Noting that Third World nations are producing too many children too fast -- in addition to too much pollution -- Mr. Gore said it is time to ignore the controversy over family planning and cut out-of-control population growth.
While hosting about 100 TV weathermen at a White House global-warming conference, Mr. Gore was asked how to reduce population surges in developing countries that experts say will lead to a doubling of Earth's current 5.5 billion population within 40 years. After highlighting President Clinton's early decision to kill the Bush administration's so-called "Mexico City policy" that prohibited U.S. funding of overseas birth-control programs that include abortion, Mr. Gore focused on family planning and child mortality rates.
"This doesn't have to be as controversial as some people make it out to be," Mr. Gore said, offering three solutions to overpopulation.
First, he said that cutting child mortality rates will encourage families in developing countries not to have so many children.
"They count on the fact that at least some of their children will survive into adulthood and take care of them when they're old. If you have a very high child mortality rate, and a high percentage of the children die in infancy or in childbirth, then you've got to have a lot of children in order to guarantee stability and -- I mean, you know, in your old age," he explained.
The second factor is "availability of birth control information and culturally appropriate and acceptable techniques. And that's the controversial part," he said. "The third factor is the empowerment of women, socially, politically, and in the context of the family, to participate in the decisions about childbearing," said Mr. Gore, who is pro-choice.
The issue was the first of several Mr. Gore and Mr. Clinton touched on as they tried to persuade the weathermen to warn viewers of the threat of global warming.
He added that the weathermen "appreciated being treated as something other than airheads." Mr. Gore, using an easel and four different colored markers, tutored the forecasters on the issue, and suggested that changing weather patterns are due to global warming.
At one point he seemed to suggest that global warming was linked to weather-related deaths, plane crashes and unusual outbreaks of malaria, but he later said the cause wasn't clear.
Several of the forecasters said they believe that weather patterns have changed, possibly because of the warming of the Earth due to overpopulation and pollution.
But most weren't ready to make the link as quickly as the vice president was.
Doug Hill, weatherman for Washington, D.C.'s WUSA-TV (Channel 9) in Washington, said, "I recognize that we are probably in the threshold of having a problem" with global warming.
But he said that he was not ready to make "the giant leap" that changing weather conditions are due to human-generated global warming rather than the product of weather cycles.
"I didn't see [the conference] as sounding alarm. I see it as raising awareness" to the issue, he said.
While Mr. Clinton said he believed the vice president's claim that global warming from pollution and "greenhouse" gases exists, he was more anecdotal in explaining the effects.
"You'd be amazed how many people just sort of from their anecdotal, personal experiences have this sense that there is more instability in the climate than there used to be," leaving the scientific language for Mr. Gore, author of a best-selling book on the environment.
The administration is preparing to attend a worldwide global-warming conference in Japan to set a goal for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, but Mr. Gore refused to reveal the U.S. bargaining position.
And while the goal of the conference was to alert the nation that environmental changes could lead to hotter temperatures and flooding due to snow and ice melts in the North and South poles, he offered few initiatives Americans could undertake to reduce the threat.
Mr. Gore also said it would be "crazy" to ignore global warming just because there isn't universal agreement in the scientific community about its existence.
He compared naysayers to tobacco industry executives who claimed for years that cigarettes weren't harmful -- even after the 1964 surgeon general's report linking tobacco to lung cancer. "I can't imagine that we would allow this to happen," he said.
Reprinted with permission The Washingon Times.
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