NYT: Gore and U.N. Panel Win Peace Prize for Climate Work
October 13, 2007
Gore and U.N. Panel Win Peace Prize for Climate Work
By WALTER GIBBS
OSLO, Oct. 12 The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded today to Al Gore,
the former vice president, and to the United Nations'
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for its work to alert the
world to the threat of global warming.
The award immediately renewed calls from Mr. Gore's supporters for him
to run for president in 2008, joining an already crowded field of
Democrats. Mr. Gore, who lost the 2000 presidential election to George
W. Bush, has said he is not interested in running but has not flatly
rejected the notion.
Mr. Gore "is probably the single individual who has done most to
create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be
adopted," the Nobel citation said, referring to the issue of climate
change. The United Nations committee, a network of 2,000 scientists
that was organized in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization
and the United Nations Environment Program, has produced two decades
of scientific reports that have "created an ever-broader informed
consensus about the connection between human activities and global
warming," the citation said.
Mr. Gore, who was traveling in San Francisco, said in a statement that
he was deeply honored to receive the prize and planned to donate his
half of the prize to the Alliance for Climate Protection, a nonprofit
climate group where he is chairman of the board.
"We face a true planetary emergency," Mr. Gore said in his statement.
"The climate crisis is not a political issue; it is a moral and
spiritual challenge to all of humanity. It is also our greatest
opportunity to lift global consciousness to a higher level."
Kalee Kreider, a spokeswoman for Mr. Gore, said he received the news
with his wife, Tipper, early this morning in San Francisco, where he
spoke on Thursday night at a fund-raising event for Senator Barbara
Boxer of California, a fellow Democrat.
Ms. Kreider said Mr. Gore would hold strategy meetings with the
Alliance for Climate Protection in San Francisco today and return to
his home in Nashville over the weekend.
In New Delhi, Rajendra K. Pachauri, an Indian scientist who leads the
United Nations committee, said the award was "not something I would
have thought of in my wildest dreams."
In an interview in his office at the Energy and Resources Institute,
Dr. Pachauri cast the award as a vindication of science over the
skeptics on climate change.
"The message that it sends is that the Nobel Prize committee realized
the value of knowledge in tackling the problem of climate change and
the fact that the I.P.C.C. has an established record of producing
knowledge and an impartial and objective assessment of climate
change," he said
Dr. Pachauri said he thought the award would now settle the scientific
debate on climate change and that governments would now take action.
He said it was "entirely possible to stabilize the levels of emissions
but that climate change and its impact will continue to stalk us."
"We will have to live with climate change up to a certain point of
time but if we want to avoid or delay much more serious damage then
its essential that we start mitigation quickly and to a serious
extent," he said.
The Nobel award carries political ramifications in the United States,
which the Nobel committee tried to minimize after its announcement today.
The chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Ole Danbolt Mjoes,
addressed reporters after the awards were announced and tried to
dismiss repeated questions asking whether the awards were a criticism
direct or indirect of the Bush administration.
He said the committee was making an appeal to the entire world to
unite against the threat of global warming.
"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," he said. "The bigger the powers, the better
that they come in front of this."
He said the peace prize is only a message of encouragement, adding,
"the Nobel committee has never given a kick in the leg to anyone."
In this decade, the Nobel Peace Prize has been given to prominent
people and agencies who differ on a range of issues with the Bush
administration, including former President Jimmy Carter, who won in
2002, and the United Nations' nuclear monitoring agency in Vienna and
its director, Mohamed ElBaradei, in 2005.
In Washington, a White House spokesman, Tony Fratto, was quoted by
Reuters as saying: "Of course we're happy for Vice President Gore and
the I.P.C.C. for receiving this recognition."
Global warming has been a powerful issue all this year, attracting
more and more public attention.
