D: Al Gore on Current.tv and global warming

D: Al Gore on Current.tv and global warming

Summary: Former Vice President and almost President Al Gore discussed his new venture Current TV and global warming with Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg at D this evening. Asked about why he chose cable TV over a more pure Internet content play for his content venture, Gore said that television is dominant (Americans watch on average 4.

TOPICS: Hardware

Former Vice President and almost President Al Gore discussed his new venture Current TV and global warming with Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg at D this evening. Asked about why he chose cable TV over a more pure Internet content play for his content venture, Gore said that television is dominant (Americans watch on average 4.5 hours a day), and that people on Internet are watching TV as the same time. Hence, Current TV is on cable TV, and not Internet only, to take advantage of viewing habits. "There is a quasi hypntic trance induced by teleivison,"Gore said, and "people cannot move their thumb muscle to change the station." 


He cited digital cameras and laptop editing suites as leveling the playing field in content creation. Thirty percent of video on Current.tv is user contributed, he said. "Distributed computing unlocks the surge of energy to allow individual to democratize the dominant medium of television," Gore said.  Walt said that the user contributed programming is also cheaper. Gore responds, "It's better and cheaper."  Current.tv also has training for wouldbe videographers. 


It's still an open question as to what the audience will be on the large screen compared to the small screen, Gore said. The main sweet spot for television will be on larger screens, he said.


On the subject of global warming, Gore was more energized and credible. He likened global warming apologists to the tobacco lobby, who he said lack moral fiber and scientific rigor, and who contribute to the paralysis of public policy on global warming. "There is no  longer any debate about global warming," he said. "The few remaining skeptics get together with those who think the moon landing was staged on a movie lot."  Gore is pitching his movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," Davis Guggenheim's documentary about the Vice President's efforts to raise awareness of global warming.

Walt asked Gore why he isn't supporting nuclear power in dealing with  the energy crisis. He responded that reactor programs lead to weapons of mass destruction, citing Iran and a proliferation of country with the technology.  "If we do not move forward [with nuclear energy], it will less likely be available in other parts of the world," Gore said. "I am not entirely sanguine about the flow of nuclear power," he said, voicing concerns about WMD.

Gore recommended a first step to spread an understanding the current reality. "We have to form a national concensus, and there is a barrier to that. We are in category five denial," he said.

In last 100 years we have quadrupled global population, and improved technology, which has made us the most powerful force of nature, Gore said. The thin shell of atmosphere surrounding the planet is vulnerable, he continued. Coal is plentiful, but the carbon emission have to be captured and disposed of, which has to be made cheaper.

Gore's prescription. He said that leading scientists say we may have ten years before crossing a point of no return, starting an irretrievable process. There is a necessity to sharply reduce CO2  emissions and to find new and renewable sources of energy. The low hanging fruit hanging fruit is conservation and efficiency and in alternative fuels such as cellulose-based ethanol, Gore said. 

We have to get back to focusing on genuine value and move away from the pathology of instant gratification in making investments in future technologies, Gore concluded. On the political front, Gore said he encountered difficulty iduring his term in the White House in ratifying the Kyoto treaty, but could only find one senator to vote in favor of it--Paul Wellstone.

"This  is a planetary emergency...unlike any other crisis in human history," Gore said. "We are in the process of killing the oceans--the underlying problem is that our civilization is colliding with the ecological system of the planet...we have to take responsibliity for it. If we do not we create a situation that not too many decade from now will ask what were they thinking in 2006...it is a moral and spiritual issue, not a political issue."


Will we act on the knowledge?, Gore asked. "We are lacking the political will, but political will is a renewable resource," Gore concluded.  

Topic: Hardware

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  • Gore can't make up his mind if it's global warming or "climate change"

    Gore has mostly been using "climate change" lately instead of "global warming". That's because we've been in a cooling period for the last 8 years and it's predicted to get cooler over the next few decades because of fewer sun spots. The term "climate change" covers his nonsense either way.

    Time magazine had the recent front page that "the debate is over" for global warming. In the 70s they had a similar cover only with the next ice age.
    • I agree with Ou!

