Al Gore, IPCC Share Nobel Peace Prize 2007

The 2007 Nobel Peace Prize has been jointly awarded to environmental activist and former US vice-president Al Gore and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the scientific body whose regular assessment reports present the research results of thousands of climate scientists around the world.

In announcing its decision, the Norwegian Nobel Committee praised Mr Gore and the IPCC for “their efforts 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 acknowledged Mr Gore as “probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted”, while the IPCC has “created an ever-broader informed consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming”.

Mr Gore wrote on his web site that he was deeply honored to receive the award. “We face a true planetary emergency,” he said. “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.”

He said he would donate his share of the $1.5 million prize money to the Alliance for Climate Protection, a bipartisan non-profit organization committed to persuading people around the world that climate change is urgent and solvable.

Having won an Academy Award earlier this year for his climate science documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, Mr Gore has long been considered the frontrunner to win the Nobel prize.

IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri said the honor belonged to the thousands of scientists around the world whose research results contributed to consensus documents developed through the IPCC’s rigorous scientific assessment process.

He also said the IPCC’s work is unique because each consensus document “undergoes the scrutiny of government representatives and therefore is accepted by governments”, which increases the likelihood that effective policies will be implemented to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Mr Gore and the IPCC clocks a black eye for the Bush administration, which has until recently dismissed the scientific consensus on climate change, watered down the global warming reports of US government scientists and refused to set limits on carbon emissions in the US. In 2001, President Bush walked away from the Kyoto Protocol.

Last month, after addressing a White House-sponsored climate change conference in Washington, Mr Bush was criticized for undermining UN efforts to kick-start a post-Kyoto global agreement, misrepresenting his administration’s record on cutting greenhouse gas emissions and lecturing other nations on climate science that they had long accepted.

Yet Nobel committee chairman Ole Danbolt Mjoes denied that the award was intended to criticize any government. “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,” he told the Associated Press.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said that President Bush is “happy” for Mr Gore, but has no plans to call him to offer congratulations. Mr Gore is the second Democrat to win the Nobel Peace Prize since Mr Bush became President. In 2002, the award went to former President Jimmy Carter.

Mr Gore’s critics and climate change skeptics were out in force to decry the award.

“Al Gore doesn’t understand the science behind climate change or he deliberately misrepresents it,” Joseph Bast of the Heartland Institute told Reuters. The free market think tank rejects the scientific consensus on climate change – its web site accuses climate scientists of “alarmism”, protests that the media makes it difficult for “climate realists” to get a fair hearing, and states that “there is no consensus about the causes, effects or future rate of global warming”.

Czech President Vaclav Klaus, another climate change skeptic, said the relationship between Mr Gore’s work and world peace was “unclear and indistinct”. In a recent op-ed piece published in the Financial Times, Mr Klaus quoted science fiction author Michael Crichton and accused climate scientists of being anti-freedom and anti-economic development.

The Nobel Peace Committee said in its announcement that climate change posed a clear and significant threat to world peace in the form of “increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and between states … Action is necessary now, before climate change moves beyond man’s control.”

Mr Mjoes added, “We wish to put world climate on the agenda in connection with peace.”

Meanwhile, in the lead up to the announcement of Mr Gore’s award, a UK high court rejected an attempt by political activist Stuart Dimmock to legally ban the showing of Mr Gore’s climate science documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, in British schools.

In his judgement, Justice Burton said that “Al Gore’s presentation of the causes and likely effects of climate change in the film was broadly accurate.” However, he said the science remained unclear on nine points made in the film, and decided the film could be shown to students only if they were given notes addressing these points.

In response, analyses published by New Scientist and climate science blogs have challenged the judgement as scientifically unsound and have defended Mr Gore’s presentation of the science in the film.

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