By Ian Hoffman
Inside Bay Area
April 7, 2006


OAKLAND - Al Gore brought corporate executives and environmentally minded investors roaring to their feet Thursday with multimedia images of an overheating planet and a call for Americans to reclaim their "moral authority" by tackling global warming.

"This is really not a political issue, it is disguised as a political issue," Gore said. "It is a moral issue, it is an ethical issue -- If we allow this to happen, we will destroy the habitability of the planet. We can't do that, and I am confident we won't do that."

As a U.S. senator, Gore gave global warming talks 15 years ago in Washington that relied almost entirely on scientists' best guesses and computer models.

Now bolstered by real climate changes, he has gone Hollywood, with movies of collapsing ice shelves, then-and-now shots of vanishing glaciers and lakes, telegenic photos of dwindling wildlife species -- plus floods, tornadoes and, of course, hurricanes.

"We have been blind to the fact that the human species is now having a crushing impact on the ecological system of the planet," Gore said.

After Katrina, Rita and Wilma in 2005, federal hurricane scientists used the Greek alphabet in naming tropical storms.

"This is the first foretaste of a cup that will be offered to us again and again and again until we regain our moral authority," Gore told members of Ceres, an organization of companies, investors and environmentalists pressing for greener behavior by corporations.

Gore's message is much the same as it was in the early 1990s, but his talk in Oakland comes at a political tipping point in the debate not about global warming, but what to do about it.

Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia now insist on some percentage of renewables for their energy. Washington state and Oregon are considering a carbon tax. California and a coalition of eight Northeast states are setting mandatory caps on greenhouse gases and moving toward carbon markets. Oakland and 217 other U.S. cities with a total population of more than 40 million have endorsed the Kyoto treaty's limits on greenhouse gases.

More than 40 U.S. corporations in the Fortune 500 say they favor mandatory federal regulation of greenhouse gases, and many executives say they now see such emissions limits as inevitable within five to 10 years.

In Congress, the number of bills dealing with climate change has rocketed from seven in 1997 to more than 100 this year, said Truman Semans of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

"It shows what politicians believe it's important to have a record on, and they believe it's important to have a record on climate change," he said Thursday.

New Mexico's U.S. senators, Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman, who led the Senate last summer in passing a resolution favoring some form of regulation on greenhouse gases, on Tuesday held the first hearings in Congress on creating a mandatory cap on greenhouse emissions and setting up a carbon market to drive less carbon-intensive technologies.

At those hearings, trade associations for the electric-power and mining industries opposed the new rules as potentially disastrous for the U.S. economy. But executives of General Electric, Wal-Mart, Duke Energy, Exelon and other companies urged the senators to move ahead.

If a carbon market were in place that could place a price on the right to release greenhouse gases, then technologies to curb those emissions would rise in value, and the corporate risks of those emissions could be quantified by financial markets, said Kaj Jensen of Bank of America.

"It's inevitable," Jensen told Ceres members. "The only real question we think is when we will have a market in place."

Many of the answers -- increased energy efficiency, conservation, expanded use of alternative fuels -- already are in hand, Gore argued.

"We already have everything we need to get started on solving this crisis. We can solve it," he said. The nation overcame slavery, gave women the right to vote, defeated global fascism on two fronts simultaneously and put a man on the moon, he said. "We can do this if we set our minds to this."

Informant: NHNE


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