by John Q on October 12, 2007

To Al Gore and the Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change for the award of the Nobel Peace Prize. This is the second time the Nobel prizes have honored work on climate change, the first being the award of the 1995 Chemistry Prize to Crutzen, Molina and Sherwood for their discovery of the chemical reactions that led CFCs to deplete the ozone layer.

That award came at an opportune time. Although the world had agreed under the Montreal protocol to phase out CFCs, US Republicans working through the aptly-named DeLay-Doolittle committee were working to undermine it, attacking the science and so on, with the support of a number ofleading delusionists (Sallie Baliunas, Pat Michaels, Fred Singer and others). The Nobel award took the wind out of their sails and most of the “skeptical scientists” involved went very quiet on the issue thereafter. That didn’t stop them using the same tactics and arguments regarding CO2 and global warming.

I hope the 2007 Peace Prize award will have a similar impact. While it’s not a science prize, it would certainly not have been awarded if there was any serious doubt about (rather than politically motivated opposition to) the science of climate change. And it rightly honors Gore’s role in solidifying public opinion on the issue.

Of course, for those inside the Republican bubble of delusion, it will have the opposite impact (since they are opposed to both peace and science, it could hardly do otherwise). But it will certainly have an impact on the imminent election campaign in Australia, leaving those who have been scathing about Gore and the IPCC with (yet more) egg on their faces. Of course, that group includes PM John Howard who refused to meet Gore last year, though he has modified his position since then. Since he seems to be in the mood for changing his tune , he would be well advised to take this opportunity to ratify Kyoto.

Congratulations also to the other Nobel winners. Doris Lessings literature prize is certainly well-deserved and while I’m not an expert, the winners of the science prizes announced so far have made contributions notable enough that I was already aware of their significance.

Of course, I’m awaiting with interest the Economics Nobel Prize (more precisely the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel) to be announced on Monday. I’ve previously noted my enthusiasm for Robert Shiller. Greg Mankiw points to this prediction from Thomson Scientific and makes some bets of his own.



notsneaky 10.13.07 at 12:11 am

Bah humbug. There were more deserving candidates. Still, it’s not as bad as it could be, considering that GWB was in the running.


Michael Parkatti 10.13.07 at 1:05 am

Seriously, why all this hype over the Al Gore green machine?? Are we all forgetting the achievements of one Dan Quayle? That guy needs his own draft Quayle movement… or hang on, no he doesn’t


Wrye 10.13.07 at 1:15 am

Interesting. I wonder what effect this will have in Canada? Could be timing for Mr. Harper. Again.


Stuart 10.13.07 at 1:45 am

Honouring the IPCC seems fine, not so sure about Gore. As a lightning rod for the anti-science noise machine he serves a purpose, but I can’t see that he really helped popularize the topic much, that just was happening around the same time. I accept this may not be true in the US where a number of celebrities seems to have take a stand on an issue before it becomes popular (or maybe before the media takes an interest).


John Quiggin 10.13.07 at 1:48 am

He had a big impact in Australia, though of course the time had to be right for this to happen.


Sk 10.13.07 at 1:56 am

I’m curious. Why didn’t Doris Lessing get the Nobel Peace Prize, and Al Gore get the Nobel Prize for literature? Inarguably, a documentary has more in common with ‘literature’ than with issues of war and peace. I don’t know how Doris Lessing could be tied into the ‘Peace’ Prize, but if Gore’s anti-climate change documentary can, anything can.

Seriously. You’re free to be pro Gore, or pro climate change activism,, but a Peace Prize for this is completely absurd on the face of it.



Brett Bellmore 10.13.07 at 1:59 am

“While it’s not a science prize, it would certainly not have been awarded if there was any serious doubt about (rather than politically motivated opposition to) the science of climate change.”

That has got to be, without reservation, the most patently silly statement I have ever seen at this blog.


Walt 10.13.07 at 2:11 am

When you comment here so often, Brett? That’s a bold claim.


