Gore's Environmental Speech of 18 September 2006 |
at New York University School of Law
Watch the video on www.algore04.com/
A few days ago, scientists announced alarming new evidence of the rapid melting
of the perennial ice of the north polar cap, continuing a trend of the past
several years that now confronts us with the prospect that human activities, if
unchecked in the next decade, could destroy one of the earthıs principle
mechanisms for cooling itself. Another group of scientists presented evidence
that human activities are responsible for the dramatic warming of sea surface
temperatures in the areas of the ocean where hurricanes form. A few weeks
earlier, new information from yet another team showed dramatic increases in the
burning of forests throughout the American West, a trend that has increased
decade by decade, as warmer temperatures have dried out soils and vegetation.
All these findings come at the end of a summer with record breaking
temperatures and the hottest twelve month period ever measured in the U.S.,
with persistent drought in vast areas of our country. Scientific American
introduces the lead article in its special issue this month with the following
sentence: ³The debate on global warming is over.²
Many scientists are now warning that we are moving closer to several ³tipping
points² that could within as little as 10 years make it impossible for
us to avoid irretrievable damage to the planetıs habitability for human
civilization. In this regard, just a few weeks ago, another group of scientists
reported on the unexpectedly rapid increases in the release of carbon and
methane emissions from frozen tundra in Siberia, now beginning to thaw because
of human caused increases in global temperature. The scientists tell us that
the tundra in danger of thawing contains an amount of additional global warming
pollution that is equal to the total amount that is already in the earthıs
atmosphere. Similarly, earlier this year, yet another team of scientists
reported that the previous twelve months saw 32 glacial earthquakes on
Greenland between 4.6 and 5.1 on the Richter scale a disturbing sign that a
massive destabilization may now be underway deep within the second largest
accumulation of ice on the planet, enough ice to raise sea level 20 feet
worldwide if it broke up and slipped into the sea. Each passing day brings yet
more evidence that we are now facing a planetary emergency a climate crisis
that demands immediate action to sharply reduce carbon dioxide emissions
worldwide in order to turn down the earthıs thermostat and avert catastrophe.
The serious debate over the climate crisis has now moved on to the question of
how we can craft emergency solutions in order to avoid this catastrophic
This debate over solutions has been slow to start in earnest not only because
some of our leaders still find it more convenient to deny the reality of the
crisis, but also because the hard truth for the rest of us is that the maximum
that seems politically feasible still falls far short of the minimum that would
be effective in solving the crisis. This no-manıs land or no politician zone
falling between the farthest reaches of political feasibility and the first
beginnings of truly effective change is the area that I would like to explore
in my speech today.
T. S. Eliot once wrote: Between the idea and the reality, Between the motion and
the act Falls the Shadow. ? Between the conception and the creation, Between
the emotion and the response Falls the Shadow.
My purpose is not to present a comprehensive and detailed blueprint for that
is a task for our democracy as a whole but rather to try to shine some light
on a pathway through this terra incognita that lies between where we are and
where we need to go. Because, if we acknowledge candidly that what we need to
do is beyond the limits of our current political capacities, that really is
just another way of saying that we have to urgently expand the limits of what
is politically possible.
I have no doubt that we can do precisely that, because having served almost
three decades in elected office, I believe I know one thing about Americaıs
political system that some of the pessimists do not: it shares something in
common with the climate system; it can appear to move only at a slow pace, but
it can also cross a tipping point beyond which it can move with lightning
speed. Just as a single tumbling rock can trigger a massive landslide, America
has sometimes experienced sudden avalanches of political change that had their
beginnings with what first seemed like small changes. Two weeks ago, Democrats
and Republicans joined together in our largest state, California, to pass
legally binding sharp reductions in CO2 emissions. 295 American cities have now
independently ³ratified² and embraced CO2 reductions called for in the Kyoto
Treaty. 85 conservative evangelical ministers publicly broke with the
Bush-Cheney administration to call for bold action to solve the climate crisis.
Business leaders in both political parties have taken significant steps to
position their companies as leaders in this struggle and have adopted a policy
that not only reduces CO2 but makes their companies zero carbon companies. Many
of them have discovered a way to increase profits and productivity by
eliminating their contributions to global warming pollution.
