In his "Meet the Press" appearance Sunday, former Vice President Al Gore’s controversial views on the issue of global warming not only went mostly unchallenged by host Tom Brokaw, but were accepted as established scientific facts.
In introducing Gore, Brokaw opened his remarks by describing Gore as a “Nobel laureate, Oscar winner, and crusader for conservation of energy and attacking the climate change that we're all experiencing in this country.”
Brokaw continued by saying: “I think that probably our audience understands that there is a growing consensus that climate change is real. But the debate is how real is it, what are the effects of it going to be, and how serious will it affect us?”
Brokaw ignored the recent disclosure that 31,072 Americans with university degrees in science, including 9,021 Ph.Ds, have signed a petition that flatly denies Gore’s claims that human-caused global warming is a settled scientific fact, giving lie to the claim of an alleged scientific consensus on global warming.
The petition, organized by Dr. Arthur Robinson of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, stated: “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will in the foreseeable future cause catastrophic heating of the earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the earth.”
In responding to Brokaw, however, Gore said: “We are being told by scientists around the world, particularly the international group that is charged with studying this and reporting to world leaders that we may have less than 10 years in order to make dramatic changes lest we lose the chance to avoid catastrophic results from the climate crisis. We're building up CO2 so rapidly that we're seeing the consequences scientists have long predicted.”
And last Thursday Gore warned: “The leading experts predict that we have less than 10 years to make dramatic changes in our global warming pollution lest we lose our ability to ever recover from this environmental crisis.”
He failed to recall that as long ago as 1989 a U.N. group of “leading experts” warned of the same dire perils from global warming in 10 years if action to stop it was not taken.
According to a July 5, 1989, article in the Miami Herald, the then-director of the New York office of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Noel Brown, warned of a “10-year window of opportunity to solve” global warming. According to the article, “A senior U.N. Environmental official says entire nations could be wiped off the face of the earth by rising sea levels if the global warming trend is not reversed by the year 2000. Coastal flooding and crop failures would create an exodus of ‘eco-refugees’ threatening political chaos.”
Challenging the assertion that there is vast consensus that global warming is real, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., cited a 2007 Senate report of over 400 dissenting scientists that he said debunks Gore's claim that the "debate is over."
"The endless claims of a 'consensus' about man-made global warming grow less and less credible every day," Inhofe said.
Turning to Gore’s call for a 10-year, trillions-of-dollars crash program to develop alternative forms of energy, Brokaw said: “This is how the Boston Globe described your audacious plan to change the way that we get electricity in this country: ‘Gore challenged Americans to switch all of the nation's electricity production to wind solar and other carbon-free sources within 10 years — a goal that he said would solve global warming as well as economic and natural security crises caused by dependence on fossil fuels.’
“The reaction was pretty quick, and not all of it was favorable even from those who are aligned with you in thinking that we have to do something about climate change” Brokaw said. "This is what Philip Sharp, president of Resources for the Future, a Washington think tank had to say. ‘At this point I don't think there's anyone in the industry who thinks that goal as a practical matter could be met. This is not yet a plan for action — this is a superstretch goal.’”
Brokaw continued: “Your friends at MIT, the Energy Initiative Group, have some radical ideas as well. They said, ‘Can we do it this quickly? It would be very, very tough.’ What you have outlined, in fact, is a goal that may not be achievable.”
Said Gore: “I think it is achievable and I think it's important that we achieve it, Tom. There were also many other reactions from people who said this is the right goal because we need to reset the bar and change the debate. Our current course is completely unsustainable. We are being told by scientists around the world, particularly the international group that is charged with studying this and reporting to world leaders that we may have less than 10 years in order to make dramatic changes lest we lose the chance to avoid catastrophic results from the climate crisis.”
Gore did not note that it was a “group that is charged with studying this and reporting to world leaders” that in 1989 warned that the world then had only 10 years to avert a climate catastrophe as a result of global warming.
Gore continued: “We're building up CO2 so rapidly that we're seeing the consequences scientists have long predicted. And the only way to take responsible action is to get at the heart of the problem, which is the burning of fossil fuels. And the quickest and easiest way to back out the coal, which is the worst of the problem, and oil is to look at electricity generation. And therethere have been two important changes. Number one, the cost of the new solar electricity options wind power and geothermal power, not to mention efficiency gains, have come down and they're coming down as the demand increases the attention paid to innovation.
“The other change is that oil prices and coal prices have been skyrocketing, and because China and other emerging economies are demanding so much of it, and new discoveries of oil have fallen off dramatically, the debate over drilling the new discoveries have been declining and the new demand has been completely swamping it and over the long term those prices everyone agrees are going to continue to go up. So now it is competitive to switch over.
"At the same time we're seeing our national security experts saying we're highly vulnerable with 70 percent of our oil coming from foreign countries, the largest reserves being in the most unstable region of the world, the Persian Gulf and our economy is being really hurt badly by rising gasoline pricesrising coal prices. So we need to make a big strategic shift to a new energy infrastructure that relies on renewables.”