Eli Rabett 10.13.07 at 2:23 am

The bull can be dealt with tomorrow. Tonight is for celebrating.


Brett Bellmore 10.13.07 at 2:38 am

I am frequently mistaken, and sometimes whimsical, but the imbecility of suggesting that the Peace prize, whose recipients aren’t even reliably men of peace, could never ever be given to somebody whose science wasn’t indisputably correct is manifest. I’m not sure you’d be on safe grounds making such a claim about one of the science prizes!


Henry Kissinger 10.13.07 at 2:39 am

Welcome to the club, Al.


Barry 10.13.07 at 2:46 am

“That has got to be, without reservation, the most patently silly statement I have ever seen at this blog.”

Posted by Brett Bellmore

Pot, kettle, black, Brett.


christian h. 10.13.07 at 2:55 am

Well, I guess it’s not a lifetime achievement (in peace) award. With that reservation, I’m happy to see attention given towards an important issue.


asg 10.13.07 at 3:01 am

Brett: Oh come now. It hasn’t been that long since Maria Farrell’s post-Katrina hand-wringer. Besides, John Quiggin talking about “bubbles of delusion” pretty much overwhelms any sensitivity to irony one might have had left after that 3rd graf.


John Quiggin 10.13.07 at 3:38 am

Good to see the Republican War on Science so well represented here, and proving my point so neatly. Obviously, in the planet inhabited by asg and Brett, the rest of us are indeed deluded, as shown by the discovery of Saddam’s WMDs, the recent exposure of global warming theory as a conspiracy and so on.


rm 10.13.07 at 3:40 am

Brett’s contrarianism aside, I am surprised at the jaundiced view expressed here. Science doesn’t do a good job of speaking for itself; the general public needs channels of communication (a movie, a spokesperson, live events, journalism, TV) that discuss the consequences or significance of science. That channel must be 1) fair and reasonably accurate (realizing that to explain is to simplify, which is to introduce some error, which will open one to bad-faith attack) and 2) persuasive. Gore has stepped into that role. I don’t know what it’s like elsewhere; I know in the U.S. our politics are governed by symbolic gesture and ideology. We need more voices like Gore’s.

Regarding Brett’s trollery, the thing is it’s not the exact rightness of every detail of _An Inconvient Truth_ that matters, though of course the more it’s correct the better; what matters is that he’s right in the big picture: climate change is happening.


Jon H 10.13.07 at 3:43 am

I’m kinda hoping the Economics prize will go to Matthew Lesko.


tom s. 10.13.07 at 4:20 am

I confess to being baffled by the Nobel. I mean, climate change is bad and war is bad, but they are different. These recipients have done nothing for peace.


JanieM 10.13.07 at 4:34 am

Tom S @16: Is it so hard to see the connections between climate change, increasing pressure on resources, and an increase in warlike conflict? Thus helping to avert or ameliorate climate change (however hopeless that seems at this point) may contribute to keeping the peace, or at least more of it than otherwise?


notsneaky 10.13.07 at 4:34 am

For the record I like Al Gore and global warmongering is real and it is bad and blah blah blah. My objections are essentially same as tom s. in 16. Gore got the prize not because he was the best candidate but because the Nobel Peace Prize is a variation on America’s Top Model competition. It’s a popularity contest where being a B-list celebrity matters much more than the actual contributions a person has made to, um, peace. Well… they did get it more right last year.


John Quiggin 10.13.07 at 5:30 am

Just to be boringly reality-based, the claim Brett regards as breathtakingly silly can be supported by reference to all the major scientific academies and discipline-based associations in the world, thousands of articles in academic journals and so on.

The Brett/asg position is supported by important authorities including Michael Crichton, Mark Steyn and Steve Milloy and by publications in such journals as the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, Energy and Environment and 21st Century Science and Technology.


albert 10.13.07 at 5:50 am

Actually, I see Brett as saying (through use of a quadruple negative) that it’s obvious that if you’re going to give a peace prize to scientists (rather than peacemakers) that the science behind the nobel is good. Hence, Brett thinks the IPCC/Gore science is good.

