It's Christmas season and Al Gore got into the holiday spirit last night when he presented an absolutely compelling and completely frightening lecture at Stanford University. The choice he gave the audience was red or green. Either we face what the former Vice President called our "moral responsibility" by taking action to fix environmental degradation or we risk the devastating (and perhaps near-term) results of global warming.
Having worked for Al Gore for several years, most significantly as his presidential campaign's national field director in 2000, I have seen over and over the Vice President's passion for those things he holds dearest -- among them, the environment, technology, and (above all) his family. Before an audience of nearly 1,500 people, Gore showed the kind of passion that simply defies the unfortunate and unfair reputation he has for being wooden and humorless.
The forum, "Silicon Valley Takes on Global Warming," was organized by one of Silicon Valley's leading CEOs, Amy Rao, and attended by Valley leaders like Apple's CEO Steve Jobs, Yahoo!'s founder Jerry Yang, and both Google's co-founder and its CEO. Gore's presentation was explicitly not a partisan indictment, though there was clear frustration at George W. Bush's willingness to ignore compelling science that the earth's climate is changing because of mankind's fossil-fueled habits. The former vice president actually laid at least some responsibility on both parties, offering that they are too often sensitive to the pressures from corporate interests.
In a detailed, multimedia presentation, Gore offered a glimpse of the campaign he plans to wage publicly in the new year:
* The 10 hottest years on record have all occurred since 1990 and the worst hurricanes on record are occurring with more frequency than ever before.
* Animal species worldwide, from birds to amphibians to polar bears, already are exhibiting symptoms of disruption and harm, having dramatic effects on the food chain (of which we are a part) and the spread of diseases that even affect humans.
* Coral reefs, a fundamental building block of the oceans' ecosystem, are becoming bleached from warmer, more acidic ocean water, and are dying at unprecedented rates.
* Of more than 600 peer-reviewed research publications, not a single one has disputed the view
that global warming is real and measurable, but 53% of media stories continue to refer to global
warming as an issue that is in dispute.
And Gore noted a dangerous change in the North Atlantic currents, which bring warm water to the coasts of Northern Europe. This is an issue that has risen its head just this week in the press and has historical consequences that could put Europe out of commission.
On a strictly political note, Gore's presentation on global climate change also proved, for those who believe there is no difference between Republicans and Democrats, that our nation would be a far different place if he were in the White House. That particular issue is for another blog entry, though (see, Supreme Court, Iraq War, tax cuts for the rich, reaction to Katrina). Suffice it to say that Gore's Environmental Protection Agency, his Department of the Interior, nor his Council of Scientific Advisors would have denied the consensus view of scientists that global warming is real and it is here. On the other hand, Bush appointed the former head of the oil industry'sAmerican Petroleum Institute, Phillip Cooney, to chair his Council on Environmental Quality. (Cooney's no longer in the White House because he left this year to take a senior position with ExxonMobil.)
Gore's conclusion: the United States' most significant political choice today is not between red and blue, it must be between red and green. Stay tuned ...