      I agree with Ou!
      I agree with Ou?
      I agree with Ou????
      oh no!
      I agree with Ou!
      Reverend MacFellow
    • Wake up!

      I am always amazed at the amount of "head in the sand" or "not my problem right now" attitude of some Americans. If the problem is not real in your face and/or any economic interest to protect, i.e. Irak for oil, the reaction is always denial.

      Everyone seems to say: "Deny it long enough and no one will talk about it anymore." Well, this time the problem will come back and it will be too late.

      It is like acid rain. Over here, in Canada, it took us years to convince you that acid rain was a fact not fiction. You seem to have the same reaction. I know, we all have something to do with the pollution in the air; even us. We are producing oil in Alberta and those are producing tons of pollution.

      The Kyoto protocol is a good first step. We need even more reduction because you know what? There is not enough energy for everyone and the Earth has FINITE RESOURCES NOT UNLIMITED. So, we need to reduce our consumption right now.

      "The Sun shines after every storm; there is a solution for every problem, and the soul's highest duty is to be of good cheer." - Ralph Waldo Emerson.
      • OMG!

        Hey I got some swampland you can buy ....
        Reverend MacFellow
      • Kyoto is a fraud

        Kyoto does NOTHING on the worst polluters of the world like China and other third worlds. Tens of thousands of Scientists oppose blind faith in Kyoto and its premise yet the only thing that's ever reported is the few thousand scientists that believe it.
        • George the biggest polluter (CO2) is the US

          not china
        • Agree

          When Kyoto was being proposed in the U.S. even most Democratic politicians were opposed to it. It was an idealistic proposal that the radical environmentalists said didn't go far enough. All of the countries that have signed on to Kyoto have had marginal success in reducing their pollution levels, and they have missed its targets. I believe British PM Blair recently admitted that they may never meet Kyoto's targets. It's just too painful. In the end Kyoto has turned out to be a way for some countries to hold hands and sing Kumbayah, and do little more than that. It became a political bonding issue for the EU.

          Europeans continue to bash the U.S. for not signing on to Kyoto, while we look at how conceited they are for signing on to it with no realistic way of meeting its goals without committing economic suicide. We're looking at them saying, "told you so".
          Mark Miller
          • us could easily meet kyoto

            Just roll out the biodiesel algae on a massive scale to harvest energy from sunlight (and CO2 from the atmosphere). You need a president who thinks big, and isn't worried about his oilfields being worth nothing.

            See, I'm not saying scrap all your brand new SUVs and computers, I'm saying using current technology on a massive scale and literally save the planet.

            Someone calculated that current biodiesel production covering 10% of the sonora desert would provide 100% of current US energy needs.
            Note: this would mean at a sweep the US would be totally carbon neutral.

            Extract three times as much CO2, and the whole human race would be carbon neutral. Extract a bit more, and you counteract the natural global warming. This would be relatively easy. Why don't people just do it?
          • biodiesel Algae

            If what you are saying is feasible, why don't we see to it that it gets done? If nobody takes the lead, PEOPLE don't do things that they think are too big for them to do alone.
            Cause and Effect
          • I dunno

            I'm not against biodiesel, or ethanol. Anything we can do to get off dependence on foreign oil, from regimes who do not have our best interests at heart, or at the least have conflicts of interest, would be a great thing.

            A former coworker of mine and her husband bought a biodiesel car a few years ago. I told her to check out possible tax credits on their purchase. I seem to remember there was one at the federal level, and I'm pretty sure there's a tax credit for it in my state.

            One reason for the lack of popularity might be economics. Any car with an alternative fuel engine is going to cost more to purchase up front than a typical car with a gas engine. People are going to look at it and see if it's worth it to them economically.

            A plus for ethanol is that right now the fuel costs less than gasoline. If the pumps were available where I am, people could see the price difference, look at their commute, look at the prices of FlexFuel cars (cars that can take a mixture of gas and ethanol), and see if it would actually be of value to them.