As to exactly what the point of that comment is, I am at a loss.

It’s not like they’ve always given it to people who promote peace congresses and the abolition of standing armies. Take last year for example.


JamesP 10.13.07 at 6:56 am

Wars are frequently fought over scarce resources, and the environment has rather a lot to do with that. The award was given to an African activist for tree-planting programs some years back. It has always been interpreted to have a broad scope – after all, Mother Theresa was not a peacemaker per se.


Martin Wisse 10.13.07 at 9:42 am

Climate change is going to drive the wars of this century, when it’s not doing so already. Working to reduce the impact of climate change means the chance of war is reduced also.

Besides that, peace is more than the absence of war and the Nobel Prize comittee has been known to take a broad view of peace activities before.

Any other criticism of why Al Gore was awarded the Prize can be countered with two words:

Henry Kissinger.


John Emerson 10.13.07 at 10:26 am

One specific point: the Peace Prize is frequently given to humanitarians whose work has not direct connection to war and peace, for example Norman Borlaug, the Green Revolution guy. (And politically-incorrect too, smirched with an agribusiness connection!)So that objection to Gore’s Nobel is stupid, stupid, stupid! (But around here, quite expected).

Jesse Walker has done an survey of Peace Prize winners which is worth a look. It’s a pretty miscellaneous group, and Gore fits into it fine.

Walker seems a bit cynical about the very idea of a Peace Prize, and Brett is unenthusiastic about the very idea of Al Gore also, but no one need pay any serious attention to those two guys.


Brett Bellmore 10.13.07 at 11:34 am

I’m glad to see that at least notsneaky understands my point, even if Quiggen et all don’t: It’s not one of the science prizes, it’s the Peace prize, an award indicating that the Nobel committee likes Gore’s politics. The science of Gore’s position could be as solidly grounded as thermodynamics, and it wouldn’t have any relevance to my dismissal of the notion that Gore getting the prize wasn’t dependent on his science being good.

Again, he didn’t get the prize for science, he got it for politics, and his getting the prize is about as dependent on the science being undisputed as his getting the Oscar was.

You’re reading a statement that A is not dependent on B, and thinking I’m saying not B.


bi 10.13.07 at 11:49 am

So Brett Bellmore, you’re saying that even if the anthropogenic global warming theory is rock solid, it’s obvious that the Nobel Committee is awarding a prize only because they hate Bush?

You can read political partisanship into everything if you try hard enough…


ejh 10.13.07 at 11:54 am

Before we go on too much about the Republican War on Science, can anybody remind me about that Senate vote on Kyoto and how many Democrats voted for the US to ratify?


John Quiggin 10.13.07 at 12:04 pm

Keep digging, Britt, but check your speling next time.


John Quiggin 10.13.07 at 12:11 pm

EJH, the only relevant vote in recent years has been on the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Bill. Democrats voted 36-11 in favour.

You are probably thinking of a non-binding vote that took place more than a decade ago, before Kyoto was even written. This is a talking point that’s about as relevant as the 17000 “scientists” who signed the Oregon Petition at the same time.


ejh 10.13.07 at 12:29 pm

Mmmm. Actual behaviour of actual Democrats in actual Senate – not wholly irrelevant, perhaps.


John Emerson 10.13.07 at 1:26 pm

Partisan shots would be relevant if Republicans were better than the Democrats, or if people talking about global warming were all Democratic partisans. Since the Republican Party has united against almost all forms of environmentalism, and since whatever environmentalists there are in Congress are Democrats, the Democrats have a clear advantage on the issue. On the other hand, if the Democrats ever gained control of government, there’d be some real intraparty struggles.


