(CNSNews.com) - If global warming activist Al Gore has his way, Americans will over the next several years face tougher vehicle emission standards, a freeze on carbon emissions, a moratorium on coal, a ban on incandescent light bulbs, a government requirement that corporations disclose carbon emissions to shareholders, ratification of an international treaty to reverse global warming - and a carbon tax.
This is the message the former vice president and Academy Award winner brought Wednesday to Capitol Hill, where his arrival caused quite a stir.
It wasn't until after opening statements were made in a joint House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Science and Technology Committee hearing that Gore entered the room.
The audience packed into the chamber stood up, cameras clicked rapidly, and Gore shook the hands of House members before sitting down to deliver his statement and take questions.
Over nearly three hours of testimony he warned members of the dire consequences of climate change.
Speaking of America's victories in World War II and fighting the Cold War - which took bipartisan cooperation - Gore said of global warming, "This crisis is more serious than any we have ever faced."
Gore has championed the climate change cause since his time in Congress and more recently garnered attention with his documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth."
The House hearing was his first Capitol Hill stop Wednesday, as he would later testify before a Senate panel.
Gore presented the committee with a petition signed by 516,000 Americans and put forward an ambitious package of legislative remedies, which he argued would curb the global warming problem.
He enjoyed highly respectful treatment from panel members, and at one point Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) told him that he had been right so often, "you really do look like a prophet."
Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) praised Gore for his passion on the issue but disagreed with him on policy and on science. Barton cited an article in the magazine Science that said temperature usually increases before carbon emissions increase, not afterward.
"The temperature appears to drive CO2, not vice versa," Barton said. "On this point, Mr. Vice President, you're not just off a little. You're totally wrong."
Barton also took exception to Gore's repeated references to becoming "carbon neutral."
"If you take that literally, we can add no new industry, nor new cars and trucks on our streets and apparently no new people," he said. "People are mobile source emitters. Every person emits 0.2 tons of CO2 a year."
Barton said Gore's idea of a carbon tax would cost jobs. European countries that signed the Kyoto Protocol - the treaty whose aim is to reduce CO2 emissions - were not meeting their goals but at the same time losing jobs.
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said the free market could find innovative solutions to the climate problem but that it would need a nudge from government.
"We can unleash the ingenuity of the market place, but if government does nothing, there is no incentive for business to do anything, because they don't want to be at a competitive disadvantage," Waxman said. Government regulations would put all businesses on a level playing field, he added.
At times during his speech, Gore sounded emotional and somber about the condition of the planet. On a few occasions, he paused between the warnings for dramatic effect.
"The day will come when your children and your grandchildren will look back and ask, 'what in God's name were you doing? ... What was wrong with them? Did they think it was perfectly alright to dump 10 million tons of pollution into the earth's atmosphere? Did they think all the scientists were wrong?" he said.
In an apparent reference to Michael Crichton's "State of Fear," a novel skeptical of global warming, Gore said, "The planet has a fever. If your baby has a fever you go to the doctor. If the doctor says 'take action,' you don't say 'I read a science fiction book that says it's not a problem.' "
After his testimony, Gore was praised by members of the panel then left through the back door without taking questions from reporters.
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