Many Americans are now seeing a bright light shining from the far side of this
no-manıs land that illuminates not sacrifice and danger, but instead a vision
of a bright future that is better for our country in every way a future with
better jobs, a cleaner environment, a more secure nation, and a safer world.
After all, many Americans are tired of borrowing huge amounts of money from
China to buy huge amounts of oil from the Persian Gulf to make huge amounts of
pollution that destroys the planetıs climate. Increasingly, Americans believe
that we have to change every part of that pattern.
When I visit port cities like Seattle, New Orleans, or Baltimore, I find massive
ships, running low in the water, heavily burdened with foreign cargo or foreign
oil arriving by the thousands. These same cargo ships and tankers depart riding
high with only ballast water to keep them from rolling over.
One-way trade is destructive to our economic future. We send money,
electronically, in the opposite direction. But, we can change this by inventing
and manufacturing new solutions to stop global warming right here in America. I
still believe in good old-fashioned American ingenuity. We need to fill those
ships with new products and technologies that we create to turn down the global
thermostat. Working together, we can create jobs and stop global warming. But we
must begin by winning the first key battle against inertia and the fear of
In order to conquer our fear and walk boldly forward on the path that lies
before us, we have to insist on a higher level of honesty in Americaıs
political dialogue. When we make big mistakes in America, it is usually because
the people have not been given an honest accounting of the choices before us. It
also is often because too many members of both parties who knew better did not
have the courage to do better.
Our children have a right to hold us to a higher standard when their future
indeed the future of all human civilization is hanging in the balance. They
deserve better than the spectacle of censorship of the best scientific evidence
about the truth of our situation and harassment of honest scientists who are
trying to warn us about the looming catastrophe. They deserve better than
politicians who sit on their hands and do nothing to confront the greatest
challenge that humankind has ever faced even as the danger bears down on us.
We in the United States of America have a particularly important responsibility,
after all, because the world still regards us in spite of our recent moral
lapses as the natural leader of the community of nations. Simply put, in
order for the world to respond urgently to the climate crisis, the United
States must lead the way. No other nation can.
Developing countries like China and India have gained their own understanding of
how threatening the climate crisis is to them, but they will never find the
political will to make the necessary changes in their growing economies unless
and until the United States leads the way. Our natural role is to be the pace
car in the race to stop global warming.
So, what would a responsible approach to the climate crisis look like if we had
one in America?
Well, first of all, we should start by immediately freezing CO2 emissions and
then beginning sharp reductions. Merely engaging in high-minded debates about
theoretical future reductions while continuing to steadily increase emissions
represents a self-delusional and reckless approach. In some ways, that approach
is worse than doing nothing at all, because it lulls the gullible into thinking
that something is actually being done when in fact it is not.
An immediate freeze has the virtue of being clear, simple, and easy to
understand. It can attract support across partisan lines as a logical starting
point for the more difficult work that lies ahead. I remember a quarter century
ago when I was the author of a complex nuclear arms control plan to deal with
the then rampant arms race between our country and the former Soviet Union. At
the time, I was strongly opposed to the nuclear freeze movement, which I saw as
simplistic and naive. But, 3?4 of the American people supported it and as I
look back on those years I see more clearly now that the outpouring of public
support for that very simple and clear mandate changed the political landscape
and made it possible for more detailed and sophisticated proposals to
eventually be adopted.
When the politicians are paralyzed in the face of a great threat, our nation
needs a popular movement, a rallying cry, a standard, a mandate that is broadly
supported on a bipartisan basis.
A responsible approach to solving this crisis would also involve joining the
rest of the global economy in playing by the rules of the world treaty that
reduces global warming pollution by authorizing the trading of emissions within
a global cap.
At present, the global system for carbon emissions trading is embodied in the
Kyoto Treaty. It drives reductions in CO2 and helps many countries that are a
part of the treaty to find the most efficient ways to meet their targets for
reductions. It is true that not all countries are yet on track to meet their
targets, but the first targets donıt have to be met until 2008 and the largest
and most important reductions typically take longer than the near term in any
The absence of the United States from the treaty means that 25% of the world
economy is now missing. It is like filling a bucket with a large hole in the
bottom. When the United States eventually joins the rest of the world community
in making this system operate well, the global market for carbon emissions will
become a highly efficient closed system and every corporate board of directors
on earth will have a fiduciary duty to manage and reduce CO2 emissions in order
to protect shareholder value.
