THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Vice President
REMARKS BY VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE
TO WEATHER FORECASTERS
ON GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE
THE EAST ROOM, THE WHITE HOUSE
2:03 P.M. EDT
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 1, 1997
Transcript by Federal News Service, Copyright 1997. (202-347-1400)
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: (Applause.) Thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the president and the first lady it's my honor to welcome you to the White House. And before I present the president to you I want to briefly acknowledge our Deputy Secretary of Commerce Robert Mallet (sp), our Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Rich Romenture (sp), the Director of NOAA Dr. Jim Baker. I think James Lee Witt left but was here. Dr. Jack Gibbons, the president's science adviser; Katie McGinty, the chair of the Council on Environmental Quality; Todd Stern, who is assistant to the president's staff secretary heading up the president's climate team; Dan Tarullo, assistant to the president for international economic policy. And I want to especially acknowledge as a group all of the scientists who spoke at NOAA this morning.
I understand that they did a very thorough job, and I want to thank them on behalf of the president. And we are so delighted to welcome all of you to the White House. And not only because of the opportunity it provides to have an exchange about this important issue, but also because in the words of one of you who came through the line, ``Finally'' -- this is his phrase --''Finally you guys get to meet a group that get more flak than you do.'' (Laughter.) And I imagine it's not very easy being a weathercaster -- (laughter) -- and I'm sure you can all tell some great stories about incidents that you've run into.
But in any event, we are just delighted that you are here. I'm going to have a chance to talk with you at a little bit more length in a few moments.
It is my pleasure to present the president to you not only as the president of our country, but as a personal friend I've been privileged to work with close at hand for almost five years now. And I just want to say on a personal note that when an issue like this one comes up that's extremely complex, extremely difficult, excruciatingly difficult, it really is a great thing for a country to have as president somebody who really rolls up his sleeves and asks every time what is the right thing to do, what are the real best interests of the people of the United States of America. It's really a privilege and a pleasure to work with him, and it's an honor for me now to present to you the President of the United States, Bill Clinton. (Applause.)
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you very much, Mr. President. I appreciate the kind words. And ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your warm welcome of me back to this podium here. And actually, the president's kind of put me on the spot because he's emphasized the fact that I am not a scientist. I am a lay person speaking to a group made up mostly of scientists. And so I want to convey my own keen awareness of that fact here at the outset and ask for your indulgence as I attempt to describe why I believe this issue is so important in a lay person's terminology.
Many of you have heard the old story -- probably a bigger percentage of this group than most because it's fundamentally about a weather story. Anybody have Johnstown, Pennsylvania in his or her coverage area? Right.
Well, the fellow who talked about -- the survivor of the Johnstown flood who talked about it on every occasion -- I'm sure you've heard this -- and people used to walk the other way when they saw him coming because all he would talk about is the Johnstown flood. When he died he went to heaven and Saint Peter said, ``Well you take it easy today, and tomorrow you'll have five minutes to just introduce yourself to the assembled gathering.'' And he said, ``Well, that's great. I'm going to tell them about the Johnstown flood.'' And Saint Peter said, ``Well now, you know, are you sure you want to do that?'' And he said, ``Yeah, it was the most exciting thing that happened to me on Earth.'' And Saint Peter said, ``Well, that's okay, but just remember that Noah is going to be in the audience and --'' (laughter, scattered applause.) So I'm keenly aware that Noah is in the audience here. (Laughter, applause.)
My own way of thinking about this is as a symptom of a larger, underlying issue. You know, we've heard about the destruction of the rain forests and the hole in the ozone layer and the disappearance of living species. And I read an article the other day about the depletion of all the ocean fisheries and the fact that all these fish that people eat are dwindling in numbers. And there are all of these issues that kids talk about in schools and global warming.
I think they're all related in the following sense. In our lifetimes, we have been seeing some profound changes in the relationship between humankind and the Earth's environment. And that's the first obstacle, in my opinion, to really coming to grips with this issue of global warming. Because right away, most of us think, ``Well, now wait a minute, the Earth is so big, you know, we can't possibly have an impact on the global environment.'' That used to be true. I think that that has changed in our lifetimes, and I think it's changed for three reasons that have all come together in the last century or so.
The first big change is population. If you think about it, you know, we're now adding the equivalent of one China's worth of people ever 10 years now. If you put that in the perspective of the history of the human race, well, that's something that's very, very new.
