congress is now the 535, really and truly, it's one of those times."
"This is our Thermopylae," he later added.
The former Vice President appeared likely to receive pointed quizzing from the Republicans arrayed at the Joint Committee hearing. Most representatives waived their opening statements to retain time during the question and answer session, but Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), the ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, raised a number of parliamentary inquiries at the start of the hearing, including a complaint about Gore's failure to submit his prepared testimony in advance.
Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), the ranking Republican on the House Science and Technology Committee, delivered the only opening statement by House Republicans, slamming the House's Democratic leadership for not addressing the costs of any policy to respond to global warming.
Gore seemed to respond to Hall's remarks in his prepared testimony.
"The best way – and the only way – to get China and India on board is for the U.S. to demonstrate real leadership," Gore said on concerns that other countries would not control their greenhouse gas emissions.
He also said the economic costs could be minimized.
"If we solve it in the right way, we will save money and boost productivity," he said.
Gore proposed a set of steps to respond to global warming. First, he called for a cap on greenhouse gas emissions and a sharp reduction by 2050 of the amount emitted. He then called for pollution taxes on greenhouse gases, with revenues earmarked for the economically disadvantaged to transit to new technologies. Third, he said the US government should push for a better treaty than the Kyoto Protocol.
Gore also called for a variety of specific steps to be taken on a regulatory basis, including a moratorium on coal-burning energy plants, raising fuel standards for automobiles, creating a "smart" power grid, ending the use of incandescent light bulbs, establishment of "carbon neutral" mortgages, and requiring corporate reports to include their annual greenhouse gas emissions.
The former Vice President acknowledged the political risks, but asked Members of Congress to stand up to them.
"I would ask you to walk through that fire," he said.
Gore's full prepared testimony can be downloaded at the House Science and Technology Committee's website.