Many American businesses that operate in other countries already have to abide
by the Kyoto Treaty anyway, and unsurprisingly, they are the companies that
have been most eager to adopt these new principles here at home as well. The
United States and Australia are the only two countries in the developed world
that have not yet ratified the Kyoto Treaty. Since the Treaty has been so
demonized in Americaıs internal debate, it is difficult to imagine the current
Senate finding a way to ratify it. But the United States should immediately join
the discussion that is now underway on the new tougher treaty that will soon be
completed. We should plan to accelerate its adoption and phase it in more
quickly than is presently planned.
Third, a responsible approach to solutions would avoid the mistake of trying to
find a single magic ³silver bullet² and recognize that the answer will
involve what Bill McKibben has called ³silver-buckshot² numerous important
solutions, all of which are hard, but no one of which is by itself the full
answer for our problem.
One of the most productive approaches to the ³multiple solutions² needed is a
road-map designed by two Princeton professors, Rob Socolow and Steven Pacala,
which breaks down the overall problem into more manageable parts. Socolow and
Pacala have identified 15 or 20 building blocks (or ³wedges²) that can be
used to solve our problem effectively even if we only use 7 or 8 of them. I
am among the many who have found this approach useful as a way to structure a
discussion of the choices before us.
Over the next year, I intend to convene an ongoing broad-based discussion of
solutions that will involve leaders from government, science, business, labor,
agriculture, grass-roots activists, faith communities and others.
I am convinced that it is possible to build an effective consensus in the United
States and in the world at large on the most effective approaches to solve the
climate crisis. Many of those solutions will be found in the building blocks
that currently structure so many discussions. But I am also certain that some
of the most powerful solutions will lie beyond our current categories of
building blocks and ³wedges.² Our secret strength in America has always been
our capacity for vision. ³Make no little plans,² one of our most famous
architects said over a century ago, ³they have no magic to stir menıs
I look forward to the deep discussion and debate that lies ahead. But there are
already some solutions that seem to stand out as particularly promising:
First, dramatic improvements in the efficiency with which we generate, transport
and use energy will almost certainly prove to be the single biggest source of
sharp reductions in global warming pollution. Because pollution has been
systematically ignored in the old rules of Americaıs marketplace, there are
lots of relatively easy ways to use new and more efficient options to cheaply
eliminate it. Since pollution is, after all, waste, business and industry
usually become more productive and efficient when they systematically go about
reducing pollution. After all, many of the technologies on which we depend are
actually so old that they are inherently far less efficient than newer
technologies that we havenıt started using. One of the best examples is the
internal combustion engine. When scientists calculate the energy content in
BTUs of each gallon of gasoline used in a typical car, and then measure the
amounts wasted in the carıs routine operation, they find that an incredible
90% of that energy is completely wasted. One engineer, Amory Lovins, has gone
farther and calculated the amount of energy that is actually used to move the
passenger (excluding the amount of energy used to move the several tons of
metal surrounding the passenger) and has found that only 1% of the energy is
actually used to move the person. This is more than an arcane calculation, or a
parlor trick with arithmetic. These numbers actually illuminate the single
biggest opportunity to make our economy more efficient and competitive while
sharply reducing global warming pollution.
To take another example, many older factories use obsolete processes that
generate prodigious amounts of waste heat that actually has tremendous economic
value. By redesigning their processes and capturing all of that waste, they can
eliminate huge amounts of global warming pollution while saving billions of
dollars at the same time.
When we introduce the right incentives for eliminating pollution and becoming
more efficient, many businesses will begin to make greater use of computers and
advanced monitoring systems to identify even more opportunities for savings.
