Al Gore: Nation needs to solve its political crisis

FILE -- Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore gestures as he joins cabinet ministers from Nordic countries for discussion on Greenland's ice sheet at the UN Climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, Monday, Dec. 14, 2009. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)
April 25, 2013 9:55:30 AM PDT
Former Vice President Al Gore said Tuesday in Palo Alto that America's democratic system has been "hacked" and that if the country wants to resolve the "climate crisis" it has to first reform its political process.

"Please hear me well," Gore said. "Our democracy has been hacked. The operating system has been taken over. It is now being made to function in ways that do not serve the interests of the majority of the American people."

Gore, speaking before about 1,700 people at Stanford University, cited the U.S. Senate's recent failure to pass a bill that would have expanded background checks for gun buyers as an example of a "pathetic" political system in need of repair.

Gore faulted the Senate for defeating the bill this month even though polls showed that as many as 90 percent of Americans support universal background checks.

"The United States Senate is incapable of doing the public's will," he said. "You know that to be the case."

Meanwhile, Gore, a leading advocate of policies to prevent global warming by cutting consumption of fossil fuels, said carbon emissions that contribute to warming are increasing.

"In order to solve the climate crisis, the world needs leadership from the United States of America and in order to get leadership from the United States of America, we have to address forthrightly the democracy crisis," he said.

"We've got to have policy solutions that originate in our democratic discourse and our democratic process," Gore said.

"When I say our democracy has been hacked, I say it in part because I love this country deeply, that is not a throw-away phrase," he said. "I have watched this process by which our democracy became degraded, get worse."

Recalling the Iraq War, Gore said the degradation started more than a decade ago after the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington. Gore said that "we sought revenge by sending hundred of thousands of soldiers to invade a country that had absolutely nothing to do with the attack."

"When a great nation repeatedly makes decisions on the basis of information that is completely and totally false no wonder we have problems," Gore said.

The U.S. news media was "utterly wrong about the Iraq war" and "does not inform people about serious issues," Gore said.

Since the country's recovery from the Great Recession of the late 2000's, of all additional income earned in the country since 2010, 93 percent has gone to the wealthiest 1 percent, he said.

"We Americans have to become committed to restoring the integrity of our democracy," Gore said. "There is no other country in the world that has the remotest possibility of providing what our world needs today in this grave, existential crisis for global civilization."

"And yet, our democracy is in such pathetic disrepair, that not a single meaningful reform that affects the interest of a powerful industry can possibly pass the Congress today."

Gore compared what he called the "climate crisis" to the deadly cholera epidemic in late 19th century London where a doctor made a map of illness cases and identified a single water pump where bacteria was found as the cause.

"He connected the dots, literally," Gore said. "We have to connect the dots in order to understand the consequences and make the case of changing the behavior and stopping the cause of the climate crisis."

"We are putting 90 million tons of global warming pollution every single day into the atmosphere," he said.

"We signal to large polluters that this thin shell of atmosphere encasing our home planet, our only home, is fair game as an open sewer," Gore said. "Just dump whatever you want into it and don't worry about it."

"We are destroying the ecological integrity of the Earth," he said.

Extra heat from fossil fuel emissions has raised global temperatures particularly in the last 20 to 50 years and "is radically disrupting" the cycle of water creation on the planet, he said.

Gore said warmer air creates more water vapor that rises and flows into storms in other parts of the Earth and spawns much stronger storms like the one that flooded Manhattan last October.

Scientists have found that the planet's oceans have 4 percent more water vapor than only 30 years ago, he said.

Last year was the hottest year recorded in the United States and 61 percent of the country was in drought, Gore stated.

"The ice is melting not only in the mountains but in Greenland and Antarctica," he said.

But Gore also said there was a lot of good news and progress related to climate change and renewable energy.

India and Australia have placed taxes on coal, which emit harmful gases into the atmosphere, and China, now the world's biggest air polluter, is considering carbon emissions controls, he said.

Global investments in renewal energy, especially from developing countries, have surged and "renewable energy has grown far, far more than anyone predicted it would."

"The cost of renewables has declined more rapidly than anyone would have predicted," he said.

"The more solar and wind we use, the cheaper it gets. The more coal and oil we use, the more expensive it gets."

The news adds up to "a much brighter future," he said. "But we are not making progress rapidly enough. Emissions are still increasing."

Ending on a positive note, Gore urged the audience gathered at Stanford University to assert more political will because "political will is a renewable resource."


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