Glorious Godfrey 10.13.07 at 1:39 pm

The inimitable Vaclav Klaus “is surprised, but probably not amused.”:

“The challenging by Gore of civilisation´s basic principles”. All who have an appreciation of good trolling should take a leaf from VK´s sub-objectivist tirades. What a funny motherfucker.


Uncle Kvetch 10.13.07 at 2:36 pm

the aptly-named DeLay-Doolittle committee

Wow. I had no idea. That is nothing short of magnificent.

Oh, and thanks to Brett for bringing teh funny on this lovely autumnal morning. You never fail to disappoint, Dude.


engels 10.13.07 at 2:59 pm

DeLay-Doolittle committee

That is indeed wonderful; I think it casts serious doubt on Saussure’s principle of the ‘arbitrariness of the sign’.


cartesian 10.13.07 at 3:58 pm

This is the second time the Nobel prizes have honored work on climate change, the first being the award of the 1995 Chemistry Prize to Crutzen, Molina and Sherwood for their discovery of the chemical reactions that led CFCs to deplete the ozone layer.

Wasn’t the early work on CFCs work on the depletion of the ozone layer, rather than on “climate change”?

The Nobel Peace prize that was awarded to environmentalist and tree-planter Wangari Maathai in 2004 did honor work on climate change though.


P O'Neill 10.13.07 at 4:23 pm

It is kinda funny to hear the right belittle the Nobel Peace Prize, having once held up the virtues of a mere nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in Medicine during the Terri Schiavo controversy.


tom s. 10.13.07 at 6:57 pm

janiem@18 and john emerson@24, and even though notsneaky@19 argues is well:

Yes I can see the connections between climate change and resource pressure etc etc. But things can be connected and still not be the same thing. There is a benefit to being precise, and in my view (and despite precedents) I think peace is important and is also a fluffy enough concept that we should try to keep it as specific as possible.

And if that’s “stupid, stupid, stupid” well, I expect a little better from zizka.


Jon H 10.13.07 at 7:05 pm

It’s interesting how Gore’s Nobel has really exposed how shallowly many people’s thinking about climate change is.


Jon H 10.13.07 at 7:05 pm

Er, that should be ‘shallow’.


John Emerson 10.13.07 at 7:24 pm

Seriously, look at past peace prize winners. It seems to be about 40% peace in the strict sense, 40% human rights, and 20% other (Grameem bank, green revolution, etc.)

Don’t see any reason why precision is important here.


tom s. 10.13.07 at 8:14 pm

Well, I’ll give one more flog to this horse.

Two reasons why precision is important, to me at least:
1. Forks should be in the fork drawer and knives should be in the knife drawer. It’s just a personal thing.
2. Peace = ending or preventing war is one thing. Peace = directly ameliorating current human suffering imposed by one set of people on another is pretty close to it – so close I have no problem with peace prize awards to people like Aung San Suu Kyi who have had to personally confront direct and immediate violence. Peace = amelioration of poverty is stretching things a bit. Is ameliorating poverty any less valuable than ending war? No – but see (1) above. Peace = disseminating greater knowledge about man-made climate change and laying the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change. Well it’s just too many steps away for me.

Tom the Shallow


notsneaky 10.13.07 at 8:23 pm

I don’t have a problem with the precision thing. Sure, the prize goes to people who did all kinds of things that weren’t strictly speaking about peace. That’s fine. I just think there were better, more deserving candidates.


Colin Danby 10.13.07 at 10:26 pm

I assume Tom et al. will support the establishment of a distinct prize for work to avert massive ecological catastrophe.

Meanwhile, I suggest a Vaclav Klaus Memorial Prize for “challenging … the foundation stones of the present civilisation.”


John Emerson 10.13.07 at 10:44 pm

Lots of old awards have drifted. If Rhodes scholarships followed their original charter only neocon jocks could get one.


notsneaky 10.13.07 at 11:30 pm

“establishment of a distinct prize for work to avert massive ecological catastrophe.”

Sure, why not.


JanieM 10.14.07 at 12:11 am

Tom S: I think peace is important and is also a fluffy enough concept that we should try to keep it as specific as possible.

