Gore tells of an inconvenient Australian truth
By Rich Bowden Sep 20, 2006, 16:40 GMT
In Australia recently to promote his environmental film, ex US Vice-President Al Gore bought into the growing debate in the country over the Australian Liberal government’s intransigent policies over climate change.
Since his controversial loss to George Bush in the 2000 presidential election, ex Vice-President Al Gore has taken up the mantle of the ecological warrior, holding over a thousand talks and seminars across the world warning of the danger of global warming.
His campaign, which some have said has more to do with positioning himself for the Democratic party’s nomination for the 2008 presidential election than concern for the environment, has recently culminated in a world tour to support the global release of his film and book “An Inconvenient Truth.”
The film contends that, if the majority of scientists are correct, the world has only a decade to reduce carbon emissions before our planet’s climate is damaged beyond repair. Gore uses a wide range of scientific opinion and studies to back up his claim that global warming is a clear and present danger and calls on governments to act now to prevent climate catastrophe.
He denies he is using the film for political gain and, though not completely ruling out a second bid for the presidency, has insisted his environmental crusade is rooted in deeply held beliefs. The film has received praise from green groups and many climate change experts and the American public have demonstrated their considerable support for “An Inconvenient Truth” since the film opened on May 24 by making it the third highest ever box office grossing documentary in the US.
Arriving in Australia last week to appear at the Sydney premiere of his film, Gore spoke of the acute dangers Australia faces with global warming. In a series of interviews, Gore warned Australians their country was more at risk through climate change due to its geographic location and state as the world’s driest continent.
“You have climate extremes; you're here in the middle of the southern ocean, you're an island continent, you're in a very low latitude, you are subjected to extremes of climate, and it's the extremes that are predicted to become more extreme,” he said at a press conference.
“You're also the driest of the inhabited continents, and you've created an advanced society on very dry land. And one of the most powerful consequences of global warming is to pull moisture out of the soil and affect the rainfall patterns, and in places like Australia it would be accompanied by a shortage of drinking water supply,” he said.
Environmentalists such as Gore have long criticized countries such as Australia for their refusal (along with the United States) to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 treaty which assigned mandatory targets for the reduction of greenhouse gases.
The Australian Prime Minister John Howard has repeatedly rejected calls for a target in reductions of carbon emissions saying to do so would harm an Australian economy strongly reliant on fossil fuels. He repeated this stance to the federal parliament during Gore’s visit.
“I’ve made it very plain [to Al Gore] on behalf of the Government that we do not intend to sign a protocol which would export Australian jobs to other countries,” said Howard.
Howard refused to meet with Gore during his visit or view his film saying “I don't take policy advice from films.”
Describing Howard as “increasingly alone” in his opinion Gore said,
“Well first of all I think that the old argument that you have to choose between the environment and the economy has been discredited over and over again,” he said on the Australian ABC’s 7.30 Report.
“The polluters always say, ‘Oh no we can't put our pollution because it will hurt the economy,’ but, in fact the opposite is usually true… leading-edge businesses are substituting renewables and conservation and efficiency. They're getting not only less pollution as a result, but more consumers, more jobs, better and cheaper products,” he said.
Gore further irritated the Prime Minister by drawing a distinction between the federal conservative government’s inflexible policies on climate change and those of the Opposition Labor party by publicly congratulating the South Australian government – led by Labor’s Mike Rann – for its record on renewable energy.
“I congratulate South Australia, by the way, for in many ways leading the world with visionary proposals to really do the right thing," he said via video link from the film’s premiere in Sydney.
"In all of the world, I look around, I travel all over this planet looking at this issue and you should know that South Australia really does stand out,” he said.
The comments, if not quite an endorsement, will nonetheless assist Rann at a time when he is one of the main contenders for the federal presidency of the Australian Labor Party (ALP).
The current South Australian premier – who has encouraged the development of renewable energy in his state since his party took power in 2002 - has said he will be moving to reinforce his party’s policy on reducing carbon emissions at the Labor party’s next annual conference in April.
Australian green groups supported Gore’s visit with Australian Conservation Foundation Executive Director Don Henry describing the film as a “wake up call” and called for urgent government action on climate change.