If you go back to the beginning of the human species -- and I don't want to try to put a date on that, because I'm from Tennessee and we had a trial there about that -- (laughter) -- and I'm a little sensitive. But if for purposes of argument you assumed that the scientists are correct and that the human species emerged probably about 140(,000), 160,000 years ago, and there were two people -- we know that much -- and then for the first, you know, tens of thousands of years, for the first 130,000 years, there wasn't very much change at all, until the first cities -- and I'm pretending to draw a graph here -- (laughter) -- and then when the last Ice Age ended and agriculture began and the first cities emerged 9(,000), 10,000 years ago, it started to go up a little bit. By the time of Julius Caesar there were 250 million people on Earth. And by the time Christopher Columbus sailed, there were 500 million people on Earth. And by the time of the American Revolution, there were 1 billion people on Earth. And by the end of World War II, there were 2 billion people on Earth. That's when I was born, and when some of you were born.
And just to recap, you go 10,000 generations before you get to 2 billion people. But in my 49 years, we've gone from 2 billion to 5-1/2 billion. And in the next 50 years, we're going to 8 or 9 billion, right up to the ceiling.
And so if it takes 10,000 human lifetimes to get to 2 billion and then in one human lifetime you go from 2 billion to 8 or 9 billion, that is a huge change in the relationship between people and the Earth. It's happening right now, in our lifetimes.
Now the second factor is the scientific and technological revolution, which magnifies the amount of power that we have, for good or ill. And most of it's been for the good -- raising our standard of living. And a lot of the solution to this undoubtedly will be more new technology and better technology. But the fact is, some of the new power that we have, we haven't always used them wisely, we haven't always really been able to anticipate some of the consequences that would come from it.
Take nuclear weapons, for example. Warfare has been with us for as long as histories have been written. But once nuclear weapons were invented, the power transformed the consequences of warfare, so we had to change our way of thinking about it.
In the same way, the way we get food and shelter and exploit the earth for sustenance has been with us for a long time. But now some of these new abilities have consequences that we haven't always anticipated.
One quick example on that: chlorofluorocarbons, the culprits in the ozone hole, which you all know about very, very well, they were first invented in this century, and they weren't produced in large quantities until after World War II. And yet just in that short period of time, in our lifetimes, most of us, they have transformed the concentration of chlorine in the atmosphere. The air we're breathing in this room has six times as many chlorine atoms in each lungful than it did when this room was built or when we were born. And that doesn't hurt human health. But indirectly it is the reason for that cause in the stratospheric ozone layer.
But my point is if we are able just in a few decades to change by a factor of six the concentration of a basic chemical in the atmosphere of the earth, that's evidence that some of these new technologies can have a huge impact. And we don't anticipate them. That's really the third cause of this underlying change. Our grandparents would pay more attention to canning and recycling and reusing things, and we kind of sometimes act as if we don't have to take consequences for the -- take responsibility for the consequences of what we do.
But in any event, when I was in the sixth grade we had a geography class with a map of the world in front of the room that the teacher would pull down when it was time for class. And one of my classmates -- this is a true story -- was fascinated with the fact that South America and Africa had kind of the same outline, South America and the west coast of Africa. And he raised his -- he got up his courage one day and finally asked the teacher ``Did they ever fit together?'' And the teacher said ``That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. That's'' -- and he went on to become a drug addict and a ne'er-do-well. (Laughter.) But the -- his creativity was stifled, but -- (laughter).
You know, in the middle and late 1950s most people thought that ``continental drift'' was just a lunatic kind of idea because they had an assumption that continents are so big they obviously can't move. Yogi Berra once said ``What gets us into trouble is not what we don't know, it's what we know for sure that just ain't so.'' (Laughter.) And one of the things that we know for sure that ain't so now is that we can't have a big effect on the earth's climate system. That used to be true. But now because of the growing numbers and the more powerful technology and our attitude toward it we can have a big effect. And the most vulnerable part of the earth's environment is the atmosphere, because it's the smallest part. It's so thin.
My friend Carl Sagan used to say that if you had a big globe of the earth that had a coat of varnish on it, the thickness of the atmosphere would be less than that coat of varnish, relatively speaking. Of course, y'all -- this is one of the many things y'all know much better than I do. But the fact is if you go from Pennsylvania Avenue straight up to the top of the sky, it's not as far as it from here out to National Airport, where most of you flew in, up to the top of the troposphere. It's very, very thin. And that's the reason why we're able to change the composition of chlorine in the atmosphere, and it is the reason why we are now able to change the composition of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. And, of course, CO2 is the main one.
Now, here is where I got involved in this and the whole reason I became interested in this. I had a teacher. And back in the 1950s -- 1957 and 1958 -- there was an event worldwide called the international geophysical year. Many of you probably remember that a lot better than I do. Some of y'all took -- played prominent roles in it.
Well, this man's name was Roger Revel (sp). And he played a unique role in it. He was the first and only person to say ``Let's measure CO2 in the atmosphere.'' And up until that time there had never been such measurements. And some years after that in the middle 1960s when I went to college he was a teacher, and he presented the results of what they were finding. And that's the whole reason why I got interested in this.