I agree that it’s a fluffy concept. But you can’t turn a fluffy concept into a concrete one just by saying things would be easier if you could. You can’t make peace and love behave like knives and forks no matter what you do.

Or I should say, echoing you, that “we” can’t. Which leads to the question: which “we” do you mean? I assume you’re not on the Nobel committee, so there’s really no “we” about it. You could endow your own prize, I suppose, and define “peace” more narrowly. If you do that, my guess is that 100 years hence, if there are any humans left alive, they will be arguing about whether the current recipient really meets the criteria. (Their criteria, of course, not yours.)


JanieM 10.14.07 at 12:38 am

For the record, the Nobel “statutes,” quoting Alfred Nobel’s will (1895), say the prize(s) should be given…

…to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind. The said interest shall be divided into five equal parts, which shall be apportioned as follows: … and one part to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.


No mention of war, barely any mention of peace, and no definition of either.

But clearly, as a number of people have pointed out and a number of people have bemoaned, the winners very often do not fit within a narrow interpretation of the requirements.

The implied faith in “peace congresses” would strike me as quaint, if it weren’t so heartbreaking. Pre-WWI, pre-WWII, pre- , well, you know.


sara 10.14.07 at 2:17 am

By the time China and India go to war over water resources, the wisdom of granting Gore the Nobel Peace Prize should be apparent. The Himalaya glaciers, a major source of water for China and India, have been shrinking rapidly. Many other political hot spots around the world will be made, uh, hotter by global warming.


tom s. 10.14.07 at 2:26 am

Fine, fine, I concede. It’s a Nobel Prize for Good Deeds, Important Acts and Fine People.


rm 10.14.07 at 4:12 am

Oh . . . I’m way too late to pile on poor Tom S. Sorry. I was gonna say that it’s arguably true that all wars are about resource scarcity. Like sara said at 48. But now I won’t say it, I’ll just lurk.


nick s 10.14.07 at 4:39 am

Remember, Brett thinks that the best defenders of peace are cranky middle-aged white guys with large personal armories. Sorry you missed out again, Brett.


Eli Rabett 10.14.07 at 4:55 am

It is tomorrow, and Tim Lambert dug up a particularly ripe piece of old cheese, without quite realizing that he had located the real McGuffin


abb1 10.14.07 at 7:47 am

My opinion: Cindy Sheehan should’ve gotten it.


Hidari 10.14.07 at 12:40 pm

Incidentally, has Alexander Cockburn gone mad? No, but seriously?


loren 10.14.07 at 1:39 pm

Mere personal preference, but I would have liked to see the peace prize go to Sheila Watt-Cloutier instead of Gore (the former being in keeping with the spirit of recent awards to Yunus and Maathai and other devoted activists who’ve made a small but promising difference on the ground). Looking over the past awards, however, they tend to go back and forth between noted (and often controversial — Kissinger!!?!??) political and diplomatic figures who focus widespread attention on vital issues, on the one hand, and far less famous individuals who have quietly devoted their lives to vital causes, on the other. So fair enough (and I agree with others that it’s a good thing that “Peace” is interpreted broadly).

Seems to me the nobels would work better these days if the scientific categories could somehow be changed (no doubt in clear violation of Nobel’s will) to reflect contemporary trends, i.e. distinguishing physics and chemistry seems a bit strained on the one side, and separating chemistry and important areas of (often medical-related) biology seems similarly strained, on the other.

Better, I’d think, to have something like ‘physical sciences’, ‘life sciences’, and maybe ‘human sciences’ which could include medical, behavioural and social sciences (which might at least partially satisfy the curmudgeonly academy critics of the economics memorial prize – which is now more of a social/behavioural sciences prize anyway).


asg 10.14.07 at 2:26 pm

The Brett/asg position

Since I never stated a position, I assume you are referring to the one you’d really like me to hold.


bi 10.14.07 at 3:17 pm


“John Quiggin talking about ‘bubbles of delusion’ pretty much overwhelms any sensitivity to irony one might have had left after that 3rd graf.”

