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Page added on July 30, 2006

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High energy prices compelling Americans to care about climate

Global warming is having its moment in the sun. The climate crisis is on “60 Minutes” and in Tom Brokaw’s new documentary, on the cover of Time and Newsweek, and in Al Gore’s new movie and bestselling book. But while polls show that most Americans now believe that global warming is real and significantly humanmade, they are much less concerned about the issue than non-Americans, and much less willing to support dramatic action to address it.

The problem is, most scientists now believe dramatic action is necessary to prevent a climate catastrophe. They warn that unless humans can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent, global warming could threaten the habitability of the earth. That’s the inconvenient part of “An Inconvenient Truth.” And when Gore’s critics complain that such drastic reductions would require an assault on our way of life, they’re telling the truth, too.

But what if Americans decided that such changes truly were necessary?

If our get-serious rhetoric on climate change were to be more than a new form of low-carbon emissions, we would have to change not only the way we live and the way we drive, but also the way we think about political issues. And not only the politics of energy and the environment. If the scientists are right about an apocalyptic future of floods, droughts, dead coral reefs, rising sea levels and advancing deserts, global warming is an existential threat that should affect our approach to just about every issue. To take it seriously, we would have to change the way we think about transportation, agriculture, development, water resources, natural disasters, foreign relations and more.

San Jose Mercury News

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