Gore To Congress: Climate Change Bill As Important As Civil Rights Legislation

Here’s a reporter’s notebook from an ABC News staffer at today’s House hearings on climate change:

Former Vice President Al Gore came to Capitol Hill to support what he called "one of the most important pieces of legislation ever introduced in the Congress." 

Mr. Gore was one of more than 60 witnesses this week at the House hearings on Congressman Henry Waxman’s proposed Climate Change bill. Gore said he believes the legislation "has the moral significance equivalent to that of the civil rights legislation of the 1960’s and the Marshall Plan of the late 1940’s…Passage of this legislation will restore America’s leadership of the world and begin, at long last, to solve the climate crisis. It is truly a moral imperative".

Gore gave the committee a list of nightmare scenarios which he believes are growing increasingly likely: the disappearance of the Arctic ice cap “in as little as five years if nothing is done”; the warming of the Antarctic peninsula at three to five times the global average; the disappearance of salmon off the California coast; and forests that “may lose their carbon-regulating service…entirely if the earth heats up 2.5 degrees Centigrade”; to name a few.

The former Vice President says he recognizes the potential for job losses that would come with Waxman’s bill. "We ought,” he said, “to guarantee good jobs for any coal miner displaced by impacts on the coal industry.”  And in a dig at the previous administration, Gore told the committee the country cannot afford "more years of sending $2 billion every 24 hours to foreign countries for oil. And our soldiers and their families cannot take another 10 years of repeated troop deployments to regions that just happen to have large oil supplies.”

There was a heated exchange during the hearing. Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) challenged Gore’s integrity on the issue and suggested he was looking to profit from the passage of the bill. To which Gore replied, “If that is what you believe, then you she did not know me.”

Up next at the hearing, former Congressman Newt Gingrich, who acknowledges the gravity of climate change but is very critical of the bill. Gingrich argues it’s a heavy-handed, high-taxing, economy-stifling piece of legislation. As our reporter said – “Gore and Gingrich never crossed paths, but from their testimony it seemed they were from different planets.”

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