I think that does describe a position. But of course it’s not _your_ position, it’s the position of an indefinite “one”. According to you, that is… or maybe it’s according to some indefinite “one”, who happens to be a definite you.

Now, back to treasonous facts.


Alex 10.14.07 at 4:03 pm

@55: Yes. Some time ago; in fact the date can be given with some precision, as the day in the spring of 2004 he decided to retail divers Swift Boat Vets propaganda against John Kerry. Thanks for that, Cockburn!


greensmile 10.14.07 at 7:05 pm

martin gets it half right in 24, notsneaky not even that good in 20. Can any of you suggest who has done more than Gore to give the weight of the findings of those scientists a political visibility? The sad fact is people don’t get issues as well as they do personalities, faces and packaged positions. I have not heard many scientists complaining of the choice. The science prizes have been awarded already, climate science is not among the categories.


loren 10.14.07 at 7:35 pm

greensmile: “The science prizes have been awarded already, climate science is not among the categories.”

True enough.

It’d be nice to see a future award that recognized the fruitful interplay of complex computational models and creative empirical testing that seems to characterize much of recent climate science (at least, so it seems given my frail grasp of even the gross simplifications offered by experts in the field), but it seems as if it might fit slightly weirdly in the current categories, encompassing as it does applied mathematics and computational modeling, chemistry, physics, ecology, natural history — and a plethora of subfields in each of these areas.

Digging back a few years, Mario Molina, Paul Crutzen, and Sherwood Rowland won the 1995 prize in chemistry for their work in atmospheric chemistry, specifically: the formation and decomposition of atmospheric ozone – arguably an award made with clear recognition of a critical environmental issue.


David 10.14.07 at 7:59 pm

Well, actually three words in addition to “Henry Kissinger.” Le Duc Tho.


goatchowder 10.15.07 at 2:23 am

I thought DeLay-Doolittle was the name of an Amendment that was intended to scuttle campaign finance reform? I don’t remember it ever being the name of a committee.


John Quiggin 10.15.07 at 2:43 am

#63, I may have been inexact. Here’s the story.


Randolph Fritz 10.15.07 at 4:35 am

The stuff about how climate change has nothing to do with war or peace seems to be the new party line; I’m seeing it all over the place. But it’s an expression of, at best, a lack of imagination, if not something darker. The scope of the effects of climate change: millions of refugees, shifts in the locations of arable lands, loss of low-lying coastlands, the economic changes that will be required for mitigation and reversal, are the stuff of which great wars are made. To respond to climate change is to work for peace, and Al Gore is one of the leaders of that response.

Al Gore and Doris Lessing. The revolution is here.

[parts previously posted at the Sideshow]


MFB 10.15.07 at 10:14 am

1. Gore has made a slide-show and a movie (with a lot of help with both). Big, fat, hairy deal. George Monbiot should be getting the prize, then. I mean, he actually wrote a big book on the subject all by himself.
2. None of the above denies anthropogenic global warming, and anyone who does, and who is not a climate scientist in line for a Nobel, is a twerp.
3. The reason why Gore’s getting the prize is not because he is such a splendid chap. He is a) an opposition US politician, and b) is expressing views which contradict the loopy views of the current US administration.

In short, this Nobel, like the one to El Baradei, should be seen as a rap over the knuckles for the Bush administration, and as such is well deserved.


Thom Brooks 10.15.07 at 10:31 am


ajay 10.15.07 at 10:53 am

The implied faith in “peace congresses” would strike me as quaint, if it weren’t so heartbreaking.

We still have lots of peace congresses, even post WW2, and they still produce results. We don’t call them that anymore – we call them “summit meetings” or something – but Nobel would have recognised things like, inter alia, the SALT, INF, CTB and CFE talks and the Camp David summit as peace congresses.

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