Friday, October 12, 2007

Al Gore Wins Nobel Peace Prize

Former Vice President Al Gore won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to build and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made global warming. The award will be shared equally with the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The Washington Post has the story (see also Memeorandum):

Former Vice President Al Gore Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize today, along with a United Nations panel that monitors climate change, for their work educating the world about global warming and advocating for political action to control it.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee characterized Gore as "the single individual who has done most" to convince world governments and leaders that climate change is real, is caused by human activity, and poses a grave threat.

Gore has focused on the issue through books, promotional events and his Academy Award-winning documentary "An Inconvenient Truth." The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a joint project between the United Nations Environment Program and the World Meteorological Organization, has been monitoring evidence of climate change and possible solutions since 1988.

The science showcased by the panel and Gore's advocacy have helped to "build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change," the committee said.

"Whereas in the 1980s global warming seemed to be merely an interesting hypothesis, the 1990s produced clear scientific support."

As with last year's award to Bangladeshi banker Mohammad Yunus, whose pioneering use of small loans to the very poor contributes to the stability of developing nations, this year's prize focused on an issue not directly related to war and peace, but seen as critical to maintaining social stability.

The panel said that global warming "may induce large-scale migration and lead to greater competition for the earth's resources. Such changes will place particularly heavy burdens on the world's most vulnerable countries. There may be increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and between states."

Highlighting those risks, and the role people play in both creating and potentially mitigating them, has defined public life for Gore since he lost the closely fought 2000 presidential election to President Bush.

From that difficult race, in which he won the popular vote but lost the electoral college in a case ultimately decided by the Supreme Court, he emerged as a controversial figure -- ridiculed by opponents as an environmental extremist, and hailed by supporters as "the Gore-acle" for his foresight on issues like the Internet and climate change.

In a statement, Gore, 59, said he was honored to receive the prize. He said he would donate his share of the $1.5 million award to the Alliance for Climate Protection, a non-profit he chairs that works to educate the public about climate change and mobilize global support for action.

The article also notes that Gore's Nobel win is generating intense speculation that he'll enter the 2008 presidential race. Gore dismissed the notion, as well he should. It's very late in the season, and as Gore has not been involved in the normal pre-primary activites - especially fundraising - a late entry into the race would be unlikely to knock Hillary Clinton from her frontrunner status (see also The Politic and Dan Balz).

This presidential speculation's fascinating. It's normally the case that a former president (and not a presidential loser) wins the Nobel, like Jimmy Carter, who won in 2002 for his administration's diplomatic legacy, and his work for Habitat for Humanity. (Carter's humanitarianism is arguably more deserving of the prize, not being bogged down in the same kind to pseudo-scientific controversy as Gore's "Inconvenient Truth".)

I'm sure there'll be loads of commentary on this over the weekend, so I'll just note that the political motivations of the Nobel Committee have long been suspect.

UPDATE: Damian Thompson at London's Daily Telegraph asks, "What has Al Gore done for world peace?":

Climate change is a threat to the environment, not to "peace" and international order. The prize has gone to some sleazy recipients in the past, but at least you can make a case that their actions staved off bloodshed.