This is what happened in the computer chip industry when more powerful chips
led to better computers, which in turn made it possible to design even more
powerful chips, in a virtuous cycle of steady improvement that became known as
³Mooreıs Law.² We may well see the emergence of a new version of ³Mooreıs
Law² producing steadily higher levels of energy efficiency at steadily lower
There is yet another lesson we can learn from Americaıs success in the
information revolution. When the Internet was invented and I assure you I
intend to choose my words carefully here it was because defense planners in
the Pentagon forty years ago were searching for a way to protect Americaıs
command and communication infrastructure from being disrupted in a nuclear
attack. The network they created known as ARPANET was based on
³distributed communication² that allowed it to continue functioning even if
part of it was destroyed.
Today, our nation faces threats very different from those we countered during
the Cold War. We worry today that terrorists might try to inflict great damage
on Americaıs energy infrastructure by attacking a single vulnerable part of
the oil distribution or electricity distribution network. So, taking a page
from the early pioneers of ARPANET, we should develop a distributed electricity
and liquid fuels distribution network that is less dependent on large coal-fired
generating plants and vulnerable oil ports and refineries.
Small windmills and photovoltaic solar cells distributed widely throughout the
electricity grid would sharply reduce CO2 emissions and at the same time
increase our energy security. Likewise, widely dispersed ethanol and biodiesel
production facilities would shift our transportation fuel stocks to renewable
forms of energy while making us less dependent on and vulnerable to disruptions
in the supply of expensive crude oil from the Persian Gulf, Venezuela and
Nigeria, all of which are extremely unreliable sources upon which to base our
future economic vitality. It would also make us less vulnerable to the impact
of a category 5 hurricane hitting coastal refineries or to a terrorist attack
on ports or key parts of our current energy infrastructure.
Just as a robust information economy was triggered by the introduction of the
Internet, a dynamic new renewable energy economy can be stimulated by the
development of an ³electranet,² or smart grid, that allows individual
homeowners and business-owners anywhere in America to use their own renewable
sources of energy to sell electricity into the grid when they have a surplus
and purchase it from the grid when they donıt. The same electranet could give
homeowners and business-owners accurate and powerful tools with which to
precisely measure how much energy they are using where and when, and identify
opportunities for eliminating unnecessary costs and wasteful usage patterns.
A second group of building blocks to solve the climate crisis involves
Americaıs transportation infrastructure. We could further increase the value
and efficiency of a distributed energy network by retooling our failing auto
giants GM and Ford to require and assist them in switching to the
manufacture of flex-fuel, plug-in, hybrid vehicles. The owners of such vehicles
would have the ability to use electricity as a principle source of power and to
supplement it by switching from gasoline to ethanol or biodiesel. This
flexibility would give them incredible power in the marketplace for energy to
push the entire system to much higher levels of efficiency and in the process
sharply reduce global warming pollution.
This shift would also offer the hope of saving tens of thousands of good jobs in
American companies that are presently fighting a losing battle selling cars and
trucks that are less efficient than the ones made by their competitors in
countries where they were forced to reduce their pollution and thus become more
It is, in other words, time for a national oil change. That is apparent to
anyone who has looked at our national dipstick.
Our current ridiculous dependence on oil endangers not only our national
security, but also our economic security. Anyone who believes that the
international market for oil is a ³free market² is seriously deluded. It has
many characteristics of a free market, but it is also subject to periodic
manipulation by the small group of nations controlling the largest recoverable
reserves, sometimes in concert with companies that have great influence over
the global production, refining, and distribution network.
It is extremely important for us to be clear among ourselves that these periodic
efforts to manipulate price and supply have not one but two objectives. They
naturally seek to maximize profits. But even more significantly, they seek to
manipulate our political will. Every time we come close to recognizing the
wisdom of developing our own independent sources of renewable fuels, they seek
to dissipate our sense of urgency and derail our effort to become less
dependent. That is what is happening at this very moment.
Shifting to a greater reliance on ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, butanol, and
green diesel fuels will not only reduce global warming pollution and enhance
our national and economic security, it will also reverse the steady loss of
jobs and income in rural America. Several important building blocks for
Americaıs role in solving the climate crisis can be found in new approaches to
agriculture. As pointed out by the ³25 by 25² movement (aimed at securing 25%
of Americaıs power and transportation fuels from agricultural sources by the
year 2025) we can revitalize the farm economy by shifting its mission from a
focus on food, feed and fiber to a focus on food, feed, fiber, fuel, and
ecosystem services. We can restore the health of depleted soils by encouraging
and rewarding the growing of fuel source crops like switchgrass and saw-grass,
using no till cultivation, and scientific crop rotation. We should also reward
farmers for planting more trees and sequestering more carbon, and recognize the
economic value of their stewardship of resources that are important to the
health of our ecosystems.
