Panel: Gore Offered Ways to Curb Climate Change

The Nobel Prize committee says former Vice President Al Gore is "probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted" to curb the effects of climate change. Gore shares the Nobel Peace Prize with U.N. scientists.

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DEBORAH AMOS, host:

And I'm Deborah Amos.

The Nobel Peace Prize goes to former Vice President Al Gore. He shares the prize with thousands of scientists from around the globe on the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The group disseminates the latest scientific findings about global warming. The Nobel panel said Gore is quote, "probably the single individual who's done the most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted to curb the effects of climate change."

NPR science correspondent Christopher Joyce covers climate change.

Good morning.

CHRISTOPHER JOYCE: Good morning.

AMOS: Let's talk a little bit about Al Gore. First, he got a lot of publicity for his film. But that was not the beginning for Al Gore, was it?

JOYCE: It started, if you watched the film or read his book, when he was in college at Harvard. And he talks about a professor - and his name, Roger Revelle - who was - if there is a senior member or father of this field, it's probably Roger Revelle. And Gore says that really affected him, got him into this subject and, in fact, into science. He's always been - during his days in the House of Representatives in the early '80s, he was chairman of the House Investigations and Oversight - subcommittee of the Science Committee.

And he was well known as being very well briefed, very intense. He would go head to head with scientists on things like genetic engineering when it was a very controversial subject. And he was known to know this stuff, and he also battled with the Reagan administration over funding - over early funding over climate change.

AMOS: And wrote a book about it.

JOYCE: Yes.

AMOS: He is known as a publicizer. Did he really affect policy?

JOYCE: In a big way, in Kyoto actually - the big international conference in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997 was when the nations of the world got together and said, okay, it's time to come to some sort of formal agreement on what shall we do - cut emissions of these greenhouse gases that cause global warming. It was a week and a half; they were two days from their deadline. They were stuck. They couldn't resolve issues on how much to cut - Europe and the U.S. were at each other's throats. The less developed countries were also saying we don't want to be compelled to do any of these. We need to develop. Gore flew in - a very theatrical entrance - worked the hallway, shook hands, made speeches and many credit him with getting the whole thing going again.

AMOS: Yet, it was not brought back for Senate ratification here. So the world embraced it; the United States did not.

JOYCE: Eventually did not.

AMOS: Let's talk a little bit about the scientists. They have a very big, long complicated name. What do they do?

JOYCE: It's an unusual and unique organization because it's scientists from all over the world who are given the task of collating and gathering and judging what is the good science here. People have to understand that this is atmospheric science; this is ocean science; this is biology; this is physics; this is so many disciplines here; so much going on all over the world that to bring it all together in a way that makes sense to people who have to make policy is extremely difficult. And they do it from all different countries and they have to do it with consensus. And they've been criticized, in fact, for watering down some of the results in order to get consensus. But in the end, it is a unique body that sort of leads the way in the science.

AMOS: Is this some vindication for them? In 2000, the Bush administration questioned their findings.

JOYCE: The Bush administration has been critical and skeptical and doubtful of the IPCC as they have been doubtful of many international organizations, and this is part of the U.N. So the Nobel Peace Prize is - you could say a political prize, it has been in past. And you could say also that this is a message being sent to the IPCC and perhaps the Bush administration.

AMOS: Thanks very much. NPR's Christopher Joyce.

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