The Climate's Change Agent

Pulitzer Peace Prize Goes to Al Gore and Company

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Despite predictable conjecture that his Nobel Peace Prize win would catapult former Vice President Al Gore into the crowded, yet somehow lacking, presidential race, the effort for which he was honored was work no politician could have done. Yes, he had talked about global warming for 20 years, but it was not until after his 2000 defeat that the slide show really took shape. Because the subsequent Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth has transformed the environmental debate, it's easy to mistake Gore's message for a popular one. But would any current White House contender dare to make what has been his essential point? "The truth about the climate crisis," Gore says, "is an inconvenient one that means we are going to have to change the way we live our lives."

Even the staunchest climate action advocates on the U.S. political scene don't venture near the issue of whether it's going to cause any personal or national adjustment, much less sacrifice, much less pain. They talk about how the new wind and solar and building-retrofit industries will create jobs and revolutionize the economy. Not about the uncomfortable steps like switching to mass transit, raising the thermostat, or living in smaller homes close to cities. In fact, the decision from Oslo came the same week as the signals from Capitol Hill that Congress has shrunk from its recent resolve to force a modest fuel efficiency increase on automakers.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee also honored the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, underscoring the work of thousands of scientists from 130 countries over two decades to show that evidence of looming catastrophe is far from anecdotal. The IPCC is set to issue a "synthesis report" next month that will spotlight the potential human consequences of a failure to make deep and highly inconvenient changes in the modern way of life. The prize committee summarized these neatly: "large-scale migration...greater competition for the Earth's resources...increased danger of violent conflicts and wars." Nobel Committee Chairman Ole Danbolt Mjoes said that Gore's political ambitions were not his concern: "I want this prize to have everyone...every human being, asking what they should do."