Similarly, we should take bold steps to stop deforestation and extend the
harvest cycle on timber to optimize the carbon sequestration that is most
powerful and most efficient with older trees. On a worldwide basis, 2 and 1?2
trillion tons of the 10 trillion tons of CO2 emitted each year come from
burning forests. So, better management of forests is one of the single most
important strategies for solving the climate crisis.
Biomass ?whether in the form of trees, switchgrass, or other sources?is one
of the most important forms of renewable energy. And renewable sources make up
one of the most promising building blocks for reducing carbon pollution.
Wind energy is already fully competitive as a mainstream source of electricity
and will continue to grow in prominence and profitability.
Solar photovoltaic energy is?according to researchers?much closer than it
has ever been to a cost competitive breakthrough, as new nanotechnologies are
being applied to dramatically enhance the efficiency with which solar cells
produce electricity from sunlight?and as clever new designs for concentrating
solar energy are used with new approaches such as Stirling engines that can
bring costs sharply down.
Buildings ?both commercial and residential?represent a larger source of
global warming pollution than cars and trucks. But new architecture and design
techniques are creating dramatic new opportunities for huge savings in energy
use and global warming pollution. As an example of their potential, the
American Institute of Architecture and the National Conference of Mayors have
endorsed the ³2030 Challenge,² asking the global architecture and building
community to immediately transform building design to require that all new
buildings and developments be designed to use one half the fossil fuel energy
they would typically consume for each building type, and that all new buildings
be carbon neutral by 2030, using zero fossil fuels to operate. A newly
constructed building at Oberlin College is producing 30 percent energy than it
consumes. Some other countries have actually required a standard calling for
zero carbon based energy inputs for new buildings.
The rapid urbanization of the worldıs population is leading to the prospective
development of more new urban buildings in the next 35 years than have been
constructed in all previous human history. This startling trend represents a
tremendous opportunity for sharp reductions in global warming pollution through
the use of intelligent architecture and design and stringent standards.
Here in the US the extra cost of efficiency improvements such as thicker
insulation and more efficient window coatings have traditionally been shunned
by builders and homebuyers alike because they add to the initial purchase
price?even though these investments typically pay for themselves by reducing
heating and cooling costs and then produce additional savings each month for
the lifetime of the building. It should be possible to remove the purchase
price barrier for such improvements through the use of innovative mortgage
finance instruments that eliminate any additional increase in the purchase
price by capturing the future income from the expected savings. We should
create a Carbon Neutral Mortgage Association to market these new financial
instruments and stimulate their use in the private sector by utilities, banks
and homebuilders. This new ³Connie Mae² (CNMA) could be a valuable instrument
for reducing the pollution from new buildings.
Many believe that a responsible approach to sharply reducing global warming
pollution would involve a significant increase in the use of nuclear power
plants as a substitute for coal-fired generators. While I am not opposed to
nuclear power and expect to see some modest increased use of nuclear reactors,
I doubt that they will play a significant role in most countries as a new
source of electricity. The main reason for my skepticism about nuclear power
playing a much larger role in the worldıs energy future is not the problem of
waste disposal or the danger of reactor operator error, or the vulnerability to
terrorist attack. Letıs assume for the moment that all three of these problems
can be solved. That still leaves two serious issues that are more difficult
constraints. The first is economics; the current generation of reactors is
expensive, take a long time to build, and only come in one size extra large.
In a time of great uncertainty over energy prices, utilities must count on great
uncertainty in electricity demand and that uncertainty causes them to
strongly prefer smaller incremental additions to their generating capacity that
are each less expensive and quicker to build than are large 1000 megawatt light
water reactors. Newer, more scalable and affordable reactor designs may
eventually become available, but not soon. Secondly, if the world as a whole
chose nuclear power as the option of choice to replace coal-fired generating
plants, we would face a dramatic increase in the likelihood of nuclear weapons
proliferation. During my 8 years in the White House, every nuclear weapons
proliferation issue we dealt with was connected to a nuclear reactor program.
