The Washington Times - July 17, 2008, 05:59PM

Real Clear Politics published an article today by Al Gore that seems more like a spoof than a legitimate argument for addressing “climate change.” Gore’s speech, “A Generational Challenge to Repower America,” starts bad and gets worse. 

“The survival of the United States of America as we know it is at risk,” Gore starts, after some initial platitudes that aren’t even quote-worthy. “And even more - if more should be required - the future of human civilization is at stake. I don’t remember a time in our country when so many things seemed to be going so wrong simultaneously.”


Aha! We’re at crisis point because Al Gore “doesn’t remember” a time when things seemed so bad. I guess he doesn’t “remember” learning about the Great Depression in history class, nor that whole 1970s energy crisis-during-the-Cold War — you know, the one he saw with his own two eyes. So forgive us for not taking Al Gore at the word of his “memory,” which is sketchy to say the least. America has had many crises of confidence; if this is the “worst of times,” it’s not by much.

He tries to pad his argument by discussing the economy, the subprime mortgage issue, and soaring energy rates that are legitimately straining the country. But it doesn’t take long before he gets into his pitch:

“The climate crisis, in particular, is getting a lot worse - much more quickly than predicted,” citing a melting glacier in Greenland. Then he throws the deep ball: “Two major studies from military intelligence experts have warned our leaders about the dangerous national security implications of the climate crisis, including the possibility of hundreds of millions of climate refugees destabilizing nations around the world. Just two days ago, 27 senior statesmen and retired military leaders warned of the national security threat from an “energy tsunami” that would be triggered by a loss of our access to foreign oil. Meanwhile, the war in Iraq continues, and now the war in Afghanistan appears to be getting worse.”

I thought it was the Republicans who made their trade in “scare tactics”? I’ve heard some crazy arguments from the Right — including, once, at a dinner party, the need for a 400 million person “Christian Army” to counter the threat of radical Islam — but I’ve never heard anything as crazy as Gore’s concept.

The only climate refugees in existence were first displaced three years ago, in Bangladesh, according to the Wiki piece on the topic. Additional research showed that Bangladesh is in a bad way, geographically, just above sea level. It is literally a matter of time before that land is uninhabitable, even if we all start using a few less squares of toilet paper.

My reaction to the Bangladesh situation is similar to my reaction to Katrina: “yeah, but…” And the “but” here is the simple geography of the place. You can’t live in a place that’s barely above sea level — or, as in New Orleans, below sea level — and be surprised when water starts creeping into your home. In California, when peoples’ homes slide down a hill, they move away. The tragedy of Bangladesh is that the 150 million people there don’t have the money to move.

But let’s be clear as to the root of this problem: geography. Sea level will always be rising. There are some places that just weren’t meant to be lived in. Humans might be speeding up the process, but let’s not kid ourselves — this process will go on whether or not I run my air conditioner (my place is currently a cool 72 degrees, thanks for asking).

Then Gore asks us to trust his memory once again. And by the way, our weather sure is getting strange, isn’t it? There seem to be more tornadoes than in living memory, longer droughts, bigger downpours and record floods. Unprecedented fires are burning in California and elsewhere in the American West. Higher temperatures lead to drier vegetation that makes kindling for mega-fires of the kind that have been raging in Canada, Greece, Russia, China, South America, Australia and Africa.”

Maybe? Maybe not? I actually feel that it’s been a bit colder than I remember as a child; whether that’s actually true or whether I’m just more bothered by the cold now is up for debate. But anecdotal strolls down memory lane are a rather poor basis for policy-making, no?



Gore or Pickens? That’s the question of our time

Gore improves from there, speaking of the need to seek creative solutions to our problems, and linking them to one common thread, one we must pull immediately: moving away from carbon fuels, into solar and wind energy rather than sending our money to Saudi Arabia.

Which, as far as it goes, is fine. The problem is, you can’t stop using carbon until you have something to replace it with. Environmentalists, of the there should be a law! camp, think this means legislation to reduce carbon emissions. And the law they favor is a cap on carbon emissions, which failed in a recent Senate vote.

But a carbon cap is all stick, no carrot, and at great cost to the economy. You’ve heard of “putting a bandaid on a bullet wound?” Carbon capping schemes are like shooting yourself in the arm to take your mind off your toothache.

That said, it’s as sad as it is telling that only two men, Gore and oilman T. Boone Pickens, are speaking to the real issue of our time: American dependence on foreign oil. (Pickens is less focused on the environmental ramifications than the geopolitical ones).  Conspicuous by their absence on this list are Senators John McCain and Barack Obama. You know, the guys who are running for president.

But politicians aren’t leaders; they’re panderers who are more likely to take direction from focus groups than to tell people what they need to hear (for all McCain’s rep as a “maverick,” he supports carbon cap-and-trade to attract the “disaffected Democrats” that don’t exist). Gore and Pickens aren’t beholden to anyone and are thus free to explore creative solutions, rather than gas tax holidays and other such.

It is interesting to contrast between Gore and Pickens and their respective approaches. Gore thinks he can “fear” us into taking action, and any carbon capping scheme would legislate America into the poorhouse. Pickens, instead, appeals to our ingenuity, our very American craving for independence and entreats a national investment in wind energy that would reduce our need for foreign oil by 1/3 within a decade. Pickens appeals to what’s best in us, and encourages American investment in wind, not bulky laws of neglible benefit and high costs.

Since we know neither John McCain or Barack Obama has any real ideas on this front, let’s just hope that the Pickens Plan grades out higher than the Gore plan when the focus groups convene.

— James David Dickson