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Al Gore links climate change and fires Former US Vice President Al Gore suggests those doubting the link between climate change and extreme fire events are like politicians who supported the tobacco industry, and explains why he thinks that. Transcript ANNABEL CRABB, PRESENTER: As the fires continue burning, former United States Vice President and Nobel Prize-winning climate change activist Al Gore has bought into the debate over the link between global warming and bushfires. Mr Gore is currently hosting his annual 24 Hours of Reality internet broadcast, which is billed as the world's largest conversation about the cost of carbon pollution. He joined me from Los Angeles earlier. Mr Gore, thank you very much for joining us on 7.30. AL GORE, FORMER US VICE PRESIDENT: My pleasure. ANNABEL CRABB: Your Climate Reality Project has been talking today in Australia about the cost of climate change, including bushfires, and, as you know, we are currently in the grip of rather a dreadful bushfire around Sydney. AL GORE: Yes, my thoughts and prayers are with the people of New South Wales, Annabel. I've been following the news reports on an hourly basis. I hope and pray for the best and we're all grateful, I know, for the folks who have the courage to become firefighters and we're grateful for all of their bravery and labour right now. ANNABEL CRABB: Mr Gore, we're also having something of a national debate about the connection between climate change and bushfires and the Australian Prime Minister has said in the last couple of hours that bushfires are a function of life in Australia and nothing to do with climate change. What do you make of those remarks? AL GORE: Well, it's not my place to get involved in your politics, but it reminds me of politicians here in the United States who got a lot of support from the tobacco companies and who argued to the public that there was absolutely no connection between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer. And for 40 years the tobacco companies were able to persuade pliant politicians within their grip to tell the public what they wanted them to tell them. And for 40 years the tragedy continued. And bushfires can occur naturally, and do, but the science shows clearly that when the temperature goes up and when the vegetation and soils dry out, then wildfires become more pervasive and more dangerous. That's not me saying it, that's what the scientific community says. ANNABEL CRABB: I'm sorry, Mr Gore, are you suggesting that there's some sort of commercial conspiracy between polluters and politicians? AL GORE: I don't think it's a commercial conspiracy, I think it's a political fact of life. It certainly is in my country. In the United States, our democracy has been hacked. Special interests control decisions too frequently. You saw it in our recent fiscal and debt crisis, if that made the news over there. It's pitiful, really. And the energy companies, coal companies and oil companies particularly, have prevented the Congress of the United States from doing anything meaningful so far to stop the climate crisis. ANNABEL CRABB: Mr Gore, last year when Australia legislated a price on carbon, you described us as the canaries down the coal mine. Now, given that we're about to repeal that carbon price, the health of the canary's looking a little questionable, isn't it? AL GORE: Well, again, it's not my place to intervene in your politics, but my understanding is that some of the Senate count is still taking place and that some of the representation in third parties introduces some wildcards into the equation and that more cards need to be turned up. Plus I think the public has a role in this and has a voice to be heard. And here in the United States, we had an event called Hurricane Sandy that was devastating - US$60 billion in damages and it caused a dramatic change in the message the public was sending to politicians in both parties. ANNABEL CRABB: Mr Gore, what about America though? Australians watch American politics reasonably closely, we've seen how your president has struggled to introduce healthcare reforms. We've seen that your budgetary process seems to be dominated by people wearing period costume. Do you think it's understandable that Australians have great doubts about America's capacity to provide its customary moral and practical leadership in this particular area? AL GORE: Well, I can't disagree that the performance of the politicians in my own country has been very inspiring in the last several weeks, but - and I've criticised the way our system is working here in the US. Sure, but President Obama just won a tough victory on his healthcare plan and backed down the so-called Tea Party members who tried to derail it, and, he has introduced through his Environmental Protection Agency a very tough new regulations forcing the reduction in CO2 emissions. So, we are moving forward in the US. I would like to see us move forward even faster and more boldly. ANNABEL CRABB: Mr Gore, Australia's moving into a new phase on climate policy. We're moving to a Direct Action strategy which is centred around buying abatements from polluters and a heavy reliance on soil carbon. Do you think that those are workable solutions? AL GORE: Well, not really, compared to what's needed. The meaningful way to solve this crisis is to put a price on carbon, and in Australia's case, to keep a price on carbon. And by the way, the price needs to be at a level that's effective and you can give the money right back to the people if you want, but we need to have the market send accurate signals so that we get the encouragement for the renewable systems of energy that are becoming cheaper all the time, by the way. Wind energy, for example, in Australia is now very competitive with electricity-based on coal. And all around the world, electricity from solar energy is becoming competitive with coal-based electricity. And within less than seven years, more than 85 per cent of the world's people will live in regions where solar electricity will be available at a price equal to or cheaper than the price of electricity from burning coal.