Now, if you'll forgive me -- I can't draw as well as y'all can, either, by a long shot, either. But this is what he showed. (Pause.) And that's -- most of you know this very, very well. That's what's happening to CO2 in the atmosphere. And the reason why it goes up and down once a year is, of course, that most of the land mass on the earth is north of the equator. And, you know, you got all of the Eurasian land mass and all of North America and Mexico, just a little bit of South America and a little bit of Africa and Australia below it. So three-quarters of the land mass of the earth is north of the equator, so three-quarters of the vegetation is north of the equator. So when it's spring time in our part of the world and the leaves come out and the deciduous vegetation in the northern hemisphere, then the whole earth, so to speak, takes a big breath in of carbon dioxide. And so the concentrations go down worldwide. And then in the fall obviously the reverse happens and the leaves fall, and all that carbon dioxide that's been locked up in the vegetation is exhaled back into the atmosphere, and the concentrations go back up again. But obviously from -- as it's easy to see from this, the peaks each year keep going up.
He presented six or seven -- the first six or seven years, and I followed that after that time because it really was striking to me, and later on in the House and then in the Senate tried to see what had happened to it. And, of course, as you know, it has kept on going up rather dramatically. And obviously the basic dynamic is very, very well known that when you have that thicker blanket of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, the infrared radiation from the sun is trapped in larger quantities and the temperature of the earth begins to go up.
But the chart that the president was talking about -- and I hope you'll forgive me for showing this, but this is the one he was talking about here. This is -- can y'all see that? This is from Antarctica. And there there's two miles of ice. And each year a little bit more falls. It's technically classified as a desert because the precipitation is so low. I couldn't get over that when I went down there because it sure doesn't look like a desert, but because each annual layer is so thin, thousands of layers can stack up without the weight of the column crushing them completely. And so they can dig down through those layers of ice and measure the bubbles of air trapped when the snow fell each year. In exactly the same way that foresters can bore a hole into a tree trunk or cut the tree down and read the tree rings, they can measure each year's atmosphere when the snow fell in Antarctica. And it's kind of a time machine enabling them to read what the CO2 content was and also to read what the temperature was. And that's a little more complicated and out of my depth. But the way it's explained to me is that there are different isotopes of oxygen -- oxygen 16 and oxygen 18, I believe -- and the ratio in which they appear turns out to be a highly accurate thermometer that enables them to measure exactly the temperature in the air when the snow fell.
Well, anyway, that's what this chart is all about. And it looks more complicated than it is. It only has two lines. This is the temperature level here in yellow, and this is the CO2 level in blue. This is the present day here on the right-hand side of the graph, and it goes backwards in time 160,000 years, to the time when the scientists say people first appeared on earth in our modern form. And this is the last Ice Age here. This is present day temperature, this is the last Ice Age. This is the next-to-last Ice Age. And this is the period of great warming in between the last two ice ages.
Now, in New York City, for purposes of comparison, this is the difference between a nice day like today and having one mile of ice over your head. That much difference on the cold side is the difference between glaciers covering that much or North America and not. So it's a huge difference.
Now, on the CO2 end of this, it has fluctuated between -- well, here's the last Ice Age, here's the next to last Ice Age, and here's the period of warming in between the two Ice Ages. And it has fluctuated between 190 to 200 parts per million to around almost 300 parts per million.
Now, there are two points that this graph makes to me. The first one is these two lines appear to me to go together. If my sixth grade classmate who asked whether South America and Africa fit together could see this graph, he would say ``Looks to me like they fit together.'' And, in fact, they do. The exact relationship is complex. There's mutual causality. But the fundamental reality is that higher levels of carbon dioxide warm the atmosphere and temperatures go up.
Now, the second point of this graph is the one that I think is the most significant point. This is the current level of CO2. We are now in the process with our growing numbers and new technologies, putting so much CO2 in the atmosphere now it's unbelievable. And we are pushing the level of CO2 in the atmosphere up so that in the lifetimes of some of our children we will see CO2 levels up at -- it goes up one more. There you go. Can you get that? Okay -- up to that level.
Now, if for as far back as we can measure CO2 and temperature have gone up and down in lockstep and if we are now in the process with this new relationship we have to the earth's climate pushing the level of CO2 up there, then shouldn't we take responsibility for changing that? Shouldn't we accept responsibility for the consequences of what we're doing?
