Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have been awarded the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize for 2007. According to the Nobel Foundation, the award was given “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change”. Predictably, conservatives and others who challenge the doctrines of man-made climate change are apoplectic at the award and claim it shows bias in the committee that makes such awards. They, however, miss the larger point.
Let’s assume for the moment that all of Al Gore’s claims on climate change are true. The idea that he gets the peace prize for such claims is what should merit discussion. The president of Czechoslovakia , Vaclav Klaus, also questioned the award for such a reason. To be fair, President Klaus is a climate change skeptic, but his point remains. Isn’t the Nobel Peace Prize about peace?
In 2006, the peace prize was given to Muhammed Yunus and Grameen Bank for economic and social development of poor countries. In 2005, it was to the International Atomic Energy Agency for nuclear non-proliferation work. In fact, in reviewing the entire balance of past award winners, the prize was given to those working to end conflicts, promote human rights, promote economic development in poor countries, or weapons non-proliferation. 2007 marks the first time the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded for a reason wholly unconnected to stopping war. Claims that climate change will cause violent conflicts are absurd on their face. People are entitled to think that man-made climate change is important, but that doesn’t make it a peace issue.
In recent years the peace prize has strayed somewhat from its intended purpose to the point that it is mere comedy today. No serious commentator is truly surprised that Al Gore won the award, it was clear six months ago. It is no surprise that recent award winners were mere charlatans who took the award from true peacemakers. Yasser Arafat, Nelson Mandela, and Henry Kissinger wouldn’t be three people on the top of any list of people promoting world peace and there were far more worthy people who could have gotten those awards.
The IAEA and the UN have noble purposes but generally are resounding failures. Their awards were given more as a “stick-it-to-ya” directed at the United States, not because they actually accomplished the mission of peace. However, the wholesale abandonment of peacemaking as the criteria for which the Nobel Peace Prize is offered indicates how far the Nobel committee has fallen from its original purpose. Alfred Nobel was a pacifist, not a politician. He intended to award others who promoted peace, not those who promoted the fad policy of the day.
No one can dispute Martin Luther King Jr.’s contribution to peace, or the contributions of the Red Cross, Doctors without Frontiers, or the Dalai Lama. Even if you accept man-made climate change as 100% true as presented by Al Gore, you must admit that the issue isn’t about world peace. It is a true shame that the committee has so tarnished the Nobel Peace Prize that it has totally abandoned the vision of its founder.
It also hides the great work done by many groups out there who are promoting human rights, freedom, economic development, and world peace. Those people certainly don’t get into that field because they want the glory, but it's a shame that this Nobel Prize takes away one avenue that the public has to see their important work.
John Bambenek is the Assistant Politics Editor for BC Magazine and is an academic professional for the University of Illinois. By trade, he is an information security professional, part of the Internet Storm Center and a courseware author and certification grader for the GIAC family of security certifications. He is a syndicated columnist who blogs at Part-Time Pundit and the executive director of The Tumaini Foundation which helps AIDS orphans and other children in Tanzania to get an education.