Two questions on the IPCC and Al Gore being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize


The Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 “in two equal parts” to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Al Gore “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.” We have two questions.

On October 9 we wrote: Give the Nobel Peace Prize to the IPCC.
The Nobel Committee chose to recognize the IPCC as an institution—which we take to refer to the entire extraordinary and indispensable 20-year collaborative scientific assessment enterprise carried out by the many IPCC report authors and editors and their support system. This is what we wanted to see.

And the Nobel Committee has also recognized Al Gore, for his achievement in communicating the global warming problem and its implications to a wide audience in a way that catalyzes a higher level of public interest and concern. In this, Gore draws on the scientific underpinning provided by the IPCC assesssments, but communicates effectively to the public beyond the expert scientific and policy communities, which the IPCC has not really done. For this, Gore deserves great credit, as does Davis Guggenheim, the director of “An Inconvenient Truth,” who made a movie about a science lecture that people would actually go to see. 

Susan Solomon, the eminent scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and co-chair of IPCC’s Working Group I—on the basic science of the physical climate system—was quoted today as calling the prize a “wonderful victory for science” and crediting Gore with delivering the message to the public. “I love the movie. I really do,” Solomon said. “I think his goal is to make people aware, and I think that is a very good goal. I don’t think he has tried to promote a political agenda.”

See our earlier posts on “An Inconvenient Truth”—
Gore as Science Educator: Climate Scientist Michael MacCracken’s Assessment (July 15, 2006)
Jim Hansen on “An Inconvenient Truth” (July 15, 2006)

So, our two questions:

1. NOW will the administration use the IPCC’s assessments of climate change impacts instead of ignoring them?

The Bush administration has been scandalously evasive about coming to grips with the IPCC assessment reports on climate change impacts since the Third Assesment Report came out in 2001. Most recently, on July 30 we wrote:

Bush Administration submits evasive Climate Action Report to the UN

The Bush administration’s long overdue U.S. Climate Action Report – 2006, given a stealth release on Friday afternoon July 27, lacks a forthright discussion of a range of likely adverse climate change impacts on the U.S. and fails to draw on the IPCC 2007 impacts assessment report and the substantial scientific literature on which it is based, including the assessment of North America impacts. The failure to use this material, and the overall evasiveness of the impacts and vulnerability chapter of the report, was clearly a political decision. Administration officials have once again defaulted on an opportunity to address a crucial challenge for national preparedness. (See full posting for details.)

The 2007 IPCC climate change impacts assessment identified a wide range of major expected impacts on North America for the range of (unmitigated) climate change projected by the IPCC during the 21st century. The administration’s Climate Action Report does not acknowledge the IPCC’s work, and offers no explanation or justification for ignoring it.

Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, the Working Group II contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is available online.  Chapter 14 focuses on climate change impacts on North America.


2.  NOW will the Decider decide it’s time to watch “An Inconvenient Truth”?

“Bush doubts he’ll see Al Gore’s movie” (May 22, 2006)

Today we’re thinking also of Robert Watson, who co-chaired the IPCC Working Group on climate change impacts and adaptation for the Second Assessment Report (1995), and who chaired the IPCC for the Third Assessment Report (2001). Bob Watson, probably more than any other single individual, built the IPCC into the authoritative and successful project it became. Following the urging of ExxonMobil in 2001, the Bush administration withdrew its support for Watson to serve a second term as IPCC chair, for the Fourth Assessment Report being published this year. Watson was a highly effective communicator of the essential findings of the IPCC assessments, including findings about the reality of human-driven global warming, its likely harmful consequences, and the realistic steps that can be taken to mitigate climate change. This did not sit well with the administration, which was echoing the global warming disinformation campaign in promoting an exaggerated sense of fundamental scientific uncertainty. 

Watson was quoted today as saying, “Al Gore is a tireless fighter for the cause of climate who thoroughly deserves the prize for bringing this serious issue to the attention of politicians and the public. But I am incredibly pleasantly surprised that the IPCC will share the prize, which justly rewards the whole climate research community.”  As climate change is ultimately a threat to peace and security, the Nobel Peace Prize is a totally appropriate reward for the IPCC’s work, Watson added. “We may have to modify the IPCC to make it more efficient. But the Nobel prize just reminds us that we need to continue.”

Kevin Knobloch, president of Union of Concerned Scientists, said “Al Gore and the IPCC should be congratulated for bringing the science of global warming into people’s living rooms and the halls of power. Congratulations also go to Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC chair, as well as his predecessor, Robert Watson, who deserves enormous credit for building the IPCC into the force it has become.”

When they hand out the awards later this year in Oslo, we wish we could see Bob Watson on the stage with current IPCC chair Rajendra Pachauri and Vice-President Gore.

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