The Heat Is Online

Gore, IPCC Share 2007 Nobel Peace Prize

Gore and U.N. Panel Win Peace Prize for Climate Work

 

The New York Times, Oct. 13. 2007

 

OSLO, Oct. 12 -- Former Vice President Al Gore, who emerged from the 2000 presidential election debacle to devote himself to his passion as an environmental crusader, was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations network of scientists.

 

The Norwegian Nobel Committee praised both "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change."

 

The prize is a vindication for Mr. Gore, whose frightening, cautionary film about the consequences of climate change, "An Inconvenient Truth," won the 2007 Academy Award for best documentary, even as conservatives in the United States denounced it as alarmist and exaggerated.

 

A vociferous opponent of the Bush administration on a range of issues, including the Iraq war, Mr. Gore is the second Democratic Party politician from the United States to win the peace prize this decade. Former President Jimmy Carter won in 2002.

 

Mr. Carter, himself a critic of President Bush, was 78 when he won the prize. But Mr. Gore is just 59 and an active presence in American politics, if only as a large thorn in Mr. Bush's side -- and in the side of Democrats worried that he might challenge them for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. Mr. Gore, who lost the 2000 election to Mr. Bush after a bitter electoral dispute that had to be resolved by the Supreme Court, has regularly said that he will not run for president again. But Friday's announcement touched off renewed interest in his plans.

 

"We face a true planetary emergency," Mr. Gore said in a statement from San Francisco, where he was on a visit Friday. "The climate crisis is not a political issue; it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity."

 

Upon hearing the news, Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman, did not go overboard in his praise. "Of course we're happy for Vice President Gore and the I.P.C.C. for receiving this recognition," he said.

 

In Oslo, Ole Danbolt Mjoes, chairman of the peace committee, was asked whether the award could be interpreted as criticism of the Bush administration and the United States, which do not subscribe to the Kyoto treaty to cap greenhouse emissions. He replied that the Nobel was not meant to be a "kick in the leg to anyone" -- the Norwegian expression for "kick in the teeth."

 

"We would encourage all countries, including the big countries, and challenge them to think again and to say what they can do to conquer global warming," Dr. Mjoes said in a news conference in Oslo. "The bigger the powers, the better that they come in front of this."

 

The four other members of the peace committee generally refuse to comment on the award. But in a telephone interview, Berge Furre, one of the four, said, "I hope this will have an effect on the attitudes of Americans as well as people in other countries."

 

In its formal citation, the Nobel committee called Mr. Gore "probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted." It praised the United Nations panel, which is made up of 2,000 scientists and is considered the world's leading authority on climate change, for creating "an ever-broader informed consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming."

 

Mr. Gore's and the panel's approaches, however different, both play their part, scientists said Friday. The Nobel "is honoring the science and the publicity, and they're necessarily different," said Spencer A. Weart, a historian at the American Institute of Physics and author of "The Discovery of Global Warming," a recent book.

 

Mr. Gore said that he was honored both to receive the prize and to share it with the United Nations panel, which he called "the world's pre-eminent scientific body devoted to improving our understanding of the climate crisis."

 

He said that he would donate all of his half of the $1.56 million prize money to the Alliance for Climate Protection, the nonprofit group he founded last year to raise awareness of climate-related issues.

 

The head of the climate panel that shared the award with Mr. Gore, the Indian climatologist Rajendra K. Pachauri, said that he saw the prize as a vindication of science over skepticism. In its early days, the United Nations group was vilified by those who disputed the scientific case for a human role in climate change.

 

"The message that it sends is that the Nobel Prize committee realized the value of knowledge in tackling the problem of climate change," Mr. Pachauri said in an interview in his office at the Energy and Resources Institute in New Delhi, where he lives.

He also said the award was an acknowledgment of "the fact that the I.P.C.C. has an established record of producing knowledge and an impartial and objective assessment of climate change."

 

While the world's major environmental groups all heaped praise on Mr. Gore for his role in raising public awareness, they singled out the United Nations panel for, in the words of Greenpeace International, "meticulous scientific work."

 

The climate panel, established in 1988, has issued a series of increasingly grim reports in the last two decades assessing scientific, technological and economic issues surrounding climate change. It is expected to issue another report in the next few months, before the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali on Dec. 3. Some 180 countries are scheduled to begin negotiations there on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which is to expire in 2012.

 

Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, the climate adviser to Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and a leading contributor to the United Nations panel's reports, said they were the result of "a painstaking process of self-interrogation."

 

The committee acts at "about the highest level of complexity you can manage in such a scientific assessment," said Dr. Schellnhhuber, who is the director of a Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said in a telephone interview from Milan. "We want to be absolutely sure that we have turned over every stone."

 

For a scientist, he said, taking part on the I.P.C.C. entails considerable personal and professional sacrifices. "It drives you absolutely crazy," Dr. Schellnhuber said. "You fly to distant places; you stay up all night negotiating; you listen to hundreds of sometimes silly interventions. You go through so many mundane things to produce the big picture."

 

The Nobel prizes are meant to be apolitical, and are, in any case, awarded independently of each another (the peace prize is awarded in Oslo, while the other prizes are awarded by various academies in Sweden). However, a number of recent winners have expressed their opposition to Bush administration policies.

 

The 2005 literature winner, the British playwright Harold Pinter, turned his Nobel address into a blistering indictment of American foreign policy since the Second World War. The co-winner of the peace prize that year, Mohamed Elbaradei, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, made no secret of his opposition to the United States invasion of Iraq and has angered the Bush administration by his measured methods for trying to rein in nuclear proliferation, particularly in Iran.

 

In its citation today, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said that the United Nations panel and Mr. Gore both have focused "on the processes and decisions that appear to be necessary to protect the world's future climate, and thereby reduce the future threat to the security of mankind."

 

It concluded, "Action is necessary now, before climate change moves beyond man's control."