Today, the dangerous weapons programs in both Iran and North Korea are linked
to their civilian reactor programs. Moreover, proposals to separate the
ownership of reactors from the ownership of the fuel supply process have met
with stiff resistance from developing countries who want reactors. As a result
of all these problems, I believe that nuclear reactors will only play a limited
The most important set of problems by that must be solved in charting solutions
for the climate crisis have to do with coal, one of the dirtiest sources of
energy that produces far more CO2 for each unit of energy output than oil or
gas. Yet, coal is found in abundance in the United States, China, and many
other places . Because the pollution from the burning of coal is currently
excluded from the market calculations of what it costs, coal is presently the
cheapest source of abundant energy. And its relative role is growing rapidly
day by day.
Fortunately, there may be a way to capture the CO2 produced as coal as burned
and sequester it safely to prevent it from adding to the climate crisis. It is
not easy. This technique, known as carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is
expensive and most users of coal have resisted the investments necessary to use
it. However, when the cost of not using it is calculated, it becomes obvious
that CCS will play a significant and growing role as one of the major building
blocks of a solution to the climate crisis.
Interestingly, the most advanced and environmentally responsible project for
capturing and sequestering CO2 is in one of the most forbidding locations for
energy production anywhere in the world in the Norwegian portions of the
North Sea. Norway, as it turns out, has hefty CO2 taxes; and, even though there
are many exceptions and exemptions, oil production is not one of them. As a
result, the oil producers have found it quite economical and profitable to
develop and use advanced CCS technologies in order to avoid the tax they would
otherwise pay for the CO2 they would otherwise emit. The use of similar
techniques could be required for coal-fired generating plants, and can be used
in combination with advanced approaches like integrated gasification combined
cycle (IGCC). Even with the most advanced techniques, however, the economics of
carbon capture and sequestration will depend upon the availability of and
proximity to safe deep storage reservoirs. Nevertheless, it is time to
recognize that the phrase ³clean coal technology² is devoid of meaning unless
it means ³zero carbon emissions² technology.
CCS is only one of many new technological approaches that require a significant
increase by governments and business in advanced research and development to
speed the availability of more effective technologies that can help us solve
the climate crisis more quickly. But it is important to emphasize that even
without brand new technologies, we already have everything we need to get
started on a solution to this crisis.
In a market economy like ours, however, every one of the solutions that I have
discussed will be more effective and much easier to implement if we place a
price on the CO2 pollution that is recognized in the marketplace. We need to
summon the courage to use the right tools for this job.
For the last fourteen years, I have advocated the elimination of all payroll
taxes including those for social security and unemployment compensation
and the replacement of that revenue in the form of pollution taxes
principally on CO2. The overall level of taxation would remain exactly the
same. It would be, in other words, a revenue neutral tax swap. But, instead of
discouraging businesses from hiring more employees, it would discourage
business from producing more pollution.
Global warming pollution, indeed all pollution, is now described by economists
as an ³externality.² This absurd label means, in essence: we donıt to keep
track of this stuff so letıs pretend it doesnıt exist.
And sure enough, when itıs not recognized in the marketplace, it does make it
much easier for government, business, and all the rest of us to pretend that it
doesnıt exist. But what weıre pretending doesnıt exist is the stuff that is
destroying the habitability of the planet. We put 70 million tons of it into
the atmosphere every 24 hours and the amount is increasing day by day.
Penalizing pollution instead of penalizing employment will work to reduce that
pollution. When we place a more accurate value on the consequences of the
choices we make, our choices get better. At present, when business has to pay
more taxes in order to hire more people, it is discouraged from hiring more
people. If we change that and discourage them from creating more pollution they
will reduce their pollution. Our market economy can help us solve this problem
if we send it the right signals and tell ourselves the truth about the economic
impact of pollution.
Many of our leading businesses are already making dramatic changes to reduce
their global warming pollution. General Electric, Dupont, Cinergy, Caterpillar,
and Wal-Mart are among the many who are providing leadership for the business
community in helping us devise a solution for this crisis.
