updated 9/19/2006 7:49:08 AM ET 2006-09-19T11:49:08

Former Vice President Al Gore stepped up his call for immediate action to halt global warming, urging politicians on both sides of the aisle to “have the courage to do better.”

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“Each passing day brings yet more evidence that we are now facing a planetary emergency, a climate crisis that demands immediate attention,” Gore said Monday.

In an hour-long speech at New York University Law School, Gore, who narrowly lost the 2000 presidential race to George W. Bush, framed the pursuit of renewable energy as an economic and national security issue as well as an environmental imperative.

“When we make big mistakes in America, it is usually because the people have not been given an honest accounting of the choices before us,” Gore said. “It also is often because too many members of both parties who knew better did not have the courage to do better.”

But he implicitly criticized the Bush administration, which has been accused of editing official scientific studies to downplay the impact of global warming and asking scientists at federal agencies to refrain from speaking out on the phenomenon.

Future generations, Gore said, “deserve better than the spectacle of censorship of the best scientific evidence about the truth of our situation and harassment of honest scientists who are trying to warn us about the looming catastrophe.”

A White House spokesman declined Monday to comment on Gore’s remarks.

RNC defends Bush’s record
While the Bush administration has acknowledged the effects of global warming on the environment, President Bush has rejected mandatory controls on carbon dioxide, the chief gas blamed for the phenomenon. He also has kept the country out of the Kyoto treaty, which called for mandatory reductions of greenhouse gases among the signing nations. He has said the pact would harm the U.S. economy.

In response to Gore’s comments, Republican National Committee spokesman Aaron McLear said: “Under the president’s tenure, the air and water have gotten cleaner while we have implemented pro-growth strategies that have created almost 6 million jobs in the past three years.”

Gore has brought considerable attention to the global warming phenomenon since last spring, when his documentary film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” was released to wide critical praise. The movie has become one of the highest-grossing documentaries, while a companion book on the topic has become a national best-seller.

New opportunities
In his speech, Gore said the challenge of global climate change offered opportunities for innovation and investment.

“We can change this by inventing and manufacturing new solutions to stop global warming right here in America,” he said, adding that venture capitalists are eager to put money behind effective technologies to cut greenhouse gases.

Gore, who hasn’t ruled out a presidential run in 2008, laid out several policy proposals for reducing global warming. They included:

  • An immediate freeze on carbon dioxide emissions. He said continued debates on the matter represented “a delusional and reckless approach.”
  • A retooling of U.S. auto giants to manufacture hybrid vehicles instead of gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs. Such a transformation, Gore said, would save thousands of jobs at the car companies.
  • A shift to a greater reliance on ethanol, wind and solar energy.
  • An elimination of payroll taxes in favor of pollution taxes. “Instead of discouraging businesses from hiring more employees, it would discourage business from producing more pollution,” Gore said

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