Gore Urges Obama To Take Lead On Climate Change

Al Gore i i

hide captionFormer Vice President Al Gore says the world still needs to "shift to renewal sources of energy, much higher levels of efficiency and sustainable forestry and sustainable agriculture."

Tipper Gore
Al Gore

Former Vice President Al Gore says the world still needs to "shift to renewal sources of energy, much higher levels of efficiency and sustainable forestry and sustainable agriculture."

Tipper Gore

Three years ago, former Vice President Al Gore won an Academy Award for his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, about global warming. But he hasn't given up pushing his cause: Now Gore has released a new book, called Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Global Climate Crisis.

At the end of the book, he writes a hypothetical, optimistic history of an upcoming event: "In December of 2009, all the nations of the world gathered in Copenhagen, Denmark, to negotiate a global treaty that many, even then, thought was impossible. Later, it was strengthened. And in 2010, an idealistic new generation took the initiative and changed the political tone in nation after nation."

But there has been warning that next month's United Nations conference in Copenhagen won't achieve a meaningful agreement on climate change.

Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis
By Al Gore
Paperback, 416 pages
Rodale Books
List price: $26.99
Read An Excerpt

Gore tells NPR's Robert Siegel that he hopes President Obama will go to the conference to send a message. He says that if the Senate passes legislation on climate change before then, Obama will have a "strengthened hand."

"The United States is still the acknowledged leader of the world, and we have the largest economy in the world, and we're one of the two largest emitters of global warming pollution," he says. "Unless the United States plays its customary leadership role, it would be impossible to resolve this crisis. But with the United States leading in a responsible way, we can."

But Gore also has been accused of profiting as an investor from some of the green-energy policies that, as an advocate, he urged Congress to adopt.

"I've given away everything and more that's attributable to anything of that sort," Gore says. "The majority of my business career over the last nine years, since I left public service, has been focused on other areas: Internet, information technology and the like. But I have made some investments in the things that I believe in.

"If I were not to do so, I would be accused by these same people of being a hypocrite. I have donated all of that and more to the Alliance of Climate Protection, a nonprofit that focuses on raising awareness to the climate crisis and the solutions to the same."

For decades, Gore has urged consumers to adopt green changes to their lifestyles that might help put a dent in global warming. But when asked if progress has been made on this front, he says, "some."

"We have made some progress, but the burning of fossil fuels and the rapid deforestation under way in many countries — particularly tropical countries — has moved ahead much faster," Gore says.

He adds: "In writing this book over the last 3 1/2 years, I came to the conclusion that we have all of the tools we need to solve three or four climate crises — and we only have to solve one. But we have to choose to do it."

Excerpt: 'Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis'

'Our Choice' book cover i i
'Our Choice' book cover

Not too many years from now, a new generation will look back at us in this hour of choosing and ask one of two questions. Either they will ask, "What were you thinking? Didn't you see the entire North Polar ice cap melting before your eyes? Did you not care?"

Or they will ask instead, "How did you find the moral courage to rise up and solve a crisis so many said was impossible to solve?"

We must choose which of these questions we want to answer, and we must give our answer now — not in words but in actions.

The answer to the first question — what were you thinking? — is almost too painful to write:

"We argued among ourselves. We didn't want to believe that it really was happening. We waited too long.

"We had so many other problems crying out for attention. I know this is of little comfort, but we did try. I'm sorry."

The second question — how did you solve it? — is the one I much prefer that we answer, and here is the answer I hope we can give:

Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis
By Al Gore
Paperback, 416 pages
Rodale Books
List price: $26.99

"The turning point came in 2009. The year began well, with the inauguration of a new president, who immediately shifted priorities to focus on building the foundation for a new low-carbon economy. The resistance to these changes — especially by corporations that were making a lot of money from coal, oil, and gas — was ferocious.

"But the truth about the global emergency gained ground. The evidence presented by the scientists accumulated, slowly at first, but then a few of the opponents of change changed themselves.

"Whatever happened, it made a powerful difference when these former opponents became passionate advocates for a new direction. The momentum shifted. One by one, others joined in a powerful consensus that we had to act, boldly and quickly. At the end of 2009, the United States passed legislation that changed the way business and civic leaders made plans for the future.

"By putting a price on the pollution that had been previously ignored, the United States established powerful incentives to begin the historic shift. The new incentives to shift our energy production from fossil fuels to solar, wind, and geothermal sources unleashed a wave of improvements in renewable technologies.

"All over the world, as awareness of the climate crisis grew, people concerned about you found ways to put pressure on their leaders. Hundreds of thousands, then millions of grassroots networks emerged.

"Although leadership came from many countries, once the United States finally awakened to its responsibilities, it reestablished the moral authority the world had come to expect from the U.S.

"The most important change that made this transformation possible is something that is hard to describe in words. Our way of thinking changed. The earth itself began to occupy our thoughts. Somehow, it became no longer acceptable to participate in activities that harmed the integrity of the global environment.

"I know that we waited too long. I wish we had acted sooner. But the outlook for your future is now bright. The wounds we inflicted on the atmosphere and the earth's ecological system are healing.

"It seems ironic now that our commitment during the Great Transformation to a low-carbon economy was what restored economic prosperity. Once the world embarked on the journey to heal our world and save your future, tens of millions of new jobs — including whole new professions — began to emerge.

"I ask only one thing of you in return for what we have done on your behalf: pass on to your children the courage and resolve to act boldly and wisely whenever the future is at risk. You will be challenged, as we were. But I know that you will not fail those who come after you, as we did not fail you.

"The choice is awesome and potentially eternal. It is in the hands of the present generation: a decision we cannot escape, and a choice to be mourned or celebrated through all the generations that follow."

Excerpt from Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis by Al Gore. Copyright 2009 by Al Gore. Permission granted by Rodale Inc.

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