Al Gore: U.S. Democracy ‘Hacked’ by Anti-Warming Special Interests

Patrick Goodenough | September 30, 2011 | 5:17am EDT
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Former Vice President Al Gore addresses a clean energy forum in Beijing, China on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2009. (AP Photo)

( – Democracy in the U.S. is being undermined by Congress appeasing special interest groups in return for campaign funding rather than tackling climate change, former vice president and global warming campaigner Al Gore has told a conference in Scotland.

According to the BBC, Gore staffers blocked broadcast access to Wednesday’s speech. But British media quoted from the address to the Scottish government-sponsored Low Carbon Investment Conference in Edinburgh.

The BBC said Gore’s speech included “a strong attack on the effect of lobbying and money-raising on the U.S. Congress, and on carbon producers who he said employ four Washington lobbyists for every member of Congress.”

“In the language of computer culture, our democracy has been hacked,” the Guardian quoted him as telling the audience, which included Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond.

Citing flooding in Pakistan, China and elsewhere, Gore argued that extreme weather patterns were directly attributable to climate change, and that scientists overwhelmingly backed that viewpoint.

“The scientists have made a subtle but profound change in the way that they speak about the connection between the climate crisis and the extreme weather events,” he said. “They used to say you can’t connect any extreme weather event to climate because there are multiple factors. Now they’ve changed.”

“Every single national academy of science of every major country on earth agrees with the consensus,” Gore was quoted as saying, adding that those institutions were all telling governments that “the need for urgent action is now indisputable.”

A report on the event by the Environmental Data Interactive Exchange, a European Web site, said Gore had praised Scotland’s efforts in the field of renewable energy, including efforts to harness wave and tidal power.

“Although developments in this sector remain at an early stage, let me tell you that the whole world is rooting for you,” it quoted him as saying.

“Frankly, we already have everything we need around the world to address climate change and renewable energy issues. All that is lacking in many areas is the political will to carry those solutions through.

“In that context, of course, it’s important to remember that political will is itself a renewable resource,” he said.

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore prepares to speak at a forum on clean energy in Beijing, China on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2009. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Gore acknowledged that global economic problems had created a “time of apprehension.” He said some politicians were “paralyzed” by arguments about the heavy cost of investing in renewable energy.

But, he said, plenty of jobs were on the horizon.

“Jobs are going to be especially important in this process, of course, and you are going to see the creation of lots and lots of jobs.”

The Scottish daily Herald reported on an exchange between Gore and a member of the audience during a short question-and-answer session.

It said Edinburgh city councilor Cameron Rose had challenged the “consensus” argument, pointing out that some respected scientists disagree.

“Mr. Gore responded with an analogy that a man with chest pains would take the health advice of 98 doctors and ignore the two that said there was nothing to worry about,” the paper reported.

At the end of Gore’s hour-long presentation Salmond, who envisages Scotland as leading the world in wind power, led a standing ovation.

The Scotsman and the Herald both reported that hours after Gore had heaped praise on Scotland’s “inspiring” efforts, the head of the Scottish Chamber of Commerce warned in a speech in Glasgow that the cost of subsidizing the renewable sector could bankrupt businesses as a result of soaring power bills.

Chamber chairman Mike Salter, an energy industry veteran, noted that the cost of a wind farm project off the British coast made the power it generated 25 percent more expensive than had been estimated 18 months ago – and 25-35 percent more expensive than nuclear energy.

“The Scottish Government have committed to have the majority of generation coming from this very expensive source by 2020,” Salter said. “All I say at this time is, ‘have a care.’”

“This is indeed a very significant opportunity for Scotland, but only if the cost base is right. If as a consequence, the rest of the economy is disadvantaged then perhaps such a total commitment is misguided. Other lower-cost technologies are available.”

Pakistani flooding

Many climate scientists and even some environmental activists have become more cautious about attributing various events and trends to man-made climate change, especially after a series of blows to the credibility of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), including the “Climategate” data-manipulation scandal and the IPCC’s retraction of an assertion in a key 2007 report that Himalayan glaciers could disappear by 2035.

In his speech, Gore referred among other things to recent flooding in Pakistan, where an estimated five million people have been affected, especially in the southern Sindh province.

Pakistani government and meteorological department statistics for river discharges during the monsoon season (July-September) show flooding has occurred frequently, including in 1950, 1956, 1976, 1977, 1986, 1988, 1992, 1994, 2003, 2007 and 2010.

The deadliest flooding on record occurred in 1950, when almost 3,000 lives were lost, followed by the 2010 floods, which cost up to 2,000 lives. Around 1,800 people died during the 1992 monsoon.

Pakistan’s Indus River runs from the Himalayas through Kashmir and Pakistan before emptying into the Arabian Sea. Some 100 million people live in the fertile Indus Valley, and many are at risk when heavier-than-usual rains dump huge amounts of additional water into the Indus.

Experts point out that the Indus is also more prone to flooding than many rivers because it carries significant quantities of sediment, causing waterways to silt up and embankments to breach. With large amounts of water diverted by farmers for irrigation, the remaining water is even less able to cope with the sediment than would otherwise be the case.

Some scientists and meteorologists attribute heavier rains in South Asia, among other things, to higher than usual temperatures in the Indian Ocean, unusual behavior in the jet stream – a high-altitude, fast-moving air current that affects weather patterns – and a shift from an El Nina, the warming Pacific Ocean pattern, to a cooling La Nina.
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