I think this is an ethical issue, because folks that say ``This is no problem, we shouldn't worry about it, it's not anything to occupy our time,'' what they're really saying is that it's probably perfectly all right to push the CO2 concentrations in the earth's atmosphere up to that level. I think it's probably crazy. And I think that if our grandchildren and great-grandchildren, living through the expected and predicted consequences of this, could reach back in time and say to us, ``Did you know you were doing this? Did you know it was going to have this effect on us?'' And we said, ``Well, we knew basically the facts, but we thought it was perfectly all right. We didn't think we had to worry about it.'' I don't think that's an ethical answer. I think we have a responsibility to them to do what we can to do something about this and change this.
Thank you. You can -- here; we can just put this down like this. What about that?
Q (Off mike.)
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Thank you very much. I appreciate that. Okay. Now let me finish up real fast here.
There are people who say the evidence isn't in. (Sighs.) We had a meeting earlier this -- earlier today about tobacco, and we had the joint leadership of the Congress down and other -- the committee chairs and so forth, to talk about the tobacco issue.
You know, the surgeon general's report came out in 1964, 33 years ago. And we have been -- we have allowed ourselves to be manipulated a little bit by a group of people that have said, on behalf of tobacco companies, for all this time, with a straight face, ``There is no link between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer.''
And I come from a tobacco state. And you know, I've heard this all my life. But long after the scientists and the doctors said, ``The evidence is in,'' there were some people casting doubt upon it, long after the mainstream group said, ``Look, you know, the argument's over. This is a very serious threat. More people die of this each year than Americans died in World War II. When can we start doing something about it?''
If you asked the scientists today, ``Exactly how does smoking cigarettes cause lung cancer,'' they will say, ``We really don't know how to cross all the Ts and dot all the Is. We really don't know. But if you look at the number of people who smoke cigarettes and get lung cancer, and the number of people who don't and the much smaller percentage that get lung cancer, you can tell that there is a close relationship.'' And of course, they dig much more deeply into the science, and they home in on it to the point where virtually all reasonable people say, ``Yes, smoking causes lung cancer. Let's do something about it.''
This is comparable, but there are in this case also people who will say, ``We do not have the evidence.''
Now of course, there are ways to see the effects of this -- the hot years we've been having, the increases in temperature.
I went to Glacier National Park last month -- or earlier this month. And if you've been there, you know what a beautiful place it is. In 30 years there will be no glaciers in Glacier National Park. It'll be the Park Formerly Known as Glacier, with all apologies to the Artist Formerly Known as Prince. (Laughter.)
But I went to a place called the Grinell Glacier, and they had marked off where it was previously and where it is now, and it's really clear. It's really obvious on the ground.
You may remember a few years ago, when they discovered that 5,000-year-old man in the Alps, in Italy, I believe it is. You remember that guy? And you know, how come they never discovered that guy before? You know, these hikers walking along -- ``Hey, there's a 5,000-year-old man.'' (Laughter.) Looks like they would have noticed him before. (Laughter.) Well, of course, the answer is, the ice hadn't melted there before, and -- in 5,000 years.
So the -- and every mountain glacier in the world, with the exception of a very unusual couple of glaciers in Norway -- every glacier in the world in mountains is receding rapidly; sea levels going up, and so forth.
And you know, look at the -- in Chicago -- I know several of y'all are here from Chicago -- was it two summers ago where the 400 people died in the heat wave? There are some people here from Detroit. A few years ago somebody got malaria in Detroit -- a tropical, subtropical disease. In the month he got malaria, the average temperature was six full degrees warmer than the 30-year average for that month. Again, you know, you can't say that's cause and effect. But the odds are shifting toward the kinds of consequences that are associated with rising temperatures.
Now before I close, I just want to make one other point. And this, again, is something that you all can describe a lot better than I can. But what the scientists tell me is that weather is partly an engine for redistributing heat. And again, please forgive me for talking about something that y'all know much better than I do. But again, the way it's been explained to me is that the temperature at the Equator, being so much warmer than the temperature at the poles, that the redistribution of heat from the Equator to the poles, through wind currents and ocean currents and cloud systems, defines the overall long-term pattern. And if that ratio between this temperature and that temperature changes, then the pattern can change.
And one of the things I'm sure they talked about this morning is that warming takes place not just gradually worldwide, but much more rapidly at the poles, because when the -- when you have ice on a surface, 95 percent of the sun is bounced -- bounces right off it. But when the ice melts and it's open ocean, 95 percent is absorbed -- same thing in the tundra -- so that at the edge of the ice, when it's melting, it picks up more heat, and it's a feedback loop. And it eats away at the edge of it, so that at the poles, both the North and the South Pole, the ice melting -- and other factors -- cause it to warm much more rapidly. If it's a five-degree warming, that's maybe one degree at the Equator, and maybe eight or nine degrees at the pole.
