Al Gore, U.N. Share Nobel Peace Prize
Posted October 12, 2007 5:15 a.m. EDT
Updated October 12, 2007 2:00 p.m. EDT
OSLO, Norway — Former Vice President Al Gore and the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change jointly won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize Friday for their efforts to spread awareness of man-made climate change and to lay the foundations for fighting it.
Gore, who won an Academy Award earlier this year for his film on global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth," had been widely tipped to win the prize.
He said that global warming was not a political issue but a worldwide crisis.
"We face a true planetary emergency. ... It is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity," he said. "It is also our greatest opportunity to lift global consciousness to a higher level."
Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, chairman of the U.N. panel, known as IPCC, is an alumnus of North Carolina State University, where he also taught economics. He earned a master’s degree in industrial engineering and doctorates in industrial engineering and economics from N.C. State and was an assistant professor and visiting faculty member in the Department of Economics in the mid-1970s.
“The experts and scientists are the backbone of the IPCC, and they provide the knowledge which has contributed to the success of the IPCC,” Pachauri said in a statement. “I would also like to thank the governments of the world who support and facilitate the work of the panel.”
The win is likely to add further fuel to a burgeoning movement in the U.S. for Gore to run for president in 2008, which he has so far said he does not plan to do.
Kenneth Sherrill, a political scientist at Hunter College in New York said Gore probably enjoys being a public person more than an elected official.
"He seems happier and liberated in the years since his loss in 2000. Perhaps winning the Nobel and being viewed as a prophet in his own time will be sufficient," says Sherrill.
Two Gore advisers, speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to share his thinking, said the award will not make it more likely that he will seek the presidency. If anything, the Peace Prize makes the rough-and-tumble of a presidential race less appealing to Gore, they said, because now he has a huge, international platform to fight global warming and may not want to do anything to diminish it.
One of the advisers said that while Gore is unlikely to rule out a bid in the coming days, the prospects of the former vice president entering the fray in 2008 are "extremely remote."
In its citation, the Nobel committee said Gore's "strong commitment, reflected in political activity, lectures, films and books, has strengthened the struggle against climate change. He is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted."
Ole Danbolt Mjoes, chairman of the prize committee, said the award should not be seen as singling out the Bush administration for criticism.
"A peace prize is never a criticism of anything. A peace prize is a positive message and support to all those champions of peace in the world."
President George Bush abandoned the Kyoto Protocol on global warming because he said it would harm the U.S. economy and because it did not require immediate cuts by countries like China and India. The treaty aimed to put the biggest burden on the richest nations that contributed the most carbon emissions.
The U.S. Senate voted against mandatory carbon reductions before the Kyoto negotiations were completed. The treaty was never presented to the Senate for ratification by the Clinton administration.
"Al Gore has fought the environment battle even as vice president," Mjoes said. "Many did not listen ... but he carried on."
Gore supporters have been raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for petition drives and advertising in an effort to lure him into the Democratic presidential primaries. One group, Draftgore.com, ran a full-page open letter to Gore in Wednesday's New York Times, imploring him to get into the race.
Gore, 59, has been coy, saying repeatedly he's not running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, though without ever closing that door completely.
He was the Democratic nominee in 2000 and won the general election popular vote. However, Gore lost the electoral vote to George W. Bush when the Supreme Court decided a legal challenge to the Florida result.
Gore called the award meaningful because of his co-winner, calling the IPCC the "world's pre-eminent scientific body devoted to improving our understanding of the climate crisis."
Gore said he planned to donate his share of the prize money to the Alliance for Climate Protection, a bipartisan nonprofit organization that is devoted to changing public opinion in the U.S. and around the world about the urgency of solving the climate crisis.
The last American to win the prize, or share it, was former President Jimmy Carter, who won it 2002.
The committee cited the IPCC for its two decades of scientific reports that have "created an ever-broader informed consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming. Thousands of scientists and officials from over 100 countries have collaborated to achieve greater certainty as to the scale of the warming."
It went on to say that because of the panel's efforts, global warming has been increasingly recognized. In the 1980s it "seemed to be merely an interesting hypothesis, the 1990s produced firmer evidence in its support. In the last few years, the connections have become even clearer and the consequences still more apparent."
"It was a surprise," said Carola Traverso Saibante, spokeswoman for the IPCC. "We would have been happy even if (Gore) had received it alone because it is a recognition of the importance of this issue."
But some questioned the prize decision.
"Awarding it to Al Gore cannot be seen as anything other than a political statement. Awarding it to the IPCC is well-founded," said Bjorn Lomborg, author of "The Skeptical Environmentalist."
He criticized Gore's film as having "some very obvious mistakes, like the argument that we're going to see 6 meters of sea-level rise," he said.
"They (Nobel committee) have a unique platform in getting people's attention on this issue, and I regret they have used it to make a political statement."
This year, climate change has been at the top of the world agenda. The U.N. climate panel has been releasing its reports; talks on a replacement for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on climate are set to resume; and on Europe's northern fringe, where the awards committee works, concern about the melting Arctic has been underscored by this being the International Polar Year.
Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, said the prize would help to continue the globally growing awareness of climate change.
"Their contributions to the prevention of climate change have raised awareness all over the world. Their work has been an inspiration for politicians and citizens alike," he said in a statement.
In recent years, the Norwegian committee has broadened its interpretation of peacemaking and disarmament efforts outlined by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel in creating the prize with his 1895 will. The prize now often also recognizes human rights, democracy, elimination of poverty, sharing resources and the environment.
"We believe that the Nobel Committee has shown great courage by so clearly connecting the climate problems with peace," said Truls Gulowsen, head of environmental group Greenpeace Norway.
The Nobel Prizes each bestow a gold medal, a diploma and a $1.5 million cash prize on the winner.