            You're going to get a lot more adoption of the technology if people can see that using alternative fuels is going to be cheaper than using gasoline technology. Otherwise it's like buying organic food. There's no real health benefit over conventionally grown crops. It costs more than conventionally grown food, but it's better for the environment. Producers like it because they can charge more for the same crop and make more of a profit. And there is a customer base of affluent, conscientious consumers who would like to be a part of the solution, instead of the problem.

            Economics counts because not everyone is going to be able to afford these alternative solutions. They may not make enough to afford the initial investment, even though it'll pay for itself in lower fuel costs.

            Among the environmentalists in my town it seems they're driving hybrids. This is fine, but it's really like buying a fuel efficient gasoline car, like people did in the 1970s and '80s. You get more mileage out of it but you still have to burn gas to operate it.
            Mark Miller
          • Not money!

            Waste vegetable oil (or fresh 'non- cooking' oils from plants) works
            RIGHT NOW in any diesel engine. Hydrogen works RIGHT NOW in
            any gasoline engine. We don't even have to change cars, let alone
            engine technology. Still no response from the government or the
            people! Anyone planning on great-children? Are we too stupid or
            too lazy? Convenience may judt kill us. Or is it vested interrests
            manipulating media and markets?
    • Cooling period???????

      If we've been in a cooling period for the last 8 years, then why are the polar ice caps melting?

      • And why has it been 95 deg on the East Coast...

        in MAY, setting temp records everywhere.

        There is one real truth in all this.

        OIL HAS GOT TO GO. We need to move to Ethanol and Fuel-Cells.

        I fear that will never happen with the Oil-Friendly Bush Administration though. Our first step has to be to get an administration that gives a damn about something other than their buddies high up on the food chain.
        • le sigh

          [i]OIL HAS GOT TO GO. We need to move to Ethanol and Fuel-Cells.[/i]

          Uh...yeah. Okay. Ethanol still produces CO2 when burned. Read "The Use of Ethanol as a Fuel" http://shrinkster.com/fl9

          In fact, quoting from the article: "At high temperatures in the presence of oxygen, all organic compounds will decompose to give carbon dioxide and water."

          The only nice thing about ethanol is it's my understanding it produces less CO2 than gasoline. It's also an oxygenated fuel, so it produces less particulate pollution. Don't get me wrong. I like ethanol, but mainly because WE can produce it, and it's effectively a renewable resource, since it can be produced from sugar cane (from what I've heard corn is a less effective source for ethanol).

          At this point fuel cells produce a similar effect to ethanol: the way we get most of our hydrogen is via. fossil fuels like crude oil and natural gas. The process of extracting the hydrogen from these fuels leaves CO2 as a byproduct. The advantage you get with hydrogen is greater fuel efficiency than burning petroleum. In other words, you get more work out of it per unit of volume. If everyone used hydrogen (just supposing) it follows logically follows (I don't know about practically) that we'd use less fossil fuels than we do now, and produce less CO2, but we'd still produce a significant amount of it.

          It's possible to generate hydrogen from water using electrolysis, but it uses a lot of energy. How do you like nuclear power? I'm no expert, but it sounds like that's what we'd need if we were to use electrolysis to produce hydrogen on a mass scale. It does seem like a Rube Goldberg contraption: use nuclear fission (or coal or natural gas--but then you're back to the problem of producing CO2 again) to heat water to steam, to spin turbines to generate electricity, which is then used to electrify catalytic rods, which are used to separate hydrogen atoms from water. I dunno, is it just me?

          Anyway, until someone comes up with an efficient method of generating pure hydrogen, this is what we're stuck with.
          Mark Miller
          • however if you grow plants to make ethanol overall it is carbon neutral

            I think you've missed a key point here. Using fossil fuels liberates carbon stored by plant life over hundreds of millions of years, and in so doing is reversing the cooling effect that ancient plant life had by fixing carbon.

            Because ethanol is made by harvesting current plants, when burnt, if you regrow the crop, the crop as it is growing fixes the carbon from the atmosphere again. So overall you don't increase the CO2 level.

