Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Al Gore cites RP efforts in renewable energy

Written by Ma. Stella F. Arnaldo / Special to the BusinessMirror
Tuesday, 08 June 2010 23:21

FORMER U.S. Vice President Al Gore on Tuesday pushed for renewable-energy sources to wean countries away from burning fossil fuels such as coal, which accelerate global warming.

In his lecture before a diverse audience at the SMX auditorium at the SM Mall of Asia on Tuesday, Gore even cited the Philippines’ efforts toward this end by pointing to the Bangui Wind Farm in Ilocos Norte, the Solar Power Plant in Laguna and the Mount Apo Geothermal Power Plant in North Cotabato.

He also cited nuclear power as a source of renewable energy, although he later admitted during the question-and-answer forum with broadcaster Che-che Lazaro that he was becoming increasingly “skeptical about it” due to cost concerns, and the possibility of nuclear-weapons proliferation.

Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco has been lobbying for the reopening of the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP). For many years Filipinos paid for the huge debts incurred by the Marcos administration, which constructed that plant at a cost of $2.3 billion upon its near-completion in 1984.

Gore declined to comment about the proposal in some quarters to harness the BNPP but he said, personally, “I’m not enthusiastic about getting a mothballed plant going in my backyard. But for some it makes more sense to use a mothballed plant.” The problem, he said, is the possibility for countries with nuclear energy to make weapons as a by-product. “That’s how North Korea got its nuclear weapons,” he stressed.

While some strides have been made by the Philippines in renewable energy, overall the Arroyo administration has been endorsing the construction of coal-fired power plants, which Gore points to as a primary source of greenhouse gases. On May 5, President Arroyo inaugurated the 246-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Toledo, Cebu co-owned by Global Business Power Corp., Aboitiz Power Corp., Vivant Energy Corp, and Formosa Heavy Industries Corp.

Local environmentalists find the Arroyo administration’s energy policy ironic considering that the Philippines is one of the first signatories to the Kyoto Protocol which aims to stave off global warming by reducing greenhouse gases worldwide.

Gore’s lifelong commitment to educate the public on global climate change and what people can do to reverse it was captured in the 2006 documentary “An Inconvenient Truth”. The film won two Oscar awards for Best Documentary Feature and Best Original Song in 2007. Concurrent with the release of the film was the release of Gore’s book of the same title. He later won the Nobel Peace Prize, also in 2007, for his efforts in raising international awareness on global warming.

Gore’s thesis, which is supported by many climatologists and weather scientists, is that global warming is happening at a fast clip, and may result in catastrophic events and even the extinction of human life itself. Man’s increasing appetite for fossil fuels such as the use of gasoline-powered vehicles and coal-fired power plants as an energy source, releases more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. These greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide trap heat which would normally have been released into space.

Global warming, in turn, alters climates and weather patterns, such that many countries now experience stronger typhoons or longer periods of drought.

In his updated presentation which mentioned recent environmental catastrophes in Asia, Gore pointed to Typhoon Ondoy (“Ketsana”) which struck the Philippines on September 26, 2009, as one of the examples of global warming’s impact. The typhoon dumped 341 mm. of rainfall in Metro Manila and outlying provinces in just six hours. Many low-lying cities and municipalities were flooded with 20 feet of water and remained so for a week.

Like his documentary, Gore didn’t end his lecture on a sour note. He said global warming could be reversed if governments take action now. “No, not yet [it’s not irreversible]. But some of them (scientists) have been warning us for a few years now. We have a decade or so in changing the trends or run the serious risk and making it irreversible. The polar ice cap can come back. But if we let it disappear and global warming increases, it won’t come back.”

“We can do it, we can do great things in this world. We were able to abolish slavery, send a man on the moon, close up the hole in the ozone layer.… It is a moral issue. It is a spiritual issue. It goes to heart of who we are as God’s creatures. Surely God has given us the ability to do what is right,” Gore stressed.

During the question-and-answer forum, Gore was visibly stunned and turned emotional when Lazaro asked how the near-death of his son impacted on his environmental advocacy. After pausing for three minutes, he answered in a quiet tone: “I couldn’t imagine losing him. I had come face to face with that shattering possibility. I had already begun this work [when that accident happened]. It affected my heart in a way that was unexpected. When I found that raw place in my heart, it gave me the ability to feel for the first time that we could lose it [the earth].”

He also addressed a question on population management, which the Catholic Church in the Philippines has been fighting. In his lecture, he said population growth has impacted on the environment. “I think it’s a statement of reality; you have four times as many people on the earth, you put more pressure on resources and space. But population issues should not be fraught with ideological arguments. I’m not for population control.”

He noted that the Philippines is already naturally trending towards smaller families, based on the audience’s input that the average number of children is now 5 as against 8 among the older generations. “When there is widespread education of girls, and there are accepted cultural fertility management measures, the transition to smaller families naturally takes place. I don’t see it as a matter of great tension. These are things we ought to be doing anyway.”

Gore founded The Climate Project in 2006 which supports and trains about 3,000 volunteers worldwide who give his global warming lecture in their own communities. According to the TCP website, its presenters have delivered 70,000 lectures and have reached a combined global audience of 7.3 million people.

Gore’s lecture, the third in the Leadership Conference Series organized by Campaigns & Grey, was presented by SM Prime Holdings Inc. The series is a string of lectures to allow top Philippine leaders in the academe, business, government, and nongovernment sectors to learn from the experience and expertise of global leaders.


For latest update on the Climate Crisis, please visit The Climate Project.

To request for presentations through the Philippine Climate Justice Initiative group, please complete this request form or e-mail kalikasan101@gmail.com directly for Philippine requests.

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