03 February 2007

Global Climate Change: What a Week for Global Warming

I was in San Francisco last week, which turned out to be quite a week for the subject of global climate change. It started with the Economist and its cover story on "The Greening of America" and concluded with the Bush Administration's acknowledgment of human-induced global warming and endorsement of the IPCC report and its findings.

Only some of my meetings last week were about the science of climate change, including mitigation and adaptation strategies, but they started with California Senator Diane Feinstein addressing our group in a recorded announcement welcoming us to California. "We now have an opportunity to tackle this issue, and make sure we don't leave it to our children and grandchildren to have to fix."

Meanwhile, Senator Barbara Boxer was holding hearings in Washington on Climate Change, bringing out a number of 2008 presidential hopefuls, including Dame Hillary, Barack "Got a light?" Obama, and our choice in '08, John McCain. Boxer's fellow Californian Rep Henry Waxman, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, was holding investigative hearings on whether White House officials tampered with climate reports by government agencies.

At Boxer's Senate hearing, her predecessor as chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Republican Senator James Inhofe from Oklahoma, expressed his own view of climate science. And later on CNN, Inhofe reiterated his opinion that he is not convinced by "scientific evidence" that human activity is causing global warming. "We all know the Weather Channel would like to have people afraid all the time," Inhofe reportedly said at the hearing. To which Boxer is to have quipped, "I'll put you down as skeptical."

I was in Berkeley Thursday, the morning of BP's announcement of $50M for a new alternative energy research facility at the University of California campus. (Kudos to my old pal from my days in Alaska, Bob Malone, for handing over the investment.) This is exciting news: perhaps we Americans will finally grab the reins of the potential financial gains of alternative energy. It will take more than a research facility to seize the lead in the new world economy, but it's a good start.

And Al Gore was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, not for his politics (please, Al, don't run for President!) but for the work he has been doing to raise awareness about global climate change. Whatever you think of his politics, there is no other person who has so doggedly put this issue in front of people all over the world. Is Gore the first to be nominated for both an Oscar and a Nobel?

Quite a week indeed. Are we at a tipping point? Quite possibly. Perhaps now we can eschew doubt and unleash the great American penchant for innovation and ingenuity to tackle this issue once and for all.

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