Congress will soon vote on critical legislation addressing global warming. I was going to write a column on why it is so important to take bold action now, but Al Gore said it much better in his recent remarks accepting the Nobel Peace Prize for his pioneering work on global warming. This is a condensed version of his speech.
“Ladies and gentlemen: I have a purpose here today. It is a purpose I have tried to serve for many years. I have prayed that God would show me a way to accomplish it.
We, the human species, are confronting a planetary emergency—a threat to the survival of our civilization that is gathering ominous and destructive potential even as we gather here. But there is hopeful news as well: We have the ability to solve this crisis and avoid the worst—though not all—of its consequences, if we act boldly, decisively, and quickly.
However, despite a growing number of honorable exceptions, too many of the world’s leaders are still best described in the words Winston Churchill applied to those who ignored Adolph Hitler’s threat: ‘They go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolve to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all powerful to be impotent.’
So today we dumped another 70 million tons of global-warming pollution into the thin shell of atmosphere surrounding our planet, as if it were an open sewer. And tomorrow we will dump a slightly larger amount, with the cumulative concentrations now trapping more and more heat from the sun.
As a result, the earth has a fever. And the fever is rising. The experts have told us it is not a passing affliction that will heal itself. We asked for a second opinion. And a third. And a fourth. And the consistent conclusion, restated with increasing alarm, is that something basic is wrong.
Indeed, without realizing it, we have begun to wage war on the earth itself. Now we and the earth’s climate are locked in a relationship familiar to war planners: mutually assured destruction. It is time to make peace with the planet.
We must quickly mobilize our civilization with the urgency and resolve that has previously been seen only when nations mobilize for war. When we unite for a moral purpose that is manifestly good and true, the spiritual energy unleashed can transform us.
This week I will urge the delegates in Bali to adopt a bold mandate for a treaty that establishes a universal global cap on emissions and uses the market in emissions trading to efficiently allocate resources to the most effective opportunities for speedy reductions. We also need a moratorium on the construction of any new generating facility that burns coal without capacity to safely trap and store carbon dioxide. And most important of all, we need to put a price on carbon—with a CO2 tax that is then rebated back to the people, progressively, according to the laws of each nation, in ways that shift the burden of taxation from employment to pollution. This is by far the most effective and simplest way to accelerate solutions to this crisis.
We have everything we need to get started, save perhaps political will, but political will is a renewable resource.
To read the full text of this speech or to learn what you can do to help fight global warming, go to www.audubon.org. To learn more about how cap and trade works, click here.
So let us renew it, and say together: ‘We have a purpose. We are many. For this purpose we will rise, and we will act.’ ”—Al Gore