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Soothing climate fears

Marc Lefkowitz  |  11/14/07 @ 4:36pm

"Perhaps the most lasting impression of the evening was the taste of vomit in the back of conservatives mouths," Jon Stewart, host of the Daily Show, joked about the climate change black-tie event last week known as the Oscars. Of course, Al Gore was a big winner, er, that is director Davis Guggenheim and Co. were for Best Documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth."

A truth that Plain Dealer deputy editorial director Kevin O'Brien is still inconvenienced by today. Actually, O'Brien won't argue that global warming is real, but he's critical of all the fear that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change- a report from an international panel of scientists-and Gore seem to be whipping up.

"The shame is that our leaders would even consider significant changes in economic and political policy" based on the IPCC scientists' [emphasis ours] models, he writes in the PD's Forum page today.

Set aside for a moment that the IPCC has painstakingly studied the cause and effect of man-made carbon emissions on the environment, O'Brien leaves us wondering, what then should we do? We don't want to appear weak kneed in dealing with climate change.

The U.S. is a great nation today because, in each generation, we rose up to meet the greatest challenge of our day. Global warming is our greatest challenge today, and our greatest opportunity. We can meet that challenge by developing a new economy, a sustainable economy.

What is sustainable business? Some define it as one that grows its triple bottom line-focusing on people (creating jobs), prosperity (creating new wealth for Rust Belt cities like Cleveland), and planet (when our fossil fuel consumption is dramatically reduced).

Dealing with climate change is already a major political issue. Presidential contender, Sen. Hillary Clinton for one addressed it yesterday before a group called the Apollo Alliance, a national coalition that believes creating the green economy is, like putting a man on the moon, a goal we should commit ourselves to within a decade. Clinton proposes eliminating oil company tax breaks and using them to set up a Strategic Energy Fund that would raise $50 billion to fund research, development and deployment of energy technologies to reduce America's oil dependence and greenhouse gas emissions.

New economies don't materialize from the ether, they require almost an evangelical belief that change is possible, and serious research and development funds. Building a green industry is no exception. Even if global warming raises world water levels by only 17 inches and not 20 feet, investing $50 billion or more to avoid a global meltdown (or some middle ground) only seems like common sense.

If we want to attract green industry to Northeast Ohio, say, to build wind turbines on Lake Erie, it will take an inclusive and transparent public-private partnerships, a little fear (not too much, just enough to motivate), a decent amount of legislation to level the playing field for alternative energy, and a lot of fearless leadership.

Al Gore goes to Washington in three weeks to testify before Congress about global warming and creating a renewable energy economy. Gore is collecting a million signatures in support of his effort that he'll present to legislators.

For a list of climate change-related Congressional hearings in the next week, go here.

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