So if the pattern of weather worldwide is established in a pretty stable pattern since the end of the Ice Age for redistributing heat, and you've had a stable relationship between this temperature and this temperature for all that time, and then all of a sudden this goes up only one degree and this goes up eight or nine degrees, all of a sudden those patterns of ocean currents and wind currents and cloud systems are vulnerable to change.
One scientist tried to explain it to me by -- this doesn't really work well, but he said that if you take your watch band and form a pattern, you can go up and down, and it still has the same pattern. But if you change a basic characteristic, like the angle of one of the edges, and you change it enough, at one point -- at some point it adopts a different pattern.
Look at El Nino. Look at what's happening to El Nino right now. It used to be -- and y'all correct me if I get these numbers wrong -- but it used to be one out of seven years, on average. Now it's three years out of five, or this -- the one before this was almost continuous for several years.
One of the news magazines this week has a graph showing what's been happening since the late '80s -- you know, before and after. It used to be once every seven years; now it's just very, very common. And of course, the consequences are easy for everybody to see.
But there are a lot of other sub-global systems that are affected by changes in water temperature and changes in these larger overall patterns.
Look at what's happening in Indonesia and Malaysia right now: planes crashing, boats colliding together, schools being closed, all because the pattern that they're used to has been disrupted. And the forest fires are out of control because they don't have the monsoon rains that they usually have at this time. And the consequences are very, very profound.
If we sit back and do nothing and allow this to happen without change, then what the mainstream scientists from every country in the world are telling us is that it's going to have profound changes in the pattern of climate and in the effects on people.
Well, let me just close by adding my thanks to those the president has already expressed, each and every one of you, for what you do every single day, for saving lives, for helping people plan their lives, for serving your communities in such a profoundly important way. And also, thank you very, very much for responding to the call of the president to come and spend a little time immersing yourself in aspects of this that NOAA and the other agencies involved here have spent so much time on. And on a personal basis, thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to speak to you. I appreciate it very much. (Applause.)
(To staff) Could I do questions?
Thank you very much. I'd be happy to try to respond to a few questions, if you would like to throw any at me. Or comments. Yes, sir.
Q (Off mike) -- John Fisher from -- (off mike) -- South Bend, Indiana. There is a -- it seems to me there's still a debate about the effect that humans have on the contribution to global warming and global climate change, yet both in remarks you made and in remarks by the president you seem to dismiss them as a big minority. You just referred to the ones on your side, if you will, of ``mainstream scientists''. Is the debate on that issue (within ?) the administration over?
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: On the fact that there is a human factor in causing this? Yes. And not only in the administration, in the international panel on climate change, which has, what, 2,500 scientists from every country in the world, they have studied this for several years now. And just a couple of years ago they found what they call ``the smoking gun'' and came out with this consensus statement that there is now a discernible impact from human causes.
Now, one of the other obstacles to broadening the consensus on that is that as you all know better than everybody, the noise level in the system is so profound that there are going to be very, very big changes just in the natural course of events. You take hurricanes. Back in the 1930s, as y'all can say better than me, there was a string of powerful hurricanes, more frequent, more powerful than what we're experiencing now. And there are other extremes that are natural.
But out of that noise level, this consensus international scientific process has now said that they believe that debate is over, that yes, the human cause is now discernible. And as these concentrations grow it will become more profound and a much more significant part of the cause.
Q And the administration accepts that fact that that debate is over.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. On that one point, yes, sir. Here, and then there.
Q Kevin O'Connell (sp) from Channel 2 in Buffalo. Two things have happened in this country. Our concentration of industrial strength has moved from the traditional rust belt areas of the Great Lakes down into a more suitable climate for employment. And something that you touched on and so the president did as well is this whole idea of worldwide development. In an article in the newspaper the other day I was reading where some of the underdeveloped countries are saying ``It's all well and good for the United States to say `Help us with the environment' because they're already developed. How dare they develop and then put the clamp on us to develop?'' -- which seems like a legitimate argument. What type of program, format, game plan do you have to explain to them that their participation is needed even though it may, in fact, slow their industrial progress?
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Well, that's one of the main issues that this big conference coming up in Japan in December. You put your finger right on one of the big political questions: how do you get them to be a part of it?
We believe they've got to be a part of it, because their emissions are growing even more rapidly than ours, some of them -- China, for example, India, for example. But as you said, it's easy to understand their basic point. You stated it very well. We've got our development; are we going to pull up the ladder before they have a chance?
Well, the response back to them from the developed countries is ``Look, there are new technologies today. If we had it to do over again, we wouldn't do it exactly the same way, we'd use some new technologies that don't pollute as much, they're much more efficient, they're cheaper, they're more effective.'' You have a big problem in these developing countries with pollution anyway, not only in Indonesia and Malaysia. Go to Beijing, you know, the -- Sao Paolo, any of the giant cities in the developing countries. They're eager to buy new technologies that will allow them to improve their standards of living without causing their children to choke to death with the pollution that's already so bad there.
