Earth and all of the life it sustains is in imminent danger from global climate change and from the “enforced orthodoxy’’ of its deniers, but there is still time to act and reason for hope, former Vice President Al Gore said at the University of Chicago Monday evening.
In discussing the political problems holding back environmental reforms, he spoke directly to comments made at the same University of Chicago Institute of Politics forum two weeks earlier by Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, who claimed scientists only have 100 years of “real data’’ at which to look when assessing climate change. Even as he argued against a “dumbed down” debate, his calculus suggests scientists can’t use other evidence to study historical changes in the planet that include weather and energy patterns, something with which nearly all experts disagree.
Here's a look at Paul's comments and Gore's response:
“Of course, Sen. Paul is from a coal state," Gore told the capacity crowd in response to Paul's comments on climate change. "Even if he were not, anyone who wants to set his or her aspirations for the Republican nomination for the presidency in 2016 already knows they can’t possibly cross the Koch Brothers and the others who are part of that group.
“They are large carbon polluters and ideological anti-statists who are really terrified that the government would do anything new.’’
Gore said Republicans such as John McCain acknowledged climate change as recently as the last decade, but due to the ultra-conservative turn the party has taken and massive financial support by right-wing business, such a position no longer is allowed in the party. The Koch Brothers are Charles G. and David H. Koch who, through a non-profit arm of their energy business, support candidates, think tanks, studies and other activities tied to the Tea Party.
Known as an environmental crusader since losing the presidency to George W. Bush in the controversial 2000 election, Gore is focused on his mission of climate science education and improvements to energy policy at home and around the world. The nation's former vice-president has also criticized the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision (McCutcheon v FEC) that claims to give corporations the same political speech rights as a person. Gore also jokingly added that he hasn’t always supported Supreme Court decisions. (A vote recount that might have given Gore the 2000 election was stopped by the High Court.)
Despite mounting and undeniable evidence of pollution and energy byproducts raising the aggregate temperature of the planet, creating more severe weather patterns and hastening natural disasters from tsunamis to droughts, Gore said there is hope.
“We can’t just go from denial to despair without taking the intermediate step of actually solving the problem,’’ he added.
The increasingly rapid development curve for new, cleaner technologies mean 80 percent of the world’s population will have new energy options within the next decade, such as photovoltaic power, which is electricity derived from solar power.
Of course, this will require elected officials to beat back the Koch Brothers and other climate change deniers who have tried to impose taxes on solar panels to prevent the development of that technology, Gore explained.
“More energy is sent from the sun to the Earth in an hour than is used around the world in a year,’’ Gore said. “You can’t compromise a core value like the survival of the planet.’’
Image: Ray Whitehouse, UChicago Institute of Politics