Gore takes green message to Congress

Al Gore returned to some familiar territory Wednesday, warning the U.S. Congress of a "true planetary emergency" if it doesn't take action on global warming.

Environmental crusader Al Gore,former U.S. vice-president andpossible presidential candidate, returned to some familiar territory Wednesday, warning the U.S. Congress of a "true planetary emergency" if it doesn't take action on global warming.

Taking his first trip back to Capitol Hill since his days as vice-president and failed presidential candidate,Gore testified before the joint science and technology, and energy and air quality subcommittee, saying that it is not too late to deal with climate change "and we have everything we need to get started."

He urged the Democratic-controlled Congress to put aside partisan politics and act as a world leader in the fight against global warming.

"We do not have time to play around with this; we do not have the luxury of making it a political football," he said.

Later in the day, he was to testify before a Senate committee that includescurrent Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Republican Senator James Inhofe, the committee's recent past chairman, will also scrutinize Gore's testimony. An outspoken climate change skeptic, Inhofe calls global warming the biggest hoax ever perpetuated on Americans.

U.S. leadership vital

Gore advised lawmakers to slash greenhouse gas emissions 90 per cent by 2050. To reach that goal, he said, the U.S. must ban any new coal-burning power plants, which are a major emitter of greenhouse gases. He also recommends tougher fuel-economy standards for cars and trucks.

Gore also insisted the U.S. must lead by example in the fight against climate change, especially to get other major polluters, such as China and India, to sign on to the Kyoto Protocol.

"The best way and the only way to get China and India on board is for the U.S. to demonstrate real leadership," Gore said. "As the world's largest economy and the greatest superpower, we are uniquely situated to tackle a problem of this magnitude."

Despite being major greenhouse gas emitters, China and India's status as developing countries left them exempt from the agreement.

Republican Senator Joe Barton criticized Gore's suggestions, saying they would increase energy costs and result in "no new industry, no new people and no new cars."

"There is a sense of hope in this country that this United States Congress will rise to the occasion and present meaningful solutions to this crisis," he said.

"Our world faces a true planetary emergency. I know the phrase sounds shrill, and I know it's a challenge to the moral imagination."

Returning to Canada

A long-time champion of the environment, Gore gained international recognition with his Oscar-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, and he is now seen as a leading spokesman on global warming.

He first testified before Congress about global warming over 20 years ago and his 1992 book, Earth in the Balance, was the eventual inspiration for An Inconvenient Truth.

Gore's February appearance at the University of Toronto was a wildly popular affair. Gore spoke to a sellout crowd of 1,500. Tickets originally sold for $20, but were quickly being sold online and by scalpers for as much as $500.

Gore returns to Canada on March 22, to receive an honorary doctorate from Montreal's Concordia University. That same day, he will also present An Inconvenient Truth to the Top Employer Summit in Toronto, with an introduction by Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion. Former prime minister Joe Clark and Toronto Mayor David Miller also plan to attend.