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Updated 5:00 PM October 25, 2005




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Wege Lecture

Gore: ‘It is time … to act and save the planet’

The assumption that the Earth is so big, there is no way people can do any harm to it is wrong and one of the reasons global warming has fallen out of favor as a political issue, former Vice President Al Gore said Oct. 24 at the Power Center for the Performing Arts.

Gore was on campus to deliver the 5th Annual Peter M. Wege Lecture, “Global Climate Change.” The School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE), Center for Sustainable Systems, School of Social Work, Division of Kinesiology and Office of the Vice President for Research sponsored the lecture.

“We have to accept the moral consequences of our new relationship with the Earth,” Gore told a full house at the Power Center and a group gathered in the nearby Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre to view a broadcast of the lecture. “It is time we keep our eye on the prize and act to save the planet.”

Gore delivered his lecture cast only in a dim light and backed by two large projection screens on which he displayed charts, facts and photos on the causes and effects of global warming. Many in the crowd gasped when Gore showed before and after images of huge glaciers that have all but disappeared from the Earth.

He said Glacier National Park soon might be known as the ‘park formerly known as Glacier National Park.’

Gore said the United States contributes to 30.3 percent of global warming, and the factors behind the ratio include population explosion, the societal and technological revolution, and the way people think about global warming.

“What gives us the right to inflict this experiment on future generations?,” he asked. “Adaptation is part of the issue, but prevention is still the key.”

Gore said there are many misconceptions about global warming, including a perceived disagreement among scientists—which he said is false—and the idea that people must choose between environment and the government.

He showed several graphs indicating the United States is well behind other countries in producing energy efficient vehicles.

“For the automakers, it is time for a new approach,” he said. “I am loyal to American automakers, but I want them to make things that are better for the environment.”

Gore said the 10 hottest years on record have come during the last 14 years and 2005 should be the warmest. If quick action is not taken on global warming, he added, 65 percent of the soil moisture could be lost over vast amounts of North America.

People may think differently about global warming after Hurricane Katrina, Gore said. He noted Katrina only was a category 1 storm when it hit Florida, but escalated to category 5 after absorbing water from the warm Gulf of Mexico.

“For the first time ever, we have run out of names for hurricanes,” he said.

Gore said the United States has the technology to solve global warming, and cited the Declaration of Independence, fall of communism and victory over Apartheid as examples of people’s capability of doing great things.

“This must become a bipartisan issue again,” he said. “These things should be dealt with along with terrorism. It should not just be the fight against terrorism.”

SNRE Dean Rosina Bierbaum, who served as associate director for environment and senior scientific advisor to the Clinton Administration on environmental research and development, introduced the former senator as a great champion, visionary and servant of the environment. Gore, in turn, said he has been impressed with Bierbaum’s leadership.

“This is one of the three finest institutions of the environment in the world, and you deserve a lot of credit for that,” he said.

If some in attendance did not know of Gore’s credentials, he gave a brief introduction. “I am Al Gore and I used to be vice president of the United States,” he said, eliciting laughter and applause from the audience. “I am a recovering politician—in step 9.”

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