Thursday, July 5, 2007

Al Gore is a Hero

And it's not because he looks good in blue spandex wearing his underwear outside his pants. That would actually be disturbing. He is a hero because Google’s trend line for US searches on the term “global warming” shows a doubling in 2006. It proved to be a watershed year for American’s awareness of the issue. Suddenly, it appeared on the covers of Wired, Vanity Fair, Business Week, and Time Magazine. I think Al’s movie (can I call him Al? Super Al perhaps?) “An Inconvenient Truth”, which was released in May, had a lot to do with it. And it looks like this trend will double again in 2007.

Last September, John Holdren, Director of the Woods Hole Research Center and Chairman of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, told me that we had about five years to start on the downward path of CO2 emissions worldwide if we wanted to prevent the current “severe” effects of climate change from becoming “catastrophic” ones. James Hansen, NASA's Director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies was in the news giving a “less than ten years” time frame. Here is an excerpt from his talk to the National Press Club in February, 2007:

If we do follow the “business as usual” path, even for another ten years, it guarantees that we will have dramatic climate changes that produce what I would call a different planet… It's likely that a large fraction of the species could go extinct.”

These two men are among America’s leading climate scientists. When they talk, I listen. Unlike batman who responded to the bat projected into the sky, these heroes are projecting a call to arms for us, the people. Unlike batman who could stop runaway trains, these men realize that the problem is not one an individual can solve.

Since then, every single talk I give has referred to this important 5 to 10 year window of opportunity. All of us need to transform the public’s awareness of global warming as one problem among many into one of highest urgency. Senate's energy legislation that all but ignored the number one issue – that all energy plans must be evaluated in the context of their CO2 output --illustrates the horrifying disconnect between scientists, the public, and therefore our public servants. It is a fantasy to imagine that tiny tweaks and innuendo can accomplish what is needed.

This last Sunday, Al Gore wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times. It was beautifully done. Here are some excerpts:

"Our home — Earth — is in danger. What is at risk of being destroyed is not the planet itself, but the conditions that have made it hospitable for human beings...If we don't stop doing this [producing CO2 emissions] pretty quickly, the average temperature will increase to levels humans have never known and put an end to the favorable climate balance on which our civilization depends...To this end, we should demand that the United States join an international treaty within the next two years that cuts global warming pollution by 90 percent in developed countries and by more than half worldwide in time for the next generation to inherit a healthy Earth."

I so admire the subtlety of his language with phrases like "hospitable to human beings" and "in time for the next generation" that let him give the hard truth in a not-quite terrifying, and not-quite time specific way. Perfect for the mainstream media and mainstream America. I'm inclined to directness: if we don't stop, and fast, the human species will be reduced to a shell of its current population, and what is needed here in the developed world is a 90 percent reduction in CO2 emissions within 15 to 20 years.

Attend a Live Earth local event, watch the 7 concerts on 7 continents broadcast live on Saturday to be energized, feel the local and global embrace. Then start telling your friends and leaders that you are ready to do what is needed. It’s time for us all to become heroes. Hybrid batmobiles won't cut it; it's time to go loco in all the ways that matter.


lamarguerite said...

Go Robin! I am with you. Being more of an introvert, I have chosen a more meditative approach, but I don't rule out getting out soon . . . You may enjoy reading my green blog, about "My Inconvenient Truth: the Daily Sins of a Green Girl Wannabe".
I am interested in gathering insights on all the personal, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral barriers that stop people from being actively engaged. I have not yet decided what I will do with it.

It was good reading you,

marguerite manteau-rao (in Palo Alto, CA)

Anonymous said...

Al Gore Confronted by Own Scientists - 'Confusion Between Hypothesis and Evidence'

Abrupt climate change is overstated

CHICAGO, June 28 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a historic move, the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released the expert
review comments and responses to its latest assessment of the science of
climate change. The IPCC report is the primary source of data for Al Gore's
movie and book titled "An Inconvenient Truth."
Many of the comments by the reviewers are strongly critical of claims
contained in the final report, and are directly at odds with the so-called
"scientific consensus" touted by Gore and others calling for immediate
government action. For example, the following comment by Eric Steig appears
in Second Order Draft Comments, Chapter 6; section 6-42:
In general, the certainty with which this chapter presents our
understanding of abrupt climate change is overstated. There is confusion
between hypothesis and evidence throughout the chapter, and a great deal of
confusion on the differences between an abrupt "climate change" and
possible, hypothetical causes of such climate changes.
"It is now abundantly clear why Al Gore will not accept our debate
challenge. The supposed scientific consensus on global warming is pure
fiction. Hopefully, the public release of comments and responses will
enable the debate over global warming to turn to facts and less fiction,"
stated Joseph Bast, president of The Heartland Institute, a national
nonprofit think tank based in Chicago.
The Heartland Institute has been running ads in national newspapers
calling on Al Gore to debate Lord Christopher Monckton, a prominent global
warming "skeptic." Starting today, the institute says it is now including
Dennis Avery, an economist and coauthor of a book on global warming that is
on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list, who Gore has also refused
to debate.
To view the IPCC expert comments, go to
For more information about the challenge to Al Gore to debate his
critics, go to

Robin said...

I was going to go carefully read your posting's sources, when I see that the information is generated by

I've run up against them before in an arena I know a lot about: transportation policy. They proposed eliminating transit subsidies and buying every poor person a Prius. They also said that car-sharing could solve the problem. Wrong on both counts. They ignore the fact that American highways are facing a congestion crisis, and building more roads and adding more cars only makes the problem worse. More highways equals more miles to be travelled, and travel we do. Americans have tripled the miles they travel yearly since 1970, and doubled it since 1982. Are we any better off?

I imagine the Heartland Institute's climate science is like their transportation policy analysis.

Anonymous said...

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