Gore, U.N. Panel Share 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for Climate-Change Efforts
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, 59, 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.
"I am deeply honored to receive the Nobel Peace Prize," Gore said. "We face a true planetary emergency. The climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity."
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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."
The Norwegian Nobel Committee chairman, Ole Danbolt Mjoes, asserted that the prize was not aimed at the Bush administration, which abandoned efforts to ratify the 1997 Kyoto Protocol climate treaty and was widely criticized outside the U.S. for not taking global warming seriously enough.
"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."
"We would encourage all countries, including the big countries, to challenge, all of them, to think again and to say what can they do to conquer global warming," Mjoes said. "The bigger the powers, the better that they come in front of this."
The win is also likely add further fuel to a burgeoning movement in the United States for Gore to run for president in 2008, which he has so far said he does not plan to do.
"I want this prize to have everyone ... every human being, asking what they should do," Mjoes said. "What he [Gore] decides to do from here is his personal decision."
However, when asked about the 2008 U.S. elections, he said: "I am very much in support for all who support changes."
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."
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.
Gore, who was an advocate of stemming climate change and global warning well before his eight years as vice president, called the award meaningful because of his co-winner, calling the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change the "world's pre-eminent scientific body devoted to improving our understanding of the climate crisis."
Gore plans to donate his half of the $1.5 million prize money to the Alliance for Climate Protection, a bipartisan nonprofit organization that is devoted to changing public opinion worldwide about the urgency of solving the climate crisis.
In its citation, the committed lauded 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."
The last American to win the prize, or share it, was former President Carter, who won it 2002.
At the time, then-committee chairman Gunnar Berge called the prize "a kick in the leg" to the Bush administration for its threats of war against Iraq. In response, some members of the secretive committee criticized Berge for expressing personal views in the panel's name.
Mjoes, elected to succeed Berge a few months later, referred to that dispute on Friday, saying the committee "has never given a kick in the leg to anyone."
The White House said the prize was not seen as increasing pressure on the administration or showing that President Bush's approach missed the mark.
"Of course he's happy for Vice President Gore," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said. "He's happy for the international panel on climate change scientists who also shared the peace prize. Obviously it's an important recognition."
Fratto said Bush has no plans to call Gore.
Bush abandoned efforts to ratify the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on climate 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.
In its citation, the committee said that Gore "has for a long time been one of the world's leading environmentalist politicians" and cited his awareness at an early stage "of the climatic challenges the world is facing.
"Al Gore has fought the environment battle even as vice president," Mjoes said. "Many did not listen ... but he carried on."
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."
The committee said 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."
Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC chairman, said he and Gore really had 2,000 co-laureates — each of the scientists in the U.N. panel's research network.
"This award also thrusts a new responsibility on our shoulders," Pachauri said. "We have to do more, and we have many more miles to go."
Members of the panel were surprised that it was chosen to share the honor with Gore, a spokeswoman said.
"We would have been happy even if he had received it alone, because it is a recognition of the importance of this issue," spokeswoman Carola Traverso Saibante said.
The panel forecast this year that all regions of the world will be affected by climate warming and that a third of the Earth's species will vanish if global temperatures continue to rise until they are 3.6 degrees above the average temperature in the 1980s and '90s.
"Decisive action in the next decade can still avoid some of the most catastrophic scenarios the IPCC has forecast," said Yvo de Boer, the U.N.'s top climate official.
He urged consensus among the United States and other countries on attacking the problem.
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 has been coy, saying repeatedly he's not running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, 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 after a legal challenge to the Florida result that was decided by the Supreme Court.
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 six 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."
A British judge said in a ruling published Wednesday that some assertions in Gore's documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" were not supported by scientific evidence. The case involved a challenge from a school official who did not want the film shown to students.
The ruling detailed High Court Judge Michael Burton's decision this month to allow screenings of the film in English secondary schools. The judge said that written guidance to teachers, designed to ensure Gore's views are not presented uncritically, must accompany the screenings.
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 Kyoto Protocol 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.
Jan Egeland, a Norwegian peace mediator and former U.N. undersecretary for humanitarian affairs, also called climate change more than an environmental issue.
"It is a question of war and peace," said Egeland, now director of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs in Oslo. "We're already seeing the first climate wars, in the Sahel belt of Africa."
He said nomads and herders are in conflict with farmers because the changing climate has brought drought and a shortage of fertile lands.
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 committee often uses the coveted prize to cast the global spotlight on a relatively little-known person or cause.
Two of the past three prizes have been untraditional, with the 2004 award to Kenya environmentalist Wangari Maathai and last year's award to Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank, which makes to micro-loans to the country's poor.
Since Gore already has a high profile some had doubted that the committee would bestow the prize on him "because he does not need it."
The Nobel Prizes each bestow a gold medal, a diploma and a $1.5 million cash prize on the winner.
The prize for economics will be announced Monday.