Friday, July 18, 2008

Gore is Right and Did it Beautifully

Lest you assume that everything Gore says, I agree with, you would be wrong. In his speech delivered in Washington DC yesterday, he said all the right things. But I was incredibly disappointed and frustrated that he didn’t say these things when he received the Nobel Peace Prize in October, and he didn’t say these things when he addressed leaders from 190 nations at the climate talks in Bali in December. I just couldn’t understand his reticence, and I was mad at him. He knows better. And his speech yesterday proves that. He said all the important things, and he delivered the message much better than I ever have.

His complete speech can be found here.

What are these mysterious “right” points?

He enumerates a wide range of national and global problems and says “But if we grab hold of that common thread and pull it hard, all of these complex problems begin to unravel and we will find that we’re holding the answer to all of them right in our hand. The answer is to end our reliance on carbon-based fuels.”


“Today I challenge our nation to commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years.”

Yes. Critical is the 10 year time frame for significant reductions. What I found politically clever is that he has set a goal that has better meaning and resonance than the ones I’ve talked about: getting world-wide CO2 emissions down within this time frame. His goal is what is required to achieve my goal, and his is so much less scientific and opaque.

“I have long supported a sharp reduction in payroll taxes with the difference made up in CO2 taxes. We should tax what we burn, not what we earn. This is the single most important policy change we can make.”

Yes, yes, yes. Way to go Al! He is the only American politician/ leader/ environmentalist (what is he?) that has had the courage to say this. NRDC, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Congressmen and Senators have all wimped out on this point. As I’ve said many times before, Cap and Trade solutions will not cut it. Pushing for “politically viable” solutions that don’t solve the problem is just pointless. I respect his courage for doing and saying what all those others wouldn’t. Previously, only a few scientists have had the nerve to speak out on this point (see Jim Hansen post).

Gore does embed this little tax line about 20 minutes into his 27 minute speech, and he doesn’t repeat it. And that is no doubt politically astute, but he is quite clear “this is the single most important policy change we can make.”

And so he concludes:

“Our success depends on our willingness as a people to undertake this journey and to complete it within 10 years.”

I challenge the next President, Congress, Governors, and Mayors to have the same courage and commitment.

Before the Bali talks, Gore’s climate action organization sent out emails asking for signatures to support his plan. I got the email, and searched everywhere for the plan. I never found one, and I never forwarded that email or signed on. But this is a plan I support whole heartedly, and I encourage you all to sign on so that our leaders can get to work with your important support.


Garry Golden said...

Agree that it was bold, but I was also disappointed though for different reasons if I might share them.

(And yes, I agree with importance of a carbon tax as our most important policy decision!)

First, that he stood there alone. This is the type of announcement and call to arms, that requires partnerships. Yet, no one from industry stood next to him.

And then, I was shocked to not hear the word 'biology' in his speech. If we are serious about addressing carbon - my slogan is to start thinking about carbon as biologists, and not engineers.

Why should we be trying to pump carbon into the ground, when it is the foundation of growth for life. Recent pilot project advances in next generation bioenergy (e.g. algae, bacteria) are profound and should be put on the public's radar. Gore could have planted that idea to middle America.

Within ten years we could see a surging bioenergy industry tapping microorganisms (not plants) and retrofit power plants with subunits that take the carbon emissions and convert it into liquid fuels.

I was a little shocked that Gore did not mentioned the power of biology in his 10 year time horizon.

Biology is a game changing idea for our carbon efforts.

I wrote a post on it -

and also at:

And I'm a big fan Robin-- really enjoy your approach to big ideas in the transportation sector! Thanks

Byam said...

I sold my truck last Dec.'06. I take the bus and am more relaxed and have met a 2-time Purple Heart recipient from the 1st.gulf war and Vietnam. He has flown for 30 yrs. '68-'98 and crashed FIVE times. Please see The Prem Rawat Tribute website and Peace is Possible by Andrea Cagan at the Mighty River Press. It is an excellent bio.that has 90 pictures and 400 pgs.of the last 50 yrs.of events. Thank you. Byam