At the same time they address those problems, they're going to be solving this conflict also: allowing development without the kind of predicted increases in greenhouse gases. We're also talking with them about an idea of trading emissions. That's worked with sulphur dioxide extremely well. Not everybody's happy with it, but the cost of getting dramatic reductions in sulphur dioxide has been less than one-tenth of what was projected because when you trade the emission rights, then the market helps you find the most efficient way to do it.
Now the United States is the world leader right now in developing these new technologies. We have a program called the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles -- just to name one example -- that's under way in Detroit and Washington, where the auto companies and our national laboratories and the university communities are trying to dramatically improve the efficiency of automobiles with the same price and the same affordability and the same comfort levels. We believe we can do that.
I mean, look at what's happened with microprocessors in the computer industry. They're being used now for new materials, new design techniques. I think we're -- I think we have a tremendous opportunity to create more jobs, more new businesses, in developing and selling the new technologies that are going to be necessary.
Somebody -- yes, sir?
Q Mr. Vice President, Frank (Perrywell ?), Fox News in Philadelphia. Could you be a little more specific on your numerical goals for greenhouse gas reduction? When you go to Kyoto, do you have a plan that you want to say, ``I want X percent reduction over so many years''?
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: No country in the world has specified yet what their opening position is going to be at that conference in Kyoto -- (chuckling) -- and we're no exception. We are in the midst of a debate. We're consulting with business groups, labor groups, congressional members who are actively involved in this. And we have not finalized a numerical position for that opening round in Kyoto.
Kyoto, incidentally, will be the beginning of this process, not the end. If you think back to exactly 10 years ago, there was a meeting in Montreal, Canada, where the first treaty was signed to deal with these chlorofluorocarbons -- the chemicals that destroy the stratospheric ozone layer. At that time -- actually many years before -- the scientists had said, ``This is a huge problem, and here's the cause, and you need to do something about it,'' but it took 13 years for governments in the world to get around to doing something. And then when they had that meeting in 1987, they established the framework, set some broad, general goals, and then, as more evidence came in, the public consensus built up, and then you had people in Congress saying, ``Hey, we've got to do a lot more'' -- same in parliaments in the rest of the world. And once the framework was established and we began to find the best ways to solve the problem, it ended up being a whole lot easier to solve than anybody predicted at the time. They predicted that it would be impossible to solve that problem; absolute catastrophe, they said. Not that it's been easy, but it's been much easier than anybody predicted it would be.
Now, this meeting will be similar to that 1987 Montreal protocol meeting in that what'll happen is a framework will be established, some broad goals will begin moving down the road in the right direction. And then later in the process, as we find the best ways to solve it and public attitudes demanding more change grow stronger, then you'll see the process pick up steam.
Q Mr. Vice President, Steve Shell (sp), Fox News Chicago. You mentioned Chicago a few moments ago. Were you suggesting that global warming was the cause of the loss of those 400 to 500 (guests ?), those 400 to 500 people?
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: No. Let me be precise in what I'm saying. Right after I said that I talked about the malaria incident in Detroit, and I followed that up by saying you cannot say that any of these specific events is caused by global warming. But you can say and you should say the odds of these things happening are dramatically changing and going way up because the odds of having that kind of summer in Chicago are now much higher than they were 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago. And what they're predicting here in Washington DC, a study that came out recently, what do you call it? The heat index, which is a combination of temperature and humidity? In a doubled CO2 world, which is down here, the heat index in -- where's Rosina? Give me the numbers.
STAFF: The heat index in Washington DC in a doubled CO2 world would go from 75 to 90, and in a quadrupled CO2 world could rise well over 110.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: So just in a doubled CO2 world, an average heat index of 75 in Washington DC would go to 90 in Washington DC. And after that happened, you know, on any given day if somebody said is this because of global warming, we'd say well, there are a lot of factors. You know, there's normal fluctuation, it's July instead of May, et cetera, et cetera. But the odds of it being that much higher are shifted.
And Rosina mentioned a quadrupled world. You know, incidentally, some of the scientists several years ago in order to study this problem picked a doubled CO2 concentration as a convenient measuring stick to run the computer models and see what's going to happen. And so everybody talks about a doubled CO2 world.
Actually, in the scientific community now, a lot of them have kind of despaired of ever being able to stop it at a doubled world. And they say we're now headed toward a quadrupled CO2 level, which would be -- you know, as much as this goes up, it would go much higher than that. I don't believe that. I believe that we have enough sense to stop that.
