George Will

WASHINGTON -- A few years ago, a Los Angeles television anchor said: ``Dodgers and Angels highlights at 11. Please watch anyway.'' Some viewers probably thought ABC should have said something like that when announcing Al Gore's extended interview on ``This Week'' last Sunday. But the interview signaled an important alteration of the competition for the Democrats' 2008 presidential nomination -- that is, if Gore means what he is saying, and he seems painfully sincere.

     ``Less than 10 years.'' That, Gore warns, is all the time that ``leading scientists'' say we may have ``before we cross a point of no return'' -- unless we make a ``really good start toward dramatic changes'' to combat global warming. Ten years from now will be the last year of the second term of the next president, if he or she is re-elected. Surely Gore should strive to be that president, if he means these four things he says or implies:

     First, so grave is the ``planetary emergency,'' decisions made in the next few years will determine the fate of civilization. Second, he understands this better than any other national leader. (When the Kyoto Protocol, which distributes nations' obligations regarding reduction of global warming, was created in 1997, Gore could find only ``one senator out of all 100 who was willing to say that he or she would definitely'' vote to ratify it.) Third, he aims ``to move our country'' and ``change the minds of the American people'' and instill ``the sense of urgency that is appropriate,'' because ``the political environment has to be changed'' before solutions are possible. Fourth, ``I'm under no illusions that there's any position in the world with as much influence'' as the presidency.

     So much for his silly dichotomy -- his assertion that global warming ``is not a political issue. It is a moral issue.'' Any large policy issue is a political issue and it is large because it is morally significant. So, having come within 537 Florida votes, or perhaps a 5-4 Supreme Court decision, of becoming president, why not try again, particularly with, he says, ``earth in the balance``?

     If he does, he will have to tweak his Cassandra persona. For example, when he said on ``This Week'' that the Kyoto Protocol ``has become the binding law in most of the world,'' he adopted a, shall we say, broad understanding of ``binding'': Rapidly developing China and India, with more than a third of the planet's population, are exempt from emission limits, and of the 15 European Union countries committed to hitting certain Kyoto targets, only two are on a path to do so.

George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
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