The film documenting Mr. Gore's campaign to increase awareness of
climate change, "An Inconvenient Truth," won an Academy Award this
year. The United Nations committee has issued repeated reports and
held successive conferences to highlight the growing scientific
understanding of the problem. Meanwhile, signs of global warming have
become more and more apparent, even in the melting Arctic.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee said global warming "may induce
large-scale migration and lead to greater competition for the earth's
"Such changes will place particularly heavy burdens on the world's
most vulnerable countries," it said. "There may be increased danger of
violent conflicts and wars, within and between states."
The Bay Area has been the staging area for an online movement to draft
Mr. Gore to mount another campaign for the White House. A Web site,
www.Draftgore.com, claims more than 165,000 signatures and comments on
an online petition, including several placed early this morning
congratulating Mr. Gore on his win.
The same group also placed a full-page advertisement in The New York
Times on Wednesday, pleading with Mr. Gore to rectify his bitter
defeat in 2000, when he won the national popular vote but lost the
electoral college after the Supreme Court ended a recount in Florida.
"I'll actually vote for you this time," wrote one signee, Joshua Kadel
of Virginia, on the Web site this morning. "Sorry about 2000!"
The Gores keep an apartment in San Francisco, where their daughter
Kristin lives. The city is also the headquarters of Current TV, Mr.
Gore's Emmy-award winning television and online news venture.
Others dedicated to the fight against global warming said the winners
were at the head of efforts to investigate and draw attention to the
Michael Oppenheimer, an atmospheric scientist who has participated in
the periodic climate assessments since the early days of the I.P.C.C.
panel, described the work of the committee, which includes both
scientists and government officials, as "a beautiful example of a
largely successful experiment in people coming together to improve
"The reward reminds us that expert advice can influence people and
policy, that sometimes governments do listen to reason, and that the
idea that reason can guide human action is very much alive, if not yet
fully realized," added Dr. Oppenheimer, who is now at Princeton
University and previously worked for Environmental Defense, a private
Yvo de Boer, the executive secretary of United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change, which is based in Bonn, Germany, and
oversaw negotiations that led to the Kyoto Protocol, said recent moves
by political leaders around the world to find ways of reducing
emissions would have been hard to imagine without the contributions
made by both the I.P.C.C. and Mr. Gore.
"We can recommend ways for policy makers to move forward, but without
the I.P.C.C. data being there, this would be next to impossible," Mr.
de Boer said. He said Mr. Gore could use his enhanced stature from
winning the Peace Prize to focus on parts of the developing world
where politicians need support to spread knowledge about the dangers
of climate change. "It's very difficult to advance on these issues
without support from the general public," he said.
Jan Egeland, a Norwegian peace mediator and former senior United
Nations official for humanitarian affairs, called climate change more
than an environmental issue.
"It is a question of war and peace," Mr. Egeland, now director of the
Norwegian Institute of International Affairs in Oslo, told the
Associated Press. "We're already seeing the first climate wars, in the
Sahel belt of Africa." He said nomads and herders were in conflict
with farmers because the changing climate had brought drought and a
shortage of fertile lands.
From the 1980s onward, many scientists and international affairs
experts considered the prospect that long-lived gases from human
activities could warm the earth to be a threat to global security as
well as the environment.
The first large scientific meeting on the issue, the Conference on the
Changing Atmosphere, was held in Toronto in 1988. It was also the
first meeting to bring together scientists and government officials on
a large scale to discuss research pointing to dangerous warming from a
buildup of greenhouse gases.
The conference concluded with a statement saying: "Humanity is
conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, globally pervasive experiment
whose ultimate consequences could be second only to a global nuclear war."
Its "call to action" included a recommendation that the main
heat-trapping gas, carbon dioxide, to be cut by 2005 to 20 percent
below 1988 levels a target far more ambitious than anything later
discussed in United Nations climate-treaty talks and missed long ago.
The intergovernmental climate panel's four reports, the first
published in 1990, have provided the underpinning for international
negotiations leading to the first climate treaty, with only voluntary
terms, in 1992 and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the first accord with
binding terms, but with limited support and a 2012 expiration date.
Jesse McKinley contributed reporting from San Francisco, Somini
Sengupta from New Delhi, Andrew C. Revkin from New York, and James
Kanter from Paris.