Hearing that former Vice President Al Gore was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize was news that gave my Bush-weary soul a boost. No one has done more in such a short time to raise awareness of the damage that humans have done to our planet and sounding the warning bell to thwart the horrors of global climate change.
On Feb. 2, 2007, the United Nations scientific panel studying climate change declared that the evidence of a warming trend is “unequivocal,” and that human activity has “very likely” been the driving force in that change over the last 50 years. The last report by the group, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in 2001, had found that humanity had “likely” played a role.
The addition of that single word “very” did more than reflect mounting scientific evidence that the release of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases from smokestacks, tailpipes and burning forests has played a central role in raising the average surface temperature of the earth by more than 1 degree Fahrenheit since 1900. It also added new momentum to a debate that now seems centered less over whether humans are warming the planet, but instead over what to do about it. In recent months, business groups have banded together to make unprecedented calls for federal regulation of greenhouse gases. Even the Supreme Court made its first global warming-related decision, ruling 5 to 4 that the Environmental Protection Agency had not justified its position that it was not authorized to regulate carbon dioxide.
The greenhouse effect has been part of the earth’s workings since its earliest days. Gases like carbon dioxide and methane allow sunlight to reach the earth, but prevent some of the resulting heat from radiating back out into space. Without the greenhouse effect, the planet would never have warmed enough to allow life to form. But as ever larger amounts of carbon dioxide have been released along with the development of industrial economies, the atmosphere has grown warmer at an accelerating rate: Since 1970, temperatures have gone up at nearly three times the average for the 20th century.
The latest report from the climate panel predicted that the global climate is likely to rise between 3.5 and 8 degrees Fahrenheit if the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere reaches twice the level of 1750. By 2100, sea levels are likely to rise between 7 to 23 inches, it said, and the changes now underway will continue for centuries to come.
Al Gore’s work and his Oscar winning film “An Inconvenient Truth” have raised awareness unparalleled. He has taken arcane scientific research and reports and made them accessible for the average guy- like me. Gore became intensely interested in the environment when he was a student at Harvard and he held some of the first hearings on the environment on Capitol Hill when he was a Senator. This is not a issue du jour for Mr. Gore. He has had this passion since college. During the 1992 presidential election, George H.W. Bush referred to Gore as “Mr. Ozone”. Maybe he had Gore and his son mixed up since his son seems to be somewhere in what is left of our ozone layer.
There are many Americans who would like to draft Al Gore to run for President again in 2008. A group went to far as running a full page ad in The New York Times urging Mr. Gore to run and using a little guilt- that he owed it to us to run. Former President Jimmy Carter- who I admire enormously- said this morning that if Mr. Gore ran he would immediately endorse him.
The world certainly would have been different if the 2000 election had given the Presidency to the man who actually won the majority of votes in the election- Mr. Gore. Mr. Gore received more than half a million more votes than George W. Bush and if it hadn’t been for the spoiler campaign of Ralph Nader and the decision of the Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore. It’s nice to dream what would have been, especially in a world where what has been is a horror.
There is little doubt that 9/11 would have happened no matter who was President. But it is crystal clear that we never, ever would have ended up in Iraq. Mr. Gore spoke out against going into Iraq before the Congress gave Mr. Bush the green light to go forward with an invasion.
Mr. Gore let the Bush administration have it with both barrels in his captivating book, “The Assault on Reason”. In the book, Mr. Gore excoriates George W. Bush, asserting that the president is “out of touch with reality,” that his administration is so incompetent that it “can’t manage its own way out of a horse show,” that it ignored “clear warnings” about the terrorist threat before 9/11 and that it has made Americans less safe by “stirring up a hornets’ nest in Iraq,” while using “the language and politics of fear” to try to “drive the public agenda without regard to the evidence, the facts or the public interest.”
The administration’s pursuit of unilateralism abroad, Mr. Gore says, has isolated the United States in an ever more dangerous world, even as its efforts to expand executive power at home and “relegate the Congress and the courts to the sidelines” have undermined the constitutional system of checks and balances.
As stated in a a review of “The Assault on Reason” in “The New York Time” By Michiko Kakutani The former vice president contends that the fiasco in Iraq stems from President Bush’s use of “a counterfeit combination of misdirected vengeance and misguided dogma to dominate the national discussion, bypass reason, silence dissent and intimidate those who questioned his logic both inside and outside the administration.” He argues that the gruesome acts of torture committed at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq “were a direct consequence of the culture of impunity — encouraged, authorized and instituted” by President Bush and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. And he writes that the violations of civil liberties committed by the Bush-Cheney administration — including its secret authorization of the National Security Agency to eavesdrop without a court order on calls and e-mail messages between the United States and other countries, and its suspension of the rights of due process for “enemy combatants” — demonstrate “a disrespect for America’s Constitution that has now brought our republic to the brink of a dangerous breach in the fabric of democracy.”
Mr. Gore is clearly in his milieu as an elder statesman who can speak his mind without political repercussions and follow his passion on the environment. He has won an Oscar, an Emmy, the Nobel Peace Prize and actually the 2000 Presidential election. He has nothing to prove to himself or anyone. And he is following his passion and making a difference globally.
After Bush has degraded the Presidency why would Al Gore want to take a giant step back and have less influence on the world than he does now? Mr. Bush will have to live with the fact that he didn’t really win the majority of votes in 2000 and than took that and led the country down a path of disaster- worse than anyone could have dreamed.
Al Gore can be proud that he has made a difference for good in the world and left the world of politics behind. If there were a Nobel War Prize, Mr. Bush would be on the short list.
Mr. Gore should not feel pressured by anyone to run for President. He is making a world of difference right where he is.