Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Al Gore Makes The Rounds Testifying To Congress

Mar 21: Former Vice President, Al Gore made the rounds on Capitol Hill testifying before Congressional committees including a joint meeting of subcommittees of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Science and Technology Committee in the morning; and before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in the afternoon. The House subcommittees' hearing also included testimony from Dr. Bjørn Lomborg, Adjunct Professor, Copenhagen Consensus Center, Copenhagen Business School.

Gore who had just 3-pages of written testimony said that climate change was a "planetary emergency -- a crisis that threatens the survival of our civilization and the habitability of the Earth." He said, "Global warming is real and human activity is the main cause." He said climate change offers both a danger and an opportunity. "There is no longer any serious debate over the basic points that make up the consensus on global warming." He cited a new study from the University of Alaska which says that "Methane is leaking from the Siberian permafrost at five time the predicted levels. Methane is 23 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide and there are billions of tons underneath the permafrost."

He said the "best way --- and the only way -- to get China and India on board is for the U.S. to demonstrate real leadership. He called the situation a "moral moment" -- "It is about who we are as human beings and our capacity to transcend our limitations and rise to meet this challenge." He indicated that the solutions "seem quite difficult" but in practice "will turn out to be much easier than they appear to us now." He concluded saying, "WE must choose a future for which our children and grandchildren will thank us."

Lomborg summarized his own 23-page testimony into four main points: Global warming is real and man-made. This point has been made in many places, but perhaps most strongly and convincingly by the IPCC (2007a); Statements about the strong, ominous and immediate consequences of global warming are often wildly exaggerated, as I will show below; We need a stronger focus on smart solutions rather than excessive if well-intentioned efforts; We need – as this hearing asks for – to put global warming in perspective. Climate change is not the only issue on the global agenda, and actually one of the issues where we can do the least good first.

He said, "Al Gore and the many people he has inspired have good will and great intentions. However, he has got carried away and come to show only worst-case scenarios. This is unlikely to form the basis for a sound policy judgment. The problem is compounded in that if we follow Al Gore’s recommendations, we will likely end up choosing very bad policies to solve the many problems, we agree need attention."

Lomborg asks the question, "...whether we would do better by addressing the real and pressing needs of current generations that we can solve so easily and cheaply, before we try to tackle the long-term problem of climate change where we can do so little for so much. He cites the figures saying that the Kyoto Protocol would likely cost at least $180 billion a year and do little good. UNICEF, on the other hand, estimates that just $70-80 billion a year could give all Third World inhabitants access to the basics like health, education, water and sanitation.

Access the House hearing website for links to the complete testimony and opening statements (
click here). Access the Senate hearing website were testimony should be posted later today (click here). [*Climate]