Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday and, ironically, the world ended. So some leaders on the Right, hopelessly stuck in denial of scientific fact, would have us believe. Gore’s win (shared with the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has been criticized by conservative pundits as the latest in a long line of the Nobel committee’s politically motivated selections. But regardless of whether Gore personally deserves this (he does) or whether the win propels him into a run for the White House (if only), the most important thing to consider here is that the immediate, dire threat of global warming is finally getting the attention it deserves.
In an editorial Sunday, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page listed all the people and groups it believes were far more deserving than Gore of the Peace Prize but were overlooked for political reasons. No one is going to deny that Burmese monks, Zimbabwean opposition leaders and “the people of Iraq” deserve recognition for their strife. Certainly they have all suffered more than Gore but that shouldn’t that take away from the work Gore and the IPCC have done to inform the world about global warming, a threat as significant as any the planet has ever faced.
It is understandable that Gore’s celebrity streak is questioned by those looking to evaluate the legitimacy of his contributions. A documentary about his effort to raise awareness about global warming, “An Inconvenient Truth,” won an Academy Award in February. Gore certainly didn’t shy away from the red carpet spotlight then, or when he won an Emmy last month for co-founding Current TV, a new-age television network centered on viewer-generated content. His book “The Assault on Reason” topped the New York Times bestseller list earlier this year, and the former vice president is seemingly reveling in the attention he has received.
Never mind all that. None of that will change the fact that Gore co-sponsored the first congressional hearings on global warming in the 1980s; he was talking about it before most of us were even born. It won’t change the fact that Gore has devoted his life to this cause because he believes it is a true threat to our world. Much like fighting against nuclear proliferation and poverty and for human rights (all of which the Nobel committee has cited in the past as worthy of the Peace Prize), global warming threatens to end our world as we know it. Gore didn’t do the research to prove this fact, but without him we probably wouldn’t know or care about it.
Let’s not forget that it isn’t only Gore being honored here. The thousands of scientists that have worked for decades to intricately model and prove the science behind global warming (and often been thwarted by governmental bureaucrats) are now recognized too. The IPCC consists of researchers from around the globe, including at least eight from the University of Michigan, who have contributed to the scientific consensus that Gore repeatedly points to. Certainly, these researchers are the true heroes, the foot soldiers in the war of public opinion. They deserve the Peace Prize.
Perhaps it does say something unfortunate about our society that it takes someone with the celebrity appeal of Gore to bring attention to the prescient work of thousands of scientists. But is that to say none of it should be recognized? Too many of our leaders have failed us on this issue. It took President Bush about a term-and-a-half to even admit such a thing as “global climate change.” And there are still people like Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) who recently claimed that global warming is nothing more than a hoax perpetrated by The Weather Channel in an effort to gain higher ratings.
Such is the sentiment infecting the thinking of some of our leaders about a threat that could drastically change our world within our lifetime. The thousands who have battled that sentiment for the good of humanity – Gore among them – are more than worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize.