Gore in town to push global-warming fight

by Eric Prideaux

Midway through a visit to Tokyo to promote his environmental documentary film “An Inconvenient Truth,” former U.S. Vice President Al Gore on Monday made sure to praise Japan as the birthplace of the Kyoto Protocol.

Yet, earlier in the day Gore also prodded business leaders here to grapple harder with what scientists agree is a potentially catastrophic rise in temperatures — namely by acting as a role model to his own United States.

Though it is the world’s No. 1 source of greenhouse gases, the U.S. has refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, which assigns mandatory targets for cutting such emissions.

“The tipping point for the U.S. is influenced by the business community as much as anything,” Gore told members of the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren), the nation’s biggest business lobby. “And the Japanese business community can have a powerful influence on the shaping of opinions within the U.S. business community.”

The film, directed by Davis Guggenheim with Gore presenting a slide show on climate change, is scheduled to open Saturday across Japan. The issue is of particular concern here. Although Japan’s fuel-efficient automobiles and waste-cutting factories earn praise from environmentalists worldwide, the nation remains the world’s fourth-largest consumer of primary energy sources such as petroleum and coal.

Despite Japan’s June 2002 ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, the Environment Ministry says that in 2004 (the latest period for which figures are available) the country belched out 8 percent more greenhouse gases than in 1990.

In brief prescreening remarks tailored to a Japanese audience, Gore use a broad interpretation of a Japanese term to encourage people to grapple with that reality yet maintain a sense of optimism.

“In English the word ‘crisis’ conveys a sense of alarm,” he said. “But in Japanese, when you speak of ‘kiko no kiki’ (climate crisis), the word kiki is made up of two symbols together. The first by itself means danger, but the second by itself means opportunity.”

Information from AFP-Jiji added.