Leaders among unions particularly the steel workers have also added
momentum to this growing movement.
Hunters and fishermen are also now adding their voices to the call for a
solution to the crisis. In a recent poll, 86% of licensed hunters and anglers
said that we have a moral obligation to stop global warming to protect our
And, young people as they did during the Civil Rights Revolution are
confronting their elders with insistent questions about the morality of not
moving swiftly to make these needed changes.
Moreover, the American religious community including a group of 85
conservative evangelicals and especially the US Conference of Catholic Bishops
has made an extraordinary contribution to this entire enterprise. To the
insights of science and technology, it has added the perspectives of faith and
values, of prophetic imagination, spiritual motivation, and moral passion
without which all our plans, no matter how reasonable, simply will not prevail.
Individual faith groups have offered their own distinctive views . And yet ---
uniquely in religious life at this moment and even historically --- they have
established common ground and resolve across tenacious differences. In addition
to reaching millions of people in the pews, they have demonstrated the real
possibility of what we all now need to accomplish: how to be ourselves,
together and how to discover, in this process, a sense of vivid, living spirit
and purpose that elevates the entire human enterprise.
Individual Americans of all ages are becoming a part of a movement, asking what
they can do as individuals and what they can do as consumers and as citizens
and voters. Many individuals and businesses have decided to take an approach
known as ³Zero Carbon.² They are reducing their CO2 as much as possible and
then offsetting the rest with reductions elsewhere including by the planting of
trees. At least one entire community Ballard, a city of 18,000 people in
Washington State is embarking on a goal of making the entire community zero
This is not a political issue. This is a moral issue. It affects the survival of
human civilization. It is not a question of left vs. right; it is a question of
right vs. wrong. Put simply, it is wrong to destroy the habitability of our
planet and ruin the prospects of every generation that follows ours.
What is motivating millions of Americans to think differently about solutions to
the climate crisis is the growing realization that this challenge is bringing us
unprecedented opportunity. I have spoken before about the way the Chinese
express the concept of crisis. They use two symbols, the first of which by
itself means danger. The second, in isolation, means opportunity. Put them
together, and you get ³crisis.² Our single word conveys the danger but
doesnıt always communicate the presence of opportunity in every crisis. In
this case, the opportunity presented by the climate crisis is not only the
opportunity for new and better jobs, new technologies, new opportunities for
profit, and a higher quality of life. It gives us an opportunity to experience
something that few generations ever have the privilege of knowing: a common
moral purpose compelling enough to lift us above our limitations and motivate
us to set aside some of the bickering to which we as human beings are naturally
vulnerable. Americaıs so-called ³greatest generation² found such a purpose
when they confronted the crisis of global fascism and won a war in Europe and
in the Pacific simultaneously. In the process of achieving their historic
victory, they found that they had gained new moral authority and a new capacity
for vision. They created the Marshall Plan and lifted their recently defeated
adversaries from their knees and assisted them to a future of dignity and
self-determination. They created the United Nations and the other global
institutions that made possible many decades of prosperity, progress and
relative peace. In recent years we have squandered that moral authority and it
is high time to renew it by taking on the highest challenge of our generation.
In rising to meet this challenge, we too will find self-renewal and
transcendence and a new capacity for vision to see other crises in our time
that cry out for solutions: 20 million HIV/AIDs orphans in Africa alone, civil
wars fought by children, genocides and famines, the rape and pillage of our
oceans and forests, an extinction crisis that threatens the web of life, and
tens of millions of our fellow humans dying every year from easily preventable
diseases. And, by rising to meet the climate crisis, we will find the vision
and moral authority to see them not as political problems but as moral
This is an opportunity for bipartisanship and transcendence, an opportunity to
find our better selves and in rising to meet this challenge, create a better
brighter future a future worthy of the generations who come after us and who
have a right to be able to depend on us.
Copyright notice: We have reproduced this article since the internet is volatile and because it's a necessary reference to our comments on the viewpoints of Mr Al Gore regarding "solutions"to the climate change problems. Transcript thanks to www.changetheparty.com - Written by Donnie Fowler
Ms for his transcript..
Al Gore's "solutions" - a critique