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Speakers Call for Action, 'Very Fast,' on Global Warming

by: Nancy Gaarder    26 May 2006

If the Rev. Bob Edgar were sitting with you now, he would ask you to join him in a chant:
"We are . . . we are," he would ask you to say, "the leaders we have been waiting for."

Edgar brought his message to a town hall meeting on climate change and society's addiction to oil.

"I served in Congress, I have met presidents," said the general secretary of the National Council on Churches and former congressman from Pennsylvania. "We can't wait for our political leadership to be the leaders we are waiting for.

"The life issue of our time is global warming," he said. "And God is calling us to attention."

About 150 people gathered Thursday at the University of Nebraska at Omaha to hear Edgar, along with Nebraska's insurance commissioner, the head of the Nebraska Farmers Union, and a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council talk about steps the nation can take to reduce its dependence on oil and slow global warming.

The event was sponsored by Edgar's organization, the Interchurch Ministries of Nebraska, as well as the Natural Resources Defense Council and UNO.

In hosting the event, Mayor Mike Fahey noted that 45 years ago to the day, President Kennedy had challenged Americans to reach the moon within a decade.

"If we can put a man on the moon in a decade, we can certainly reduce our dependence on oil," Fahey said.

Omahan Jon Traudt had his eight grandchildren on his mind when he asked the panelists how much time was left to stave off serious consequences of climate change.

"My grandchildren are hoping we'll be 100 percent successful - as opposed to the Titanic, which was 80 percent successful in reaching New York," Traudt said.

The United States needs to move "very fast and very far," responded Dan Lashof, a former climate scientist with the Environmental Protection Agency and now a senior scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Lashof estimated that the United States needs to trim its output of global warming gases by 50 percent to 80 percent by the middle of the century.

The Kyoto Treaty, which was rejected by the U.S. Senate and President Bush, would have shaved off only 7 percent, but in a shorter time frame.

The nation can do it, Lashof said, by becoming more energy efficient in its homes and businesses; developing more fuel-efficient vehicles and policies; increasing the use of renewable fuels; and capturing the carbon dioxide emitted by electric plants and industrial facilities.

Taking these steps, he said, also will make the nation more secure and protect public health.

After years of research, the world's scientific community has come to a consensus that human activities appear to be a driving force in the changing climate. While no climate change skeptics spoke at the meeting, the event did catch the eye of a Virginia group, the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance.

The alliance issued a press release Wednesday, describing the Omaha event as "troubling" and disputing the need for aggressive action.

Lashof called upon those in the audience to support the Fuel Choices for Security Act, which is now before Congress and would reduce the nation's use of oil.

John Hansen, head of the Nebraska Farmers Union, pointed to Nebraska's pivotal role in renewable energy. Nebraska is the nation's third-leading producer of ethanol, and it has the nation's sixth-best wind resources.

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