Is Gore our Gort?

Is Gore our Gort?

An Op-Editude

Al Gore’s real and riveting message about global warming may seem alien to many, especially the world’s behemoth energy producers who envision their day of reckoning if they obey his admonitions and follow his teachings. And to political knuckleheads like President Bush, who steadfastly refuse to watch his award-winning call-to-arms film for reasons that defy logic and who, like a befuddled ship’s captain afraid to change course for fear his crew would criticize him for setting bad compass headings to begin with, prefers the pride of self-righteousness as he and his Panglossian world view down with the ship.

In his speech yesterday in the Oslo, Norway, where he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize shared with Mr. Pachauri, the Chairman of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Mr. Albert Arnold Gore told his audience there and those of us watching from afar that unless we, the inhabitants of Planet Earth, change our profligate energy ways, and soon, the tiny spherical blue ball we live on will reach a point from which returning to the safety we once knew will only be accomplished with the greatest of efforts of the human race working together.

And since we don’t have a great track record in that department, there is, in my view, cause for worry.

Gore’s message about the need to change our mindset and our actions relative to global warming was the modern-day equivalent of the message given in the 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still. In that science fiction classic, an interstellar humanoid, accompanied by his master robot, Gort, whose powers to do good or deliver harm were infinite, tells wide-eyed earthlings that if they expand their foolish conflicts into space, using their new-found knowledge of atomic weapons in the process, Gort will annihilate them.

Gore, the man who would have been our president but for the intervention of the US Supreme Court in 2000, is considerably smaller, decidedly more flexible and not possessed of Gort’s laser-beam eye, capable of total destruction. By comparison to the awesome powers of the universe the robot Gort came equipped with, the Al Gore of Planet Earth only possess a couple of weapons – the powers of thought and persuasion -- neither of which can melt metal or suspend time.

But notwithstanding Gore’s very human profile and attributes, he may indeed be as strange and feared by the ever-dwindling audience of disbelievers in the reality of global warming as the movie inhabitants of Washington looked upon the metallic monster of Gort standing in stony, impenetrable silence before the seamless spacecraft it rode in on.

We, the human species, are confronting a planetary emergency — a threat to the survival of our civilization that is gathering ominous and destructive potential even as we gather here. But there is hopeful news as well: we have the ability to solve this crisis and avoid the worst — though not all — of its consequences, if we act boldly, decisively and quickly.

However, despite a growing number of honorable exceptions, too many of the world's leaders are still best described in the words Winston Churchill applied to those who ignored Adolf Hitler's threat: "They go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all powerful to be impotent. [Excerpts from Mr. Gore’s Novel Prize Speech]

Eerily similar to the bitter-pill message Klaatu, the humanoid played by the actor Michael Rennie in the film, gave to the gathering of world leaders about their need to stop warring amongst themselves, Gore told his gathering of world leaders in Oslo that “we have begun to wage war on the earth itself. Now, we and the earth's climate are locked in a relationship familiar to war planners: ‘Mutually assured destruction.’”

Marching as if to a different kind of war, Gore said time is of the essence and that unless our civilization mobilizes quickly to meet the urgency of the natural forces leading to a rapid rise in temperatures, in the same way “nations mobilize for war,” the threat that is “real, rising, imminent and universal” will be as devastating to us now as the threat of Gort’s powers unleashed were in the film.

In addition to calling for a tax on carbon, a cessation of building any new coal-burning power plant that can’t trap and sequester carbon dioxide, Gore said the world needs an alliance among nations and its leaders, especially America and China, two countries he singled out as the greatest contributors to problem of global warming but also the two countries who can make the greatest contribution to the solution to global warming.

Both countries should stop using the other's behavior as an excuse for stalemate and instead develop an agenda for mutual survival in a shared global environment.

With granddaughters myself, I think the two questions Gore posed in his speech are worthy of repeating here:

The future is knocking at our door right now. Make no mistake, the next generation will ask us one of two questions. Either they will ask: "What were you thinking; why didn't you act?" Or they will ask instead: "How did you find the moral courage to rise and successfully resolve a crisis that so many said was impossible to solve?"

In the media release announcing its 2007 Peace Prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee made clear that the connection between human activities and global warming, a connection disputed by selfish energy interests and political partisans blinded by their ideology, is so real that the “earth’s future climate must be treated with the utmost seriousness, and with the precautionary principle uppermost in our minds.”

Quick to spoil Mr. Gore’s party by spiking the punch bowl with partisan bitters, the Cato Institute’s Patrick Michaels derided Gore for being a “nut that grew into a giant oak by standing his ground." The free market thinker on environmental studies he is, Michaels, whose academic and published pedigree is extensive, nonetheless issued a statement mocking Gore: “We can only hope that he (Gore) can parlay his prize into a run for the U. S. presidency, where he will be unable to hide from debate on his extreme and one-sided view of global warming."

But despite the fury that boiled up from a scorned conservative environmentalist of Michael’s ilk, Mr. Gore looked every bit a president and a world leader on the stage in Oslo. And his words of warning and hope were taken as seriously as if he were America’s president, a dream many of us wish were true.

Extensive climate changes may alter and threaten the living conditions of much of mankind. They may induce large-scale migration and lead to greater competition for the earth's resources. Such changes will place particularly heavy burdens on the world's most vulnerable countries. There may be increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and between states. [NBPP Media Release]

Countering the dimwitted, clueless claim that global warming is nothing more than an unsubstantiated hoax, the NNC pointed to the thousands of scientists and officials from over one hundred countries who, through the work of the IPCC, have collaborated to achieve greater certainty as to the scale of the warming Gore has been on the march about for years. After decades of study and scientific findings that only the most stubborn, untaught and grossly misinformed critics of Gore’s message refuse to admit to despite their proven veracity, the body of scientific work now before us shows that the connections once justifiable doubted are clearer, with consequences even more apparent.

By awarding the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 to the IPCC and Al Gore, the Norwegian Nobel Committee is seeking to contribute to a sharper focus on the processes and decisions that appear to be necessary to protect the world’s future climate, and thereby to reduce the threat to the security of mankind. Action is necessary now, before climate change moves beyond man’s control. [NPP Media Release]

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