Gore Wins Nobel Peace Prize for Climate Efforts

Former VP’s peace prize stirs speculation about potential presidential bid

Once a Dunster resident and baseball-loving undergraduate, former U.S. vice president Al Gore ’69, along with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in spreading awareness of climate change.

The Nobel Committee said in a statement on Friday that Gore is “probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted.”

Earlier this year, Gore’s documentary on global warming, “An Inconvenient Truth” won two Academy Awards and sparked an international debate. He has since traveled extensively to lecture about climate change.

To one Harvard professor involved in the IPCC since the 1980s, the prize came as a pleasant surprise.

“This Nobel Peace Prize is an interesting statement,” Agassiz Professor of Biological Oceanography James L. McCarthy said. McCarthy wrote in an e-mail that he is one of only three Americans in the IPCC’s leadership. “It is unlike a typical Nobel Peace Prize, which would celebrate the end of a long war or cessation of hostility. It is a much more optimistic statement about choosing a path that can lead to a peaceful world.”

The Nobel Committee praised the efforts of Gore and the IPCC for increasing recognition of the threat of global warming and for correlating human activity with climate change. The Nobel Committee said in the statement that in the 1980s, global warming was seen as an “interesting hypothesis,” while in the last few years the consequences of the phenomenon are more apparent and widely accepted.

“We face a true planetary emergency,” Gore said in a statement on Friday. “The climate crisis is not a political issue; it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity.”

After switching from English, Gore concentrated in Government at Harvard. He graduated cum laude and wrote his thesis about the impact of television on the presidential campaign.

Richard Hyland ’69, a fellow Dunster House resident who was active in Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), told The Crimson in 1999 that he remembered Gore as an avid baseball fan.

“I remember going down to the Dunster House Grille late at night,” Hyland said. “He’d be there watching the ballgame. I had a sense that he spent the ’60s watching the ball game.”

Gore launched his political career in 1976 when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Tennessee. He was elected vice president in 1992 and again in 1996. His lost his bid for the presidency in 2000 to George W. Bush.

While Gore’s fan base is large, some have been sharply critical of his work.

Justice Barton, a British high court judge, recently ruled that “An Inconvenient Truth” cannot be shown in schools unless accompanied by materials explaining the film’s inaccuracies.

“It is easy for people to misrepresent the former vice president,” McCarthy said. “But people who don’t like his message must remember that climate is full of surprises. We are moving into a warmer world for which we have no historical perspective.”

Although Nobel prizes are meant to be apolitical, the question of Gore’s running for president has been raised by supporters, despite his statements that he is not interested in running.

At a news conference in Palo Alto, Calif., last Friday, Gore ignored reporters’ questions about the possibility that he run for president in 2008.

“I’m going back to work right now,” he said.

McCarthy said that inside the White House, Gore might not be as effective in raising awareness.

“He is a greater service to humanity now,” McCarthy said, “than if he jumped into the presidential race.”