Gore Nobel Sparks Debate over Climate and Peace

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What do you think of Al Gore winning the Nobel Peace Prize? Is there a connection between climate change awareness and peace?

On Friday, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in promoting awareness of global climate change. The honor has sparked a public debate, as some question the characterization of climate change awareness as peace work.

Guests:

Jan Oberg, director and co-founder of the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research

Stephan Faris, journalist; currently working on a book about the political, economic and strategic impacts of climate change

Gore, U.N. Panel Awarded Nobel Peace Prize

Al Gore speaks during a panel discussion at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York in September. i i

Al Gore, speaking at a New York event in September, has led the charge to combat global change. Nicholas Roberts/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Nicholas Roberts/AFP/Getty Images
Al Gore speaks during a panel discussion at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York in September.

Al Gore, speaking at a New York event in September, has led the charge to combat global change.

Nicholas Roberts/AFP/Getty Images

The 'Nobel Curse'?

Now that he has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Al Gore joins an elite club, one that includes presidents, activists and holy men. It is also a club that is, by some accounts, cursed. Past winners have fallen into ill repute, been assassinated—or simply faded from public view. Read more about the "nobel curse."

Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), celebrates. i i

Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), celebrates with students and office staff in New Delhi after winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Nicholas Roberts/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Nicholas Roberts/AFP/Getty Images
Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), celebrates.

Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), celebrates with students and office staff in New Delhi after winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

Nicholas Roberts/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. Nobel Peace Prize Laureates

The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to individuals and organizations. Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore shared in the 2007 prize. Other U.S. laureates include: Jimmy Carter, Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Jr., George Marshall and UNICEF
Read the full list.

A History of Climate Change Activism

Gore has been sounding the alarm on climate change for decades. In 1989, for example, while still a U.S. senator representing Tennessee, Gore questioned President George H.W. Bush's commitment to environmental protection when he learned that the administration had tampered with testimony on global warming from a leading scientist.

Former Vice President Al Gore and the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize Friday for their efforts to spread awareness of man-made climate change and lay the foundations for counteracting it.

"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."

Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary on global warming, won an Academy Award this year and he had been widely expected to win the prize.

In awarding him the prize, the Nobel Committee citation said that Gore "is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted."

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is less well known. It's a global network of 2,000 scientists who have labored for years on reports and plans to counter global warming.

Ralph Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences, said that the IPCC released its first report on the global environment in 1990, after being formed in the late '80s.

Since then, the group has published comprehensive reports every five years or so — its latest came out this year.

The IPCC is broken into three main groups, Cicerone said: one on the scientific basis of climate change; a second on the impact, adaptation and vulnerability of climate; and another on mitigation and adaptation to changes.

"And they also involve hundreds of scientists and reviewers from all around the world," Cicerone said.

In recent years, the Nobel Committee has broadened the interpretation of the concept of peacemaking. On Friday, it said global warming is creating greater competition for the Earth's resources, which it warned could lead to an increased danger of violent conflicts and wars.

Global warming, the committee said, "may induce large-scale migration," which could "place particularly heavy burdens on the world's most vulnerable countries."

Presidential Bid Not Likely

Gore said he would donate his share of the $1.5 million that accompanies the prize to the Alliance for Climate Protection, a bipartisan nonprofit organization devoted to conveying the urgency of solving the climate crisis.

"His strong commitment, reflected in political activity, lectures, films and books, has strengthened the struggle against climate change," the Nobel citation said.

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.

NPR's Washington Editor Ron Elving said that winning the Nobel will do little to ease the calls for Gore to enter the 2008 race.

"The people who already wanted him to run for president are going to demand that he run for president," Elving said.

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 said repeatedly that he's not running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, without ever closing that door completely. But Gore isn't likely to make a late entry, Elving said.

"Under the current circumstances, with Hillary Clinton lapping the field, and with her $80 million ahead of him, and Barack Obama $80 million ahead of him, this would not be the time," he said.

Still, Elving said he believes that Gore has decided that he has one last chance for the presidency in his political future, "and he did not want to spend that one more good run at it running against Hillary Clinton," Elving said. "That would divide the Clinton base, the Clinton organization, the Clinton money sources. It didn't make sense."

Instead, Elving said, Gore will likely use his recent accolades as another tool to ensure that climate change is part of the conversation in the 2008 election campaign.

Peace Prize committee chairman Ole Danbolt Mjoes said a possible Gore presidential run was not his concern.

"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."

The last American to win the prize or share it was former President Carter in 2002.

IPCC Forecasts Impact of Rising Temperatures

The Nobel Committee cited the Panel on Climate Change for two decades of scientific reports that have "created an ever-broader informed consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming."

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 forecasted 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.

Climate change has moved high on the international agenda this year. The U.N. climate panel has been releasing 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, there is growing concern about the melting Arctic.

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.

Text from Associated Press and NPR Reports

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