Al Gore says climate change to blame for increased storms, droughts, wildfires in Wayne State speech

By Tina Lam Detroit Free Press

DETROIT — Former Vice President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore was unbowed and unrepentant Thursday in blaming recent storms, droughts and wildfires on climate change.

Speaking before about 550 people at Wayne State University, Gore reeled off statistics about huge downpours in Pakistan and Colombia, wildfires in Australia and drought in Texas in the past year that he said are clear evidence of the looming climate crisis.

Even his own hometown, Nashville, had floods that experts said would only be expected once every 1,000 years, he said, and most people had no flood insurance because nobody expected floods. "This is what is happening now all over the world," he said. "We've had 10 of the hottest years ever measured in the last 13 years."

Gore compared the rejection by many people of scientists' predictions about climate change to bankers ignoring signs of a mortgage crisis in the years leading up the 2008 recession.

The mentality then was "I'll be gone, you'll be gone," expressed in some internal emails about the mortgage situation, he said. That's the same attitude many people have now, ignoring the problems or hoping they'll go away and land in the lap of future generations, he said.

Warmer air holds more water vapor, which has caused larger and more widespread heavy storms, he said. For example, the scale that measures the strength of hurricanes and tropical storms goes through 5, but scientists are considering adopting a 6th level to accommodate fiercer storms, he said.

Gore said that in the same way tobacco companies tried to discredit scientists 40 years ago who found a link between smoking and cancer, sowing doubt in the public's mind about whether the science was valid, industries are trying to discredit the science on global warming.

Gore said 97 or 98 percent of scientists actively researching climate agree that the science is sound on the changes that are taking place.

"Imagine you had serious chest pains and were able to consult the top 100 heart specialists and 98 of them told you what the best medicine was," he said. "But two of them said, 'we're not so sure'. Who would you believe?"

Polls in the past year show that fewer believe global warming is a problem than thought that in 2007 when Gore and the International Panel on Climate Change won the Nobel Peace Prize for their work on the issue.


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