Bono recounts his confession to Father Al (Gore)

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When Al Gore talks, Bono and Tom Friedman listen

This morning’s big attraction here in Davos was a breakfast in which Bono and Al Gore were supposed to talk about “Combining Solutions to Extreme Poverty and the Climate Crisis.”

Bono noted up front that there’s competition as well as combination: “We have noticed that interest from the media that had been so acute on issues of extreme poverty is not so acute now because of the climate crisis.”

Then again, Gore cited the League of Conservation Voters scorecard on how many times TV interviewers have asked presidential candidates about global warming. It’s currently 4 times out of 2,830 total questions asked, so that doesn’t seem like overwhelming media attention either.

Any discussion on climate change at an event full of people with private jets is a bit cringe-inducing. Bono, to his credit, did not shy from his role as a major global polluter. He described having Gore over to his house: “Here’s the recycler, Al. I’ve got a posh car but it runs on ethanol, Al.”

Then he said Gore reminds him of an Irish priest. Bono would confess to him his Gulfstream-flying sins, and Gore would say, “What are you gonna do about it, son?” To which Bono would respond: “I’m trying to be good, Father Al, but to be honest oil has been very very good to me.”

After that sobering comedy routine, Gore said:

It’s important to try to move away from the idea that personal actions by each of represent solutions to this crisis. In addition to changing the light bulbs, it’s far more important to change laws. The one way to solve the climate crisis is to put a price on climate.

I think we need to put a price on carbon, and it needs to be effected globally so those who don’t pay a price for carbon don’t have an advantage over those who do.

Is that a copout? I dunno. (Is it a copout to write “I dunno”? Yes!) Although from an economic perspective taxing carbon obviously makes a lot more sense than organizing lots of tree-planting campaigns.

A few more interesting lines from the discussion:

Gore: “I’ve recently begun to fear that I’m losing my objectivity on Bush and Cheney.” (That got a big laugh.)

Bono: “When things are re-examined, when there’s a new order … it comes after a catastrophe, not before. We’re asking people to imagine it before it’s a catastrophe.”

Gore: “It is a catastrophe, it is unfolding. But it is also an opportunity to reimagine ourselves as a planetary civilization.”

Bono, on what he says when people ask him why he spends so much time whispering his arguments in the ears of politicians. “The reason is we don’t have a social movement yet.”