Saturday, June 6, 2009

Gore weighs in for green group

Melissa Fyfe 
Sunday Age, June 7, 2009

FORMER United States vice-president Al Gore will visit Melbourne next month to launch a new organisation inspired by Repower America — his plan to switch the US economy to clean energy in 10 years.

The new group, Safe Climate Australia, is founded by concerned scientists and business and community leaders and will be launched in partnership with VicSuper, the Victorian Government's preferred super fund.

Mr Gore will address a 1000-seat breakfast next month. Safe Climate Australia will invite the business, engineering, opinion and political leaders it believes can help it produce a clean-energy transition plan to rapidly decarbonise the Australian economy.

One of the group's founding members, Ian Dunlop, a former Shell executive and chair of the Australian Coal Association, told The Sunday Age that Safe Climate Australia was not a new advocacy group, rather an apolitical organisation that wanted to produce a practical plan.

"The problem is that the scientific debate and the political debate are like two ships passing in the night, there's no connection between them," Mr Dunlop said.

Mr Gore and a number of the world's leading climate scientists — including NASA's James Hansen — are now arguing that the world needs to stabilise greenhouse gases at 350 parts per million (ppm) or lower in the atmosphere.

One of the reasons is that warming is happening faster than predicted and scientists say the rapid loss of Arctic ice must be halted. If the ice is not stabilised, they warn of large sea-level rises and the risk of triggering the release of enormous amounts of carbon trapped in permafrost underneath the ice. At that point, they say, humans will be powerless to stop accelerating global warming.

Carbon dioxide is now at 387 ppm, so the 350 ppm or lower level Mr Gore and Safe Climate Australia are advocating would mean a rapid switch to clean energy and then finding ways of taking greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere.

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