Climate Changes Nobel Peace Prize?

There is wide speculation that Al Gore will win the Nobel Peace Prize today, and the betting odds are highly in his favor. Let’s get this straight. Alfred Nobel’s Will says that the Peace Prize shall be given to:

the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.Nobel_medalje

Sure, climate change has the potential to cause wars, but aren’t there people who have been instrumental in fighting for peace in existing wars? Ironically, this is happening when a British court judge ruled that Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth contained nine errors.

What are the various opinions being expressed?

Reuters:

“Such an award would fall under the expanded concept of peace but the activity can be linked to the climate-conflict combination and is highly timely,” said NRK veteran journalist Geir Helljesen who has a solid record of tipping prize winners.

Please enlighten me if anyone understood that.

Salon: Why Al Gore deserves the Nobel Peace Prize

What’s world peace got to do with global warming? Perhaps everything. Or it will if things don’t change fast — if, in 10 or 20 or 40 years devastating floods and droughts displace millions of refugees and spur nations and tribes to desperate bloodletting. At which point, no one will have the slightest doubt why members of the renowned Scandinavian foundation thought former U.S. Vice President Al Gore was an obvious choice for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

There’s one ‘perhaps’ and two big ‘ifs’ in that statement. Since when were Nobel Peace Prizes awarded based on ifs?

Tennessee Center for Policy Research:

Handing a Nobel Prize to Al Gore, a proven hypocrite on the issue of climate change, would be an injustice to the many people bravely fighting for peace and freedom throughout the world. We discovered that while Gore told us to curtail our energy use, he guzzled more electricity at his posh Nashville mansion in a month than the average American family used in a year.

I don’t know about the hypocrite part, but I do think that it will be an injustice to the other deserving folks.

The Investors Business Daily (quoted on an Australian site) writes on how the stature of the Nobel Peace Prize has deteriorated over the years, and says:

“Just what the Nobel committee really needs, another fraud in its pantheon of laureates. If Gore wins the prize as expected, it will mark another step in the long politicized decline of a once highly regarded international award.”

Most environmentalists are gaga over the news. Brandon Keim, from Wired Magazine, stands out among the lot. A staunch supporter of the fight against climate change epitomizes my thoughts behind this post:

If the Nobel committee does choose Gore or Watt-Cloutier or the IPCC, they’ll certainly send a message to the world. A good message, in fact. But it would still be a shame if the meaning of the Nobel Peace Prize itself became a casualty of global warming.

If he does get it, the Norwegian Committee will have screwed up the AlGorethm for the Peace Prize.

Further Reading: Common misconceptions about the Nobel Peace Prize

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  • I don’t know too much about Gore but I guess these awards are generally biased in favour of certain nations. Maybe its time we in South Asia had our own version of the Nobel Peace Prize…we can call it the Mahatma Gandi Peace Prize. Make it bigger than the Nobel!! Even they acknowledge (unofficially I think) that it was a big mistake not to give it to him! Well, now we have the International Non Violence Day in the Mahatma’s honour now…lets have a Peace Prize too!

  • Nita: That’s a great idea in the context of Gandhi, but I wonder if India has the stature and credibility to institute such an award!

    Our South Asian neighbors view us as a bully, we’re apathetic to the fight for democracy in next-door Burma, we’ve the 2nd highest terrorist casualties and don’t do anything about it, and so on and on…

    Calling it Mahatma Gandhi Peace Prize makes it sound good though…in fact, in some ways, better than the Nobel Peace Prize, considering some of the people who have been awarded while Gandhi wasn’t!

  • Mahendra: I think it is an unenviable task to find 6 deserving people out of 6 billion, year after year, in a manner that satisfies every country and every person.

    The Nobel committee does what is called ‘satisficing’. So I would not be surprised if they gave it to Gore this year, entirely suitable or not.

    There is a trend in recent years of awarding Nobel prizes to make political points about issues, which is a shift from earlier years. Harold Pinter and now Doris Lessing’s literature Nobels both are illustrations.

    This means that India and China are now both in with a better probability than ever before. All they both need is to DO something earth-shattering, not just BE earth-shattering with their populations, rapid growth and enormous and growing consumption of the world’s resources.

    Thanks.

  • Shefaly: Yup, it is an unenviable task and it was quite expected. But I’m disappointed.

    Climate change activists can indeed deserve noteworthy prizes, but not the Nobel Peace Prize, as it was envisioned by Nobel.

    If there is no category suitable because this was a non-issue in the days of Nobel, they should create a new category if they like, but not ignore great people who’re fighting wars with no ifs and buts. They are the people the award was meant for.

  • I was thinking that if the peace prize is indeed being given for environmental purposes then why not to Greenpeace which is one of the oldest crusader (est. 1971).
    One look at their funding policy however revealed why

    //Greenpeace does not solicit contributions from government or corporations, nor will we endorse political candidates.//

    Maybe that’s why.

  • Madhuri: 🙂

  • Fast Dots

    I am not quite sure as to the relevance of the Nobel Peace prize. If you think about it, Al Gore is now in the same distinguished group as Yasser Arafat. I scanned through the list of past prize winners, and found that recent awardees dont have much to do with “… work for fraternity between the nations…” etc. as you mention above. They should perhaps consider renaming the Peace prize to something like _The_Nobel_Prize_For_All_The_Other_Stuff_.

  • Fast Dots: I absolutely agree! The peace prize has been reduced to “for all the other stuff”! 🙂

  • I wonder if the award was a politcal statement? I think many right-wingers want to convince us that global warming is a myth. I remember the world outrage when the US didn’t sign the Kyoto Agreement under Bush. Giving the award to Gore sends a signal.

    I think the Iraq War is completely based on greed for oil. If that’s true, then the award to Gore is justified.

    If he is an energy hog, shame on him, but we must separate the message from the messenger, don’t you think?

    Einstein is known to have treated his close family members very poorly, while championing peace. I’ve read that Dante was a scoundrel, even though he was a great poet. And the list goes on.

  • Cristine: Thank you. Yes, the award seems to be a statement of some sort, and my point is that Alfred Nobel didn’t intend it to be that way.

    Separating the message from the messenger is good, but here, the message exists in the first place because of Alfred Nobel. The messengers seem to have forgotten what message he wanted to send out…:-)

  • Fast Dots

    Cristine, what is the message / signal? And how is it relevant to world peace?

    Something to ponder about – http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119223307015357948.html

  • Thanks for bringing my attention to this post. You have quoted some really interesting sources, Gore’s selection for this award has been very disappointing.

  • Prerna: Thank you very much. It seems we’re in very small company. Almost anyone and everyone who utters a word against climate change is being branded as evil, and the real meaning of the Nobel Peace Prize has just become another victim of this crusade.

    Thanks again.

  • Mahendra, If you don’t mind, I’m going to reply to Fast Dots on the theme of the Nobel Peace Prize and how they choose their awards.

    It seems like peaceful, consistent resistance doesn’t warrant a Nobel Peace Prize. Maybe the prize going to Al Gore was not political. Maybe it was a fashion statement. It’s very trendy to be green.

  • Cristine: please go ahead and respond to Fast Dots. I don’t mind at all. This topic is open for everyone to comment on!

    After all, as one who believes in freedom of speech, how can I not practice it on my own blog? 🙂