            To me nuclear power is a small stop-gap at best, and the west is probably more interested in using it to get the uranium out of the ground and into our countries from a security perspective rather than for it to have anything to do with global warming.
          • Maybe

            From a logical standpoint what you say sounds correct. I haven't read any articles yet that talk about plants absorbing as much atmospheric carbon as they would produce when burned. I kind of wonder about that. Maybe plants get a lot of their carbon from the soil. I'm not an expert on that. I mean CO2 from burned plant material is no different than CO2 from burned oil. It would seem to me that if that were the case then plant life, including algea, would already be absorbing the CO2 we're putting out, no? Instead we're seeing a net gain, not stasis. I see what you're saying about it being a closed loop, but to the plants what difference does it make? If they get CO2 from burned oil, it's the same to them. It hasn't seemed to have reduced the CO2 level in the atmosphere appreciably. So this makes me wonder about the concept you present from a practical standpoint. If every gasoline car that's out there now burned ethanol instead, do you really think the system would be carbon neutral?

            Like I said before, from what I understand, burning ethanol results in less CO2 than burning gasoline. I think that's just an analysis from the raw output of an internal combustion engine, not this carbon neutrality you're talking about. To me all it means is less CO2 being put into the atmosphere every year vs. the amount put out from fossil fuels every year. There's still going to be a net gain of CO2 in the atmosphere, I predict, just less accelerated. I think it's true that ethanol use would result in more sugar being grown, thereby increasing the land area for agriculture, and increasing the plant area that would absorb some CO2 from the atmosphere. I'm just not so sure it would work so effectively as an atmospheric carbon sink as you think it would. If plant life were so effective, I think we would've seen the effect by now.

            Another aspect to look at is we grow sugar cane now. It only grows in a certain climate, so the land area where it can be produced is finite. Aren't we producing as much sugar as we can now? We sure as hell use a lot of it in our foods and desserts. Thomas Friedman has talked about this some. The one thing we could improve on is getting rid of the special protections that the sugar industry has now in the U.S. If we expanded the area where we get sugar (from other countries that can grow it) and started producing ethanol with a portion of the total, then that would encourage more sugar production.
            Mark Miller
        • OUR first step...

          ...is to look more closely at cause and effect.
          Cause and Effect
      • As well as...

        mountain glaciers throughout the world.
    • they are the same, and a possible solution using technology

      Due to the greenhouse effect, CO2 content in the atmosphere dictates global temperature. Note Venus has high CO2 in the atmosphere, and has a surface temperature in excess of 300 degrees celsius.

      The last ten years have been unprecedently warm.
      Sure there is some natural component to this, but CO2 emissions are also driving a large part of global warming.

      As part of Global Warming, there may be regional cooling, like for example, the UK and Ireland will probably have an Ice age when the gulf stream stops working.

      I have many friends who are scientists, and they are 100% convinced that Global Warming is happening, and without action, it will be catastrophic for the human race.

      Personally I think that simply fixing CO2 emissions is not enough to secure our future:

      The US government and US corporations have developed biodiesel producing algae. It's my feeling that the largest engineering project ever should be undertaken in rolling Algae farms out on an enormous scale, not just to harvest solar energy for our use, but to control CO2 levels planetwide. (you could pump the biodiesel back into mines and empty oil fields, and maybe polymerise it to make large chunks of some sort of plastic).
      • the devil is in the details

        "Note Venus has high CO2 in the atmosphere, and has a surface temperature in excess of 300 degrees celsius."

        Here is a great example of an out-of-context "fact" that means absolutely nothing relative to any meaningful discussion of Earth's climate. That's because Venus is millions of miles CLOSER to the Sun than the Earth, and its period of rotation (time for one day and one night) is extremely long compared to the 24 hours here on Earth. (I suppose these are just little inconvenient details to an unempoyed politician, right?)

        Or you can only wonder about:

        "The last ten years have been unprecedently warm."

        Warmer than what? Does anyone have any hard data on what the average temperature was 500 years ago? how about 10,000 years ago? or 1 million years ago? Of course not!

        So, since we cannot as yet even compare apples with oranges on climate and warming/cooling issues, I would say the current crop of doomsayers are (to be polite) FULL OF IT!