And the Nobel Peace Prize goes to... climate change!

Posted on 12 October 2007

Al Gore and the IPCC represent millions of campaigners, activists and individuals who take action - every day, every week, every month.
Just now the winners of this year's Nobel Peace prize were announced: Al Gore and the IPCC are both worthy winners indeed.

The beauty is that they represent millions of campaigners, activists and individuals who take action - every day, every week, every month.

Al Gore has sponsored and driven climate change action for decades, in the US Senate and even as Vice President of the US.

In addition, he really set his mind behind the climate cause after the elections in 2000, and after what must have been a huge disappointment for him. He is said to have given over a thousand presentations on the issue.

I remember my friend and colleague Rafael Senga in the Philippines telling us how Gore presented to the Philippine government, in 1998 or 1999. This was a really influential event because the Philippines establishment realized for the first time that climate change actually mattered to them.

And the IPCC? This panel of hundreds of experts who devote their time and energy to make sure that each scientific detail is as much scrutinized and tested as possible? Who work really hard to ensure inclusion of more and more scientific literature in their deliberations?

IPCC are worthy winners indeed. They steer what can credibly claim to be the biggest and most profound peer-review process of scientific findings of all time. They also do a lot of incredibly valuable work on more detailed issues such as the ozone layer or carbon capture and storage. They manage well to resist pressures form governments and businesses (and NGOs) and stay the course that science sets. Their word is clarity and prevents the climate discussion to fall into the pitfalls of belief.

I have a few tears to shed too, however: Sheila Watt-Cloutier, former Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, was in the end dropped from the list of winners. This is difficult to understand: she would have been a tremendously worthy winner. Sheila led the legal action of the Inuit against the US on grounds that the Inuit are losing their culture and territory because of global warming. And because the Bush government consistently refuses to take strong action.

Sheila was not awarded, and with her half a million Inuits and two million other Arctic inhabitants who fear for their future. The Nobel Prize Committee should have had the courage to award a small people and their leader the same honor as a key scientific body and a former US Vice President.

Martin Hiller
WWF climate change campaigner

Arctic people, land and wildlife. A diverse region.
From left to right: Arctic wolf; flowers on the tundra; Inuit woman hanging dry fish. Northwest Territories, Canada
© Staffan Widstrand / Peter Prokosch / Leslie Leong