Climate change is much more than just an environmental or political concern, according to Al Gore, who called it a moral issue that threatens humanity unless drastic action is taken within a decade.
Gore, former United States vice president and Nobel laureate for his documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” was in the country on Tuesday for a one-time appearance at the SMX Convention Center. The audience of about 4,000 people included President Gloria Arroyo, newly arrived US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. and other members of the diplomatic corps in Manila, Henry Sy Sr. and his family, whose company, SM Prime, organized the event.
“Climate change is not only a natural or a technology issue,” he said. “It is indeed a single, reckless and immoral act if one fails to take his part in addressing this problem.”
Climate change was a moral issue, “because the decisions made by the current generation will have such a profound effect on all future generations.”
He even quoted from the Bible, saying, “Love thy neighbor.” Gore, who was once congressman of Tennessee in America’s so-called Bible Belt, quoted from the Good Book several times, even though he noted that he was not proselytizing.
“If we are doing harm to someone who’s [present] here, then we would stop,” Gore said. “If we do mortal harm on others [who’s] not here, that’s a moral issue as well.”
He said that people today would have to answer to future generations, especially given overwhelming evidence that business as usual has contributed to rising carbon dioxide emissions that were now at alarming levels. The Nobel Prize winner added that other pieces of evidence on global warming include more severe storms, drought in others because of increased evaporation caused by warmer temperatures, melting polar ice caps and other glaciers also resulting in raising levels, and potentially cataclysmic events.
Not yet too late
He began his nearly two-hour presentation saying that he did not come to the Philippines to give a lecture, per se. “I’m here to also ask you to be part of the solution.”
Gore said that it was not yet too late to reverse the harmful effects of climate change, citing the opinion of scientists whom he trusts.
If God has given the people the technology to destroy the Earth, “surely we can do something,” he explained.
People are capable of change, and history has proved it.
Gore noted that in the case of the ozone layer, which filters the harmful affects of the sun, governments around the world collectively formulated a solution—ban chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, which were blamed for causing a hole in the ozone layer.
Another promising development was the increasing acceptance and use of renewable energy sources, and he cited the use of windmills in the northern Philippine province of Ilocos Norte. Gore also praised the country for tapping geothermal energy, which he noted was second only to the United States worldwide.
“The Philippines and the US are the top resource of geothermal energy, and the Philippines’ efforts in using this energy is a living testimony that a developing country such as the Philippines could substantially effect change and become a role model to those more developed countries,” he said.
But Gore emphasized that much more needed to be done.
“We have a decade or so to change the trends,” he said.
The polar ice caps—a disturbing large part has already melted—can come back, Gore added. But if people continue not doing enough, climate change will eventually be irreversible, he explained.
“It’s complicated,” Gore said, referring to the issues. “There’s no way around that. [But] just because it’s complicated does not give us an excuse not to act.”
Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, who authored the biofuels act, could not agree more.
After the Gore presentation, Zubiri said that what’s lacking in the Philippines was the implementation of environmental protection laws—not the lack of legislation.
Heherson Alvarez, climate change secretary and former senator, noted that Gore’s presentation seems to have “moved on” from his celebrated documentary An Inconvenient Truth, focusing more on prescriptions.
In statement released also on Tuesday, Alvarez said that he hopes “Gore, as he travels the world, signals to the leaders in the ongoing climate talks to manage the tangled thickets of parliamentary process, which could be stalling the ultimate goal of addressing the problem of climate change.”
The secretary added that the “ongoing climate negotiations in Bonn, Germany, continue to thread cloudy horizons on issues primarily, among others, financial mechanisms, as it progressively deviates from the “heart” of the matter, which is to tackle effectively the objective of cutting by half the amount of greenhouse gas [GHG] emissions in the atmosphere by 2050 and clip the huge gap in the global carbon budget.”
“The Philippine delegation bewails that this cumbersome body is moving like a dinosaur,” said Alvarez as he reiterated that delays in the climate talks would not prevent harsher storms brought about by climate change to ravage low-lying developing countries like the Philippines.
Gore said in his presentation that acting responsibly toward the environment did not have be in conflict with economic priorities—especially for developing countries like the Philippines. On the contrary, saving the planet makes sense for the economy.
For example, he added, the combustible engine in an automobile uses a mere 10 percent of its fuel for transporting people. In other words, 90 percent is wasted. Gore explained that making cars more efficient would not only be better for the environment, it would cost less in terms of fuel consumption.
With report from Katrina Mennen A. Valdez
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