Brokaw raised the matter of the enormous cost of Gore’s proposal, estimated at from $1.5 trillion to $3 trillion, asking, “Where does that money come from for a new president who is facing a $400 billion deficit, has two wars going on, needs an economic stimulus if it's a Democrat as [Sen. Barack] Obama has outlined, we have a housing crisis in this country, and probably diminished tax revenues?
Gore stated, “Well, those are not all public funds. That's the total private and public investment, which is comparable to what we would spend over that same period of time if we continued to rely on coal and oil, which is rising so rapidly in price. It's less than the cost of the Iraq war, according to Joe Stiglitz and some other economists, and it is an investment."
In response to Brokaw’s question, “What would electricity cost in terms of the transition while it's under way … most estimates are that it would cost a lot more money and that would have a devastating effect on Main Street and especially on rural America," Gore said: “Well, I don't agree with that, and I think that the devastating effect on Main Street and the rest of the country is coming from the present rising costs for electricity. And the reason why is China and the other emerging economies again are bidding up the price of every lump of coal and every drop of oil and the new discoveries have been decliningso the estimates are now that these price increases are likely to continue until we stop just taking baby steps and offering gimmicks, and instead have a strategic initiative.”
Returning to the question of the cost of Gore’s proposal, Brokaw asked: “Shat do we have to give up to reach the cost of a trillion and a half to $3 trillion? There's going to have to be some pain, some sacrifice on the part of the American taxpayer, isn't there?”
Gore said, “Well I think we should have a shift in our tax system and I think we should tax what we burn and not what we earn and I think we should take account of the incredibly expensive environmental costs that go into burning coal and oil. I also think that the coal and oil industries can play a big role in this if they will make good on the promise that carbon capture and sequestration will be real. Right now there's no demonstration project, there's nothing real about it. The phrase 'clean coal' is a contradiction in terms. There's no such thing as clean coal now. But the industry knows that with an all-out push toward capturing the CO2 and burying it safely that can be done.”
Brokaw raised the question of Gore’s political future in an Obama administration, quoting James Carville as saying: "If I were [Obama] I would ask Al Gore to serve as his vice president and energy czar in his administration to reduce our consumption and reliance on foreign energy sources." He recalled that when CNN asked him "Would you serve in the next administration if you were invited?" Gore had said "No.”
Gore said, “You know I haven't ruled out the idea of getting back into the political process at some point" — this was in December of last year — "at some point in the future. Don't expect to, but if I did get back it would be as a candidate for president, not in any other position."
Gore said that he feels his own best role now is “to try to bring about a sea change in public opinion. Because one of the big challenges our country has faced is that policy-makers who know the right thing to do run up against a wall set up all around them by the lobbyists and the special interests and the defenders of the status quo and the only way we're going to break out of this trap is by mobilizing public opinion with a clear vision of exactly what is at stake for our country. I think that's my highest and best use inin public life.”
Gore attacked the idea of drilling for oil here at home and offshore, failing to note that if the Democrats would allow the U.S. to begin drilling here and offshore now, in the same 10 years it would take for Gore’s energy plan to take effect the U.S. would be floating on a sea of domestic oil and totally free of dependence on foreign oil.
Brokaw asked about what's going on in Congress right now, noting that “There's a big debate under way about whether we should have offshore drilling and Ken Conrad, a Democrat from North Dakota whose credentials no one has to question within his own party, is leading a bipartisan effort to have offshore drilling. He comes from a small rural state where energy costs have had a big impact on everything from agriculture to the shop owner on Main Street. Why shouldn't there be in a transition period more drilling offshore with the technology that we now have that has demonstrated in almost 50 years that we've not had any kind of a significant spill off the coast of this country?”
Gore said: “Well, we already have offshore drilling in the areas where it does make sense and there are already leased lots and lots of other offshore sites that could be drilled in. There's a shortage of drill rigs and engineers and they're going full out now. But the areas that are protected now are protected for a reason. The coastal economy has been hurt in the past by oil spills and I think states like California should have the right to protect the areas that they know are in danger.
“The climate crisis is really the heart of this. This is no joke, Tom. You said in your intro that there's some debate about how real it is. There's really not a debate in the mainstream scientific community. It is the most serious threat that our civilization has ever faced. Look at the fires out in California right now. Look at the epic flooding in the Midwest. Look at the stronger storms and all predicted. The entire North Polar ice cap, Tom. Been there 3 million years, it's the size of the lower 48 states, and the scientists now say that there's a 75 percent chance it'll be completely gone during the summer in as little as five years. This is happening on our watch. We have got to respond.”
Gore did not explain that such predictions are based solely on computer models based on guesswork, which have frequently been proven unreliable, most recently in failing to predict the current global cooling.
Said Brokaw, “The indication that I gave at the beginning was not that it's not real. I think that there is a growing and vast majority of people who believe it's real. The question is to what degree and how quickly is it coming and what can we do about it?”
Neither Brokaw or Gore mentioned the fact that the planet stopped warming a decade ago and has now entered a cooling period scientists say could last for up to 30 years.
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