Monday, September 18, 2006

A Summary of Al Gore's Policy Address at NYU

Al Gore's policy address at NYU laid out a plan in a "no politicians zone" between "political feasibility" and the first beginnings of effective change to the current "climate crisis." Gore said that he wanted to shine some light on a pathway through that "terra incognita." He argued that we need to begin with a higher level of honesty in America's political dialogue, because our children "deserve better than the [present] spectacle of scientific censorship" since they will inherit the world we leave them.

His plan included:
  1. An immediate freeze on all CO2 emissions levels. Gore called this a practical starting point to work together across partisan lines. He compared this proposal to the popular nuclear freeze movement of the 1980s, which he opposed at the time because he saw it as too simplistic. He changed his mind when he realized that the nuclear freeze movement prepared the political landscape for important weapons reduction initiatives. He argues that an emissions freeze could have the same effect.
  2. Join the rest of the global economy by living by the rules of the global cap on carbon emissions commerce. The current U.S. absence means that 25% of the world's market is missing from adherence to the global cap. Once the U.S. joins, according to Gore, the global market will become a highly efficient closed system, where corporations are rewarded for meeting their emissions targets at minimum expense.
  3. Convene an ongoing discussion with community leaders around the country over the next year to reach an effective consensus on where to go next; but also utilize solutions that are also already available. Those solutions include:
    • Dramatic changes in transportation that we have yet to start using, including altering the internal combustion engine so that it does not waste the current 90% of the energy it produces
    • Utilizing computer and monitoring system advancements to create a "Smart Grid" or "Electranet" of dispersed energy producing facilities less subject to widespread outage or terrorist attacks. That network could include small ethanol production facilities, dispersed windmill farms, and consumers who produce their own electricity at a capacity to be able to sell it back to the grid
    • A revolution in our transportation infrastructure that would both create American jobs and reduce emissions. New production of hybrid vehicles, biodiesel, and ethanol would allow America to once again become a commercial leader in emerging energy niche industries that generate new jobs and protect the environment
    • Creation of "Conny Mae" lending institutions that help stimulate developments and buildings that generate more energy than they consume
    • Move away from dependence on nuclear reactors, which are too large in cost and size in an economy that demands flexible and scalable sources of energy; the proliferation of reactors also leads to the proliferation of nuclear weapons, which increases the chance of nuclear terrorism
    • Repeal payroll taxes and replace them with pollution taxes. Gore advocates a "revenue-neutral tax swap" that will encourage businesses to hire employees and that will penalize businesses for producing more pollution. He called this "putting a price on the use of CO2 emissions."
I thought that Gore did exactly what he set out to do: provide a significant policy alternative that addresses both what is feasible in our economy and what is necessary to turn us away from the tipping point in our climate crisis.

09/18/2006, 4:30 p.m. Preemptive Strike Update: Before any of Gore's anti-environment critics counter that he is emitting a lot of CO2 by jetting around to these speaking engagements, I want to refer you to the fact that Gore attempts to neutralize his carbon emissions by purchasing "carbon offsets."


  1. And he took another step toward making global warming an issue in politics (again). You think maybe he is trying to bring the fight to him?

  2. I do. Not only did he make global warming an issue, but he mentioned the diverse, bipartisan movement of scientists, business leaders, conservative evangelicals, and environmentalists that has formed to insure that it remains a hot topic. The movement is there.