Environment practitioners and environmentalists must be overjoyed that the Nobel committee has given this year's peace prize to Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Gore who will go down in history as the environmentalist president the USA never had, is now a household name for the Oscar winning docu "An Inconvenient Truth". Such is Gore's campaign to inform the public that the film is required viewing in countless high schools and colleges all over the world. The film is also seen by Pinoys in many barangays. In one coastal barangay I visited recently, the whole village viewed the movie (pirated version!) in the local videoke bar. In my environmental science institute, we require students to watch "Inconvenient Truth" after we have had studied the various theories in environmental science and climate change. However we also require students to watch the alternate take on the issue "Global Warming Swindle" before we wrap up the semester.
The Nobel citation is as follows. IPCC and Al Gore are given the prize
"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"
While certain aspects of climate change theory is under intense debate, the general consensus is that human caused climate change is dramatically changing the planet's environment. This consensus has a degree of scientific support that even Pope Benedict XVI has issued a call for nations to do something now. The Professsor-Pope is used to checking the facts and what ever he says gets worldwide press notice.
Even long before this prize was awarded, there had been a call for the Nobel Foundation to set up a Nobel Prize for ecology and environment. Nobels are awarded for Peace, Literature, Medicine, Economics, Physics and Chemistry. These were disciplines that crown our species intellectual achievement. When the first prizes were given in 1901, people thought that these disciplines human mastery of the environment. Nothing says this so well as Alfred Nobel's source of his fortune, the invention of dynamite! Thus Alfred Nobel's will had no provision on environment at all.
Thus the IPCC and Al Gore's prize represents a very belated recognition by the Nobel Foundation about the centrality of environment in human progress and survival. Some observers view that the prize is a slap at US President George W Bush and his refusal to set carbon emission targets for the US. But Bush is in his lameduck stage. The Nobel Committee is obviously trying to convince the 2008 US presidential hopefuls.
Environmental practitioners have something to cheer about. As for me, so many people want me to tell them how they can save the environment. I would need a lot of cheer for this.
And for Al Gore, I hope that he sticks to his position that he won't run for the Democratic nomination. The whole impact of his prize will be lost if he does throw his hat in the ring.