Al Gore to Pinoys: ‘Political will is a renewable resource’


By Pia Faustino – Citing last year’s Typhoon Ondoy as an example of the growing pattern of unusually strong storms reported over the past few years, former U.S. Vice President and celebrated environmental advocate Al Gore implored Filipinos to demand more decisive action from world leaders on climate change.

Speaking to an audience of 4000 professionals today at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City, Gore said, “We have everything we need to solve the climate problem except for political will. But political will is a renewable resource.”

Gore said a recent report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) showed that the months between January and April 2010 have seen the warmest combined global land and ocean surface temperatures on record.

His hour-long talk entitled “Facing the Inconvenient Truth” was designed for the Asian context and contained compelling scientific evidence of global warming and its impacts.

“Statisticians now have to change their figures because extreme weather events that used to take place every 500 or 1000 years are now becoming the norm,” said Gore.

He said a recent report in Science Magazine noted that the frequency of hurricanes with an intensity 4 or 5 has doubled over the past few years.

This is Gore’s second visit to Manila since the 2006 release of his Oscar-winning film “An Inconvenient Truth,” which many environmentalists credit for popularizing awareness of climate change around the world. Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2008 for his work in environmental advocacy.

Outgoing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo attended the event along with prominent leaders from various government agencies, the academe, business, and civil society.

During his presentation, Gore showed images of the destruction caused by Ondoy in Manila last year. But he also showed pictures of electric jeepneys in Makati, wind farms in Ilocos, and geothermal energy– solutions to the climate crisis that are all available to the Philippines, he pointed out.

Gore said that while awareness of global warming has increased dramatically in recent years, he is reluctant to call his advocacy successful.

“The policies and laws still haven’t changed and emissions continue to rise,” he lamented.

He added that protecting the climate is a moral choice: “Decisions made by today’s generation will have a profound effect on future generations. When you damage the environment, you harm future generations.”

Reacting to Gore’s speech, Dolly Nepomuceno from the Laguna Lake Development Authority said she is hoping that his message would reach the Philippines’ new set of elected leaders.

“I pray that people will wake up, especially our leaders. We have a new president and I hope that his eyes and ears are open to the need to find solutions.” she said.

Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, who is scheduled to be proclaimed the country’s next president Wednesday after winning the May 10 polls, was not present at the event. Speaking to the media on Monday, Aquino said he was invited to meet with Gore during the former US vice president’s Manila visit, but had to decline because of prior engagements.

Emelina Regis, director for the Institute of Environment at the Ateneo de Naga University, also urged the Philippines’ new administration to give greater priority to environmental protection instead of exploitation of natural resources.

“Sana tignan talaga ni Aquino ang problema sa climate change, kasi napakaraming problema ang kunektado sa climate change,” she said.

Last December, nearly 200 world leaders met in Copenhagen in Denmark to forge a new international treaty that was meant to outline the steps each country must take to reduce carbon emissions and adapt to the changing climate. However, most environmentalists described the meeting as a “failure” because the world’s leaders failed to come up with a legally binding agreement.

Government negotiators are currently in Bonn, Germany until June 11 to prepare for the next United Nations Climate Change Conference slated for this December in Mexico.

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