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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Gore's "Truth" Needs to Be Acted Upon Now

When "Fahrenheit 9/11," the Michael Moore screen diatribe against our current president, arrived in Madison theaters shortly before the 2004 presidential election, people sympathetic to its message couldn't get enough of it. They flocked to screenings and breathlessly implored their friends to see the movie that bolstered all their reasons for hating George W. Bush.

It is my profound hope that the same kind of passionate evangelism occurs as a result of a much, much more crucial film that arrived at Westgate and Eastgate cinemas last weekend.

"An Inconvenient Truth," former Vice President Al Gore's sobering look at the pressing danger of global warming, truly is a must-see movie. It won't massage your political biases, it will rock your world view.

Unless, of course, you are one of those who have been suckered by certain right-wing groups that have conducted a startlingly successful propaganda campaign to sow doubt among the public about global warming. Gore describes this effort in the film, having obtained an internal memo from one such group that openly reveals its disinformation strategy. "An Inconvenient Truth" will rightly dispel any doubts.

Of nearly 1,000 peer-reviewed scientific articles about global warming, not one takes a contrary view of the growing risks we face from the continued warming of our atmosphere due to our fossil fuel use.

The brutal reality is this: If we don't stem the carbon dioxide emissions, we will see nations' entire coastlines under water from the rise in sea levels due to melting glaciers, other nations with such severe droughts that their populations risk starvation, and the extinction of millions of species that cannot adapt to radical temperature changes in their habitats.

Some scientists say the severity of Hurricane Katrina, which powered up from a category 1 to a category 5 storm while passing over the warm Gulf of Mexico, can be linked to global warming and signals more catastrophic hurricanes to come.

"The moral imperative to make big changes is inevitable," Gore says of the need to face global warming seriously. "It is deeply unethical if we allow this to happen."

Two hundred western U.S. cities set high temperature records last year. Just last week, the Western Governors Association, whose states contain major coal and oil reserves, passed a resolution acknowledging the need to reduce global warming.

But the most important point to take away from "An Inconvenient Truth" is that global warming is not a problem that's "out there" somewhere else. It is a problem each of us contributes to each day we live on this planet. Yes, we need our elected officials to take action and stop burying their heads in the sand about this threat, but we as individual citizens also must take action to reduce our fossil fuel use.

In fact, Wisconsin bears a disproportionate share of the responsibility for global warming. Six Midwest states, including Wisconsin, contribute 20 percent of the U.S. global warming pollution, from our coal plants. Three-quarters of Wisconsin's electricity generation comes from coal. Even with the obvious detriments of continued coal use, Wisconsin utilities are currently building two new coal plants.

Let's bring the climate crisis even closer to home:

If you want Madison Gas & Electric to meet its goal to stop burning coal at its Blount Street plant by 2011, if you want to slow the expansion of high-voltage power lines by American Transmission Co. across Dane County, you have to act now.

At a minimum, every single local resident should:

• Replace your regular incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs.

• Get a setback thermostat that allows you to program your heating and cooling for optimum savings.

• Turn your air conditioner up 2 degrees and your furnace down 2 degrees. Heating and cooling account for half of your home's energy use

• Sign up for your electric utility's green energy option. MGE, Alliant Energy and Wisconsin Public Power Inc. offer such programs, which charge customers a bit extra to support renewable energy sources like wind power.

• Make sure your car's tires are properly inflated, to get the best gas mileage.

On WIBA/AM radio Monday morning, WKOW-TV meteorologist Brian Olson urged listeners to see "An Inconvenient Truth." He said he had gone to the theater over the weekend a bit skeptical about the threat posed by global warming, and come out a believer.

We all need to believe.

Throughout the film, Gore talks about the lack of political will to address this threat that may well devastate our planet. Action will have to start with each of us, one by one. If we build enough momentum, our politicians will be forced to act.

"It is your time to seize this issue," Gore says. "It is our time to secure our future."

Judy Ettenhofer is opinion editor of The Capital Times. E-mail to: jettenhofer@madison.com

© 2006 The Capital Times
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Gore's "Truth" Needs to Be Acted Upon Now

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