Al Gore, man of peace


I’m glad Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have won the Nobel peace prize.

In a statement, Gore said he was “deeply honored,” adding that “the climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity.”

During its announcement, the Nobel committee cited the winners “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”.

Although arguments exist against human activity being the catalyst for the planet’s warming, there is a 90% chance that we’re the cause. It is not too late to make a difference, even if we have to live with some significant climate changes.

That Gore won reflects how seriously the environmental movement is being taken. As Lewis Smith notes:

Ten years ago the idea that the world was warming up, with potentially disastrous consequences, was still hugely contested.

People who installed energy-saving lightbulbs or put on another jumper instead of turning up the thermostat were dismissed as part of the tree-hugging fringe movement.

But the science of climate change has advanced enormously in the past decade and gradually the sceptics have been silenced as their objections were answered.

Sceptics still exist, and many of them have good points to make, but it is they who have been pushed to the fringe of political and scientific debate.

The IPCC has made progress because of its scientific roots. It has amassed and analysed evidence that makes it nigh impossible to ignore the affect our activity is having on the planet. It and Gore have highlighted ways of adapting to and nullifying this impact.

Earlier this week, a judge ruled that Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, was broadly accurate despite nine significant errors. The ruling, which determined if the film could be shown in schools, said “the ‘apocalyptic vision’ presented in the film was politically partisan and not an impartial analysis of the science of climate change”.

Yes, it’s a political film. Yes, it is biased toward one point of view. But it is not wrong just because of this — it’s purpose is to raise awareness and inspire action. Because the judge backed the film’s central message, it can be show provided there are accompanying materials to balance Gore’s view.

Let us all hope it continues to have a positive impact on our attitude toward our planet.

Postscript: Daniel Drezner has noted a curious passage in the press release, which states that Gore “is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted”. Drezner wonders if the sentence would make more sense were the word “worldwide” replaced by “American”.

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