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Gore/Inhofe exchange heated

WASHINGTON (BP)–Al Gore told Congress March 21 that global warming is a “true planetary emergency” and he called for immediate action to curb the problem, although one senator challenged what he called Gore’s “alarmist” statements.

The former vice president drew overflow crowds when he testified before House and Senate committees on the need for Congress to lead the world in reducing carbon dioxide emissions that have caused rising global temperatures.

“The problem is not going away. It’s getting worse,” Gore said at the House hearing. “The efforts to build public support for a solution to it are going to be increasing steadily.”

James Inhofe, R.-Okla., was among Gore’s chief critics in the Senate, leading off with four questions he wanted Gore to answer with yes or no. Gore agreed that “human-caused global warming is a moral, ethical and spiritual issue affecting our survival,” and he said he basically believes that “reducing fossil-fuel based energy usage will lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions.”

Gore also agreed with Inhofe that home energy use is a key component to overall energy use, along with cars and factories. But when Inhofe asked Gore to pledge that within one year he would consume no more energy in his Nashville, Tenn., 10,000-square-foot house than what the average American household consumes, Gore did not agree. Instead, he emphasized his family’s support of green energy, which includes installing solar panels on their home.

“It is my perspective that your alarmist pronouncements are now and have always been filled with inaccuracies and misleading statements,” Inhofe, who has called global warming “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” said, adding that the cost of reducing greenhouse gas emissions would hurt the poor. “The poor pay for it and the science isn’t there. We just can’t do that to America, Mr. Vice President. And we’re not going to.”

In order to confront what he calls the moral challenge of the day, Gore asked lawmakers to consider an immediate freeze on new carbon dioxide emissions, a pollution tax to compensate for a cut in employment taxes, a stronger international climate treaty to replace the Kyoto protocol, a halt on new coal-burning power plants, and an eventual ban on incandescent light bulbs.

“If you go about this in the right way, instead of putting a minus sign in front of the expenditures that are needed to solve the crisis, you need to put a plus sign in the sense that it’s going to save you money, and it’s going to help make the economy stronger,” Gore told House members when questioned on the cost of his plans.

His message was received well by Democrats but not by most Republicans.

“You’re not just a little off, you’re totally wrong,” Joe Barton, of Texas, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said.

The Washington Post compared Gore’s trip to the Capitol to the Clarence Darrow character in “Inherit the Wind,” the 1960s film on the teaching of evolution.

“It was, in many ways, a 21st-century version of the Scopes trial,” Dana Milbank wrote for The Post March 22. “Only this time, Gore, like William Jennings Bryan a failed Democratic presidential nominee, was playing Darrow, champion of scientific thought.”

Gore, who won an Academy Award this year for his film on global warming called “An Inconvenient Truth,” used imagery to make his point in the hearings.

“The planet has a fever,” he said. “If your baby has a fever, you go to the doctor. If the doctor says you need to intervene here, you don’t say, ‘Well, I read a science fiction novel that tells me it’s not a problem.’ If the crib’s on fire, you don’t speculate that the baby is flame-retardant. You take action.”

When congressional leaders asked Gore why the United States should take such drastic steps to slow the climate change if other polluting countries like India and China are going to continue their harmful practices, Gore said someone must set an example.

“The best way and the only way to get China and India on board is for the U.S. to demonstrate real leadership,” Gore said. “As the world’s largest economy and the greatest superpower, we are uniquely situated to tackle a problem of this magnitude.”

In May, Gore is scheduled to release a book called “The Assault on Reason,” which is being promoted by its publisher, Penguin Group, as a “visionary analysis of how the politics of fear, secrecy, cronyism and blind faith has combined with the degradation of the public sphere to create an environment dangerously hostile to reason.”

Gore’s trip to Capitol Hill was closely watched because some Democrats hope he’ll add his name to a growing list of presidential candidates, and Inhofe dismissed the appearance as a political maneuver.

“He feels that global warming is his ticket to the White House,” Inhofe, the ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, said, according to The New York Times March 20.

The Times March 13 had run an article showing that a growing number of scientists are uneasy with the catastrophic scenarios in Gore’s film on global warming, and they “are alarmed, some say, at what they call his alarmism.”

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  • Erin Roach