Last Friday, the Norwegian Nobel Committee rightly recognized the global significance of climate change when it awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Al Gore ’69 and the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nations-established committee of scientists conducting research on climate change. We hope the spotlight of the award will give activists the momentum they need to finally catalyze the world into actively combating climate change.
While awareness of the critical issue of climate change has grown over the last several years, some in the United States and the world at large—an alarming number of whom are in positions of power—have remained frustratingly unconvinced of the importance and urgency of global warming.
They see the evidence of man’s impact unpersuasive and delude themselves into thinking that any serious effects of any climate change that is occurring will occur so far into the future that they’re not worth worrying about. The decision to split the Peace Prize between Gore and the IPCC will increase the pressure on leaders who refuse to believe that immediate action on climate change is necessary. The Bush administration in particular needs to be pushed to take action on climate change. The United States emits nearly 25 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases. Without American participation, worldwide efforts to reduce greenhouse gases amount to little. Thankfully, Gore’s prize is already forcing many in Washington—including 2008 presidential candidates—to confront the realities of climate change.
It may seem unconventional to award a peace prize to an individual and an organization who work in environmental science. But in the long run, environmental change is a threat to peace, for if we damage our planet, wars could very well be waged in the future over land that is still habitable. The Nobel Committee’s decision has elevated the issues to a previously undreamt of degree of prestige and will hopefully funnel both money and brainpower toward future research on ways to mitigate and even reverse the current climatic trajectory.
Gore and the IPCC have raised awareness about climate change, but progress to reduce or reverse climate change remains slow and unsteady. Momentous shifts in the national and global psyches will be necessary to confront the problem of climate change, as the Norwegian Nobel Committee expressed on Friday. Action is necessary now, before climate change moves beyond man’s control.
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