Climate Change Draws World Attention: The Nobel Peace Prize Goes to Gore and IPCC

Article excerpt

"The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 is to be shared, in two equal parts, between the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Albert Arnold (Al) Gore Jr. 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." (1)

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

In the fall of 2007, the Nobel Committee awarded their Peace Prize to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (a scientific intergovernmental body set up by the World Meteorological Organization and by the United Nations Environment Program) and to former Vice-President Al Gore, Jr. The committee praised the United Nations panel for creating an "ever broader informed consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming." And they praised Gore as "probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted." (2)

The Peace Prize committee pointed out that the issue of climate change, which is not always understood, must be treated with the utmost seriousness. (3) The committee commended the IPCC for making the connection between human activity and global warming through their many scientific reports over the last two decades. Thousands of scientists from more than 100 countries worked together to provide scientific evidence for these connections and their consequences.

With this award, the Nobel Peace Prize Committee continued its move of considering issues that are removed from armed conflict. Recently, the Peace Prize has been given to individuals and organizations involved in social justice, poverty remediation, and environmentalism. In explaining its choices this year, the committee delineated how the issue of climate change and global warming relates to armed conflicts. Members point out that changes in climate can alter and threaten how mankind lives. Changes will reduce the Earth's resources and will lead to massive migrations of people and competition for these resources. At greatest risk will be the Earth's most vulnerable countries, and the danger of violent conflicts both within and between states will increase. (4)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

The IPCC is made up of 2,000 scientists worldwide and is considered the world's leading authority on climate change. (5) It was established in 1988 because of the need for policymakers to have an objective source of information about the causes of climate change. In its early days the IPCC was disparaged by those who questioned the scientific basis for a human role in climate change. In response to the Peace Prize, Rajendra K. Pachauri, the Indian climatologist who heads the panel, proclaimed that science had won out over skepticism. In addition, he said, "The message that it sends is that the Nobel Prize committee realized the value of knowledge in tackling the problem of climate change," adding that the award is an acknowledgment of the panel's "impartial and objective assessment of climate change." (6)

The impartial and objective assessment of climate change is part of the IPCC's original mandate. Although its membership is made up of scientists, the panel does not conduct any research nor does it monitor climate data. Rather the panel assesses the latest worldwide literature that strengthens the understanding of the risk of human-induced climate change. The panel's reports are objective, maintain high scientific and technical standards, and reflect a range of views and expertise from a wide geographic area. (7)

The human effect on climate change is attributed to greenhouse gases, which are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorocarbons. The greenhouse effect is based on the same principle as a greenhouse. The glass in a greenhouse lets in light but traps the sun's heat so that it cannot escape back into the atmosphere. …