I read an article one time, several years ago, about New York City before the automobile and how the population was growing and the number of horses and carriages were growing. And they projected out into the future what was going to happen. And they added up the amount of horse manure that would be associated with doing things the same way they did them then, with that increased population and more carriages and so forth.
You know, it's sort of comparable. I can't imagine that we would allow this to happen. But as a free people in a self-government in the nation that is privileged to be looked to by other nations around the world for leadership, especially on problems that affect the whole world, we can't just sit back and assume that this is going to happen, because we're headed very rapidly toward a situation that can be extremely dangerous.
And this is another important point that the scientists make: It doesn't necessarily happen gradually. You can cross a threshold beyond which things change for the worse.
Look at pfiesteria. And I don't pretend to understand that, but it just -- it appeared all of a sudden in some of those areas feeding the Chesapeake Bay. Now, whatever the causes are -- and of course, there are scientists who believe they know what the causes are -- whatever they are, it got to a point where a threshold was crossed, and then all of a sudden, it was a big problem.
Look at the ozone hole. You know, those chlorofluorocarbons gradually increased in concentration, and then all of a sudden it crossed a point where this big hole in the ozone layer opened up.
There are similar kinds of things that the scientists say could happen in global climate that are difficult to predict. But it's not safe to say, ``Well, we can just gradually increase this.'' And of course, it's rapidly, in terms of what we've seen in the past, but in terms of a human lifetime, we're just increasing this steadily. We don't know when we'll reach the danger point. In back there. Yes, sir?
Q Chuck Aither (sp) from Detroit.
Just wondering, within days of my accepting this invitation, I received an overnight package from the coalition -- I don't know how many others did -- indicating that we should come here to ask tough questions if there's any other evidence about solar activity. There are spots running on regular TV, indicating that we should be concerned about the fairness of whatever is proposed in Kyoto.
It seems to me that, this morning and this afternoon, we haven't heard specific recommendations, outside of hybrid cars and engine changes, which impact Detroit greatly, about what you would expect from us as Americans or from members of a world society; what we should do, as we would during an Ozone Action Day, to change our activities to help out. What specifics could you share with us that you might present?
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Well, we need to put a greater emphasis on this partnership with Detroit in developing the new generation of vehicles. We need to pursue similar partnerships, as we're doing in the building industry and in other industries. We need to institute cooperative measures that will allow the trading of emissions in the way that I described earlier. And we need to set some broad goals for emissions levels that are realistic and achievable and then try to get a worldwide agreement to meet those levels and that's what we're going to try to negotiate in this meeting in Kyoto. Yes?
Q Kerri Coleman (sp), CBS Nightly News in Cleveland, Ohio. Mr. Vice President, you were talking about global population, you know, growing essentially out of control. Has the administration thought in any way, shape or form about policy affecting those developing countries relative to overpopulation. I know it's a sticky subject, but have you guys sat down and thought about the recommendations to the rest of the world.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Yes sir, we have. And one of the first things actually in the first few days that President Clinton was in office, he signed an executive order changing a policy that had been called the Mexico City Policy because the last worldwide conference on population was in Mexico City and a previous administration had said the United States would not participate in any of these international programs and the president changed that. Then we went to the next worldwide conference which was in Cairo on population and development. The president asked me to lead the delegation there. We created a new consensus and got a new worldwide approach that most everybody in the world has joined into.
Now we probably don't want to spend much time on this, but the -- this doesn't have to be as controversial as some people make it out to be. There are certain conditions which, when established in a country, lead to a dramatic change in their population growth rates. The scientists talk about what they call a demographic transition that goes from high birth rates and high death rates to low birth rates and low death rates. And most all of the developed countries, the advanced countries, have made that transition.
And you know, we think back -- we don't need to think back more than one or two generations in the United States to when our parents -- and certainly our grandparents -- were in families with six, eight, 10 kids and more. It hasn't been that long ago. But now, you know, it's -- the two-child family is the average and so forth.
Well, the developing countries still have very, very large families. What makes for that difference? It turns out that there are about three things:
Number one, child survival rates, which, when you think about it, is really important, because most of these countries don't have a Social Security system. They count on the fact that at least some of their children will survive into adulthood and take care of them when they're old. If you have a very high child mortality rate, and a high percentage of the children die in infancy or in childbirth, then you've got to have a lot of children in order to guarantee stability and -- I mean, you know, in your old age. And that's just a factor. So when you increase the survivability of children and decrease child mortality, it tends toward a lower family size.
Secondly, availability of birth control information and culturally appropriate and acceptable techniques. And that's the controversial part. But they decide that for themselves. And when that's available, that's the second factor.
The third factor is the empowerment of women, socially, politically, and in the context of the family, to participate in the decisions about childbearing. And I guess with some people that's controversial, too. I don't think it should be.
