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The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded this week, in Oslo, Norway. Al
Gore shared the prize with the United Nations’ Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change, which represents more than 2,500
scientists from 130 countries. The solemn ceremony took place as
the United States is blocking meaningful progress at the U.N.
Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia, and the
Republicans in the U.S. Senate have derailed the energy bill
passed by the House of Representatives, which would have
accelerated the adoption of renewable energy sources at the
expense of big-oil and coal corporations.
Gore set the stage: “So, today, we dumped another 70 million
tons of global-warming pollution into the thin shell of
atmosphere surrounding our planet, as if it were an open sewer.
And tomorrow, we will dump a slightly larger amount, with the
cumulative concentrations now trapping more and more heat from
“As a result, the Earth has a fever. And the fever is rising.
The experts have told us it is not a passing affliction that
will heal by itself. We asked for a second opinion. And a third.
And a fourth. And the consistent conclusion, restated with
increasing alarm, is that something basic is wrong. We are what
is wrong, and we must make it right.”
He went on: “Last Sept. 21, as the Northern Hemisphere tilted
away from the sun, scientists reported with unprecedented
distress that the north polar ice cap is ‘falling off a cliff.’
One study estimated that it could be completely gone during
summer in less than 22 years. Another new study, to be presented
by U.S. Navy researchers later this week, warns it could happen
in as little as seven years. Seven years from now.”
How will climate-change skeptics explain that one? (Already, big
business is celebrating the break up of the polar ice cap, as a
northern sea route from the Atlantic to the Pacific is opening,
creating a cheaper route for more needless shipping.) It is hard
to imagine the north pole, the storied, frozen expanse of ice
and snow, completely gone in just a few years. Lost as well will
be the vast store of archeological data trapped in the ice:
thousands of years of the Earth’s climate history are told in
the layers of ice that descend for miles there. Scientists are
just now learning how to read and interpret the history. The
great meltdown will surely have catastrophic effects on the
ecosystem in the north, with species like the polar bear already
edging toward extinction.
Rajendra Pachauri, an Indian scientist, accepted for the IPCC.
He is a careful scientist with the political finesse to chair
the work of the IPCC despite the enduring antagonism of the
United States. He pointed to the disproportionate effect of
climate change on the world’s poor:
“[T]he impacts of climate change on some of the poorest and the
most vulnerable communities in the world could prove extremely
unsettling ... in terms of: access to clean water, access to
sufficient food, stable health conditions, ecosystem resources,
security of settlements.”
Pachauri predicts water wars and mass migrations. “Migration,
usually temporary and often from rural to urban areas, is a
common response to calamities such as floods and famines.”
Gore invoked the memory of Mohandas Gandhi, saying he “awakened
the largest democracy on earth and forged a shared resolve with
what he called ‘Satyagraha’—or ‘truth force.’ In every land, the
truth—once known—has the power to set us free.” Satyagraha, as
Gandhi practiced it, is the disciplined application of
nonviolent resistance, which is exactly what Ted Glick is doing
back in Washington, D.C.
Glick heads up the Climate Emergency Council. On his 99th day of
a liquids-only fast, the day after the Nobel ceremony, he joined
with 20 people in the office of Senate Minority Leader Mitch
McConnell for a sit-in. The Senate Republicans are now blocking
a federal energy bill that would create funding for the
development of renewable energy sources in the U.S., while
stripping away billions of dollars worth of tax breaks for big
oil and coal.
Glick told me: “We have to be willing to go to jail. Al Gore,
himself, a couple of months ago talked about how young people
need to be sitting in in front of the coal plants to prevent
coal plants from being built. That’s true. Young people need to
be doing that. Middle-age people need to be doing that. Older
people need to be doing that. And Al Gore needs to be doing that.
Let’s get serious about this crisis.”
While Glick was sitting in, news reports began to circulate
about Republican presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani’s law
firm’s lobbying activities against the energy bill. According to
Bloomberg news, Bracewell & Giuliani LLP was hired by energy
giant Southern Co. to defeat the bill. At a $1,000-a-plate
fundraiser last August, addressing members of the coal industry,
Giuliani said, “We have to increase our reliance on coal.”
As Giuliani’s coffers get fat with money from big oil, gas and
coal, Glick has lost more than 40 pounds, and the Earth’s
temperature continues to rise.
Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily
international TV/radio news hour airing on 650 stations in North
© 2007 Amy Goodman