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There is perhaps no political territory where piety trumps policy more exuberantly than global warming. Those leaders with a gift for high platitude delivered in the dialect of showy earnestness can always be confident of energetic applause from the multitudes who love to be seen as concerned and “making a difference” on this most vaporous of issues.
It is better to speak well on global warming than actually to follow through on the logic of the thought behind speaking well. The more eloquent the signals of planetary distress, the more dire the alarms raised, the less likely it is that those who summon that eloquence or issue those alarms will actually — as the wretched phrase has it — “walk the talk.”
It is now nearly seven years since the Chrysostom (golden mouth) of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, U.S. President Barack Obama, embedded in his victory speech the promise that the moment of his triumph was also “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”
It was as neat a phrase as the topic has ever received, but looking back over those seven years, in terms of significant action to give those ardent words the flesh of action and policy, everyone but the truly faithful may see them for what they were: all cadence and cant.
And if he thins, having suffocated the Keystone pipeline unofficially with seven years of spurious “hearings,” officially cancelling it to upgrade his standing at the upcoming coven in Paris, is action, it’s more cant than cadence.
Al Gore will never win the oratory sweepstakes when up against Obama, but on the piety front, he is more than a contender. It’s been awhile since he has received an Academy Award for his exhortations, and eight years since the Nobel prize was dropped into his oh-so-concerned hands. But it still worth while to consider his earnestness on this subject as expressed in the early, prophetic stage of his crusade.
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