But when those three conditions are established, those countries make that change, and their population begins to stabilize.
We're actually beginning to experience some good news around the world with the beginnings of a stabilization in world population. But the momentum in the demographic system is such that we're inevitably going to go to eight or nine billion. The question is whether these changes will keep us from going to 10, 12, 14 billion. But there's emerging good news there. Now, that same kind of momentum, of course, is in the greenhouse gas emission part of this, too.
Yes, right here.
Q Curt Chappy (sp), WBLT Knoxville. Our viewers want to know ``How's it going to effect me personally?'' I guess my question is is what are your goals in the next 10 or 15 years? It looks like it's kind of heading up real quick. Can we turn it around, or is it going to be like a little kind of spike down and back up?
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: No, I think we can definitely turn it around. It's going to be difficult. It will take time. But we can solve it.
Think back to the problem I mentioned about the chlorofluorocarbons. In Tennessee, over in middle Tennessee there's a company called Northern Telcom. They're actually a Canadian company, but their largest number of employers are in the United States. After that Montreal conference on how to solve that problem the CEO of that company said ``We're going to be the first to get rid of chlorofluorocarbons.'' And his engineers said ``We have no idea how to do that.'' And he said ``I don't care. We've got to do it.'' That stimulated creativity. And they began to ask ``What do we use these chlorofluorocarbons for that we can't do without them for?'' They used them to clean circuit boards. ``What can we use as substitutes?'' And they couldn't find acceptable substitutes. And then somebody asked ``Why do these circuit boards get dirty in the first place?'' And they started to think in a fresh way. And they developed a new approach called the no-clean process that completely eliminates chlorofluorocarbons.
Most all their competitors are paying them license fees now. They have the most productive, best, cheapest approach in the world.
It's now the industry standard. And they ended up making a lot of money from that decision by that CEO.
There are a lot of similar examples when we make up our minds that we've got to do something, we find a better way to do it. There are going to be all kinds of new technologies that come out of this effort to reduce the emissions of CO2. And, now, on a worldwide basis, that problem with an ozone hole is really being solved. Now, there's a black market problem and we're clamping down on that and there's still all kinds of things that need to be done, but it's a success story.
Let me -- I can only take a couple more because they tell me my schedule is getting rough.
Q (Inaudible) -- from Miami. I was struck by the analogy where you -- with the smoking stuff -- (inaudible) --
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Right.
Q Where do you see this event today in that process? Are we at the 1964 surgeon general's report are we somewhere further down the line. Is this where we begin the discussion on the future or how do you see it?
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: No, I think we're significantly further down the line. The cause-and-effect relationship is firmer than established in 1964. There was subsequent surgeon general's reports after that. I don't know what the exact analogy would be, but I think that -- I think that we're at the point now where a lot of people who had been fighting against this are now reevaluating their positions. I'll give you a couple of quick examples. One is a guy -- a scientist at NOAA. Is Tom Karl (sp) here? Yes sir. Years ago -- and forgive me if I'm misstating your history on this issue -- (laughter) -- but I remember reading some articles where he was raising reals serious questions about this, that and the other. He's recently produced this ground-breaking analysis showing the increase in moisture in the atmosphere that comes as a result of this. More precipitation in one-time storm events because there's more coming off the oceans, the capacity of the atmosphere to hold it is increased, when the meteorological conditions present for a storm, the likelihood of a larger amount falling all at the same time is increased. I'll give you a second example. The CEO of British Petroleum, the largest producer of oil in the United States of America -- fields in the Gulf of Mexico and also on the North Slope. Brown -- his first name is John Brown, the CEO of British Petroleum, there's this article in the Los Angeles Times today.
British Petroleum unilaterally imposes greenhouse gas emissions on itself. He made a speech at Stanford and he said, ``I'm part of the oil industry. We, as an industry, have been pushing back against this concern. We've been classified as skeptical. I've just reviewed all the evidence. I believe the time to act is now. And so I'm changing this company's whole approach and we're going to shift over toward a much higher mix of renewable sources, much more emphasis on efficiency'' -- et cetera, et cetera.
He's going to be in the position of the that guy at Northern Telcom that I told the story about with chlorofluorocarbons. And we're at a point now where more and more people who have been on the other side are really looking at their hold cards and saying, ``You know, this is -- this is coming, and we've got to do something about it. Are we going to be a part of the problem or a part of the solution?''
In any event, I want to -- I want to thank all of you for coming here, because just by spending the time to engage in this dialogue, and especially to talk with the folks that talked with you in detail this morning, just by gaining so much more in depth knowledge about this from the people who spend full-time studying it, you are becoming part of the solution and we appreciate it very much. Thank you very much for coming to the White House. Appreciate it. (Applause.)