Al Gore and the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize Friday, and the former vice president used the attention to warn that global warming is "the greatest challenge we've ever faced."
World leaders, President Bush among them, congratulated the winners, while skeptics of man's contribution to warming criticized the choice of Gore.
Gore in a statement said he was " deeply honored ... We face a true planetary emergency. The climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity."
"It is the most dangerous challenge we've ever faced, but it is also the greatest opportunity we have had to make changes," he later said at a brief news conference in Palo Alto, Calif.
Gore did not take any questions. As he walked away a reporter asked if he would run for president, but Gore did not respond.
Gore’s film "An Inconvenient Truth," a documentary on global warming, won an Academy Award this year. He had been widely expected to win the peace prize.
"His strong commitment, reflected in political activity, lectures, films and books, has strengthened the struggle against climate change," the Nobel citation said. "He is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted."
It cited Gore's awareness at an early stage "of the climatic challenges the world is facing."
Panel's two decadesThe Nobel Peace Prize committee also cited the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for two decades of scientific reports that have "created an ever-broader informed consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming."
The IPCC groups 2,500 researchers from more than 130 nations and issued reports this year blaming human activities for climate changes ranging from more heat waves to floods. It was set up in 1988 by the United Nations to help guide governments.
Climate change has moved high on the international agenda this year. The U.N. climate panel has been releasing reports, talks on a replacement for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on climate are set to resume and on Europe's northern fringe, where the awards committee works, there is growing concern about the melting Arctic.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee said global warming "may induce large-scale migration and lead to greater competition for the Earth's resources. Such changes will place particularly heavy burdens on the world's most vulnerable countries. There may be increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and between states."
Gore said he would donate his share of the $1.5 million that accompanies the prize to the non-profit Alliance for Climate Protection.
Ole Danbolt Mjoes, chairman of the prize committee, said the award should not be seen as singling out the Bush administration for criticism.
"A peace prize is never a criticism of anything," he said. "A peace prize is a positive message and support to all those champions of peace in the world."
President Bush abandoned the Kyoto Protocol because he said it would harm the U.S. economy and because it did not require immediate cuts by countries like China and India. The treaty aimed to put the biggest burden on the richest nations that contributed the most carbon emissions.
The U.S. Senate voted against mandatory carbon reductions before the Kyoto negotiations were completed. The treaty was never presented to the Senate for ratification by the Clinton administration.
“Al Gore has fought the environment battle even as vice president,” Mjoes said. “Many did not listen ... but he carried on.”
The White House said the prize was not seen as increasing pressure on the administration or showing that President Bush’s approach missed the mark.
“Of course he’s happy for Vice President Gore,” White House spokesman Tony Fratto said. “He’s happy for the international panel on climate change scientists who also shared the peace prize. Obviously it’s an important recognition.”
Fratto said Bush has no plans to call Gore.
Fans and foes
Reaction to the award was immediate.
"He's like the proverbial nut that grew into a giant oak by standing his ground," Patrick Michaels, a scholar with the free market Cato Institute, said in a statement. "We can only hope that he can parlay his prize into a run for the U. S. presidency, where he will be unable to hide from debate on his extreme and one-sided view of global warming."
British bookmakers once put 100-to-1 odds on Gore winning an Oscar, becoming a Nobel laureate and becoming president. He has now accomplished two of the three, and on Friday bookies slashed the odds to 8/1 from 10/1.
Gore, 59, has been coy, saying repeatedly he’s not running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, without ever closing that door completely.
FoxNews.com columnist Steve Milloy alleged that Gore "plays fast and loose with the facts to advance his personal agenda."
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called Gore " inspirational in focusing attention across the globe on this key issue."
Julia Marton-Lefèvre, head of the World Conservation Union,said that, "as Mr. Gore and the IPCC have clearly demonstrated, we can solve the grave dangers posed by climate change if we have the will. Let the Nobel Peace Prize become the embodiment of that will."
"Al Gore made it okay to talk about global warming over breakfast and dinner tables all across America," added Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "He made this unprecedented challenge understandable and the solutions accessible for millions of people."
'Question of war and peace'
The Nobel committee often uses the coveted prize to cast the global spotlight on a relatively little-known person or cause. Since Gore already had a high profile some had doubted that the committee would bestow the prize on him.
In recent years, the committee has broadened the interpretation of peacemaking and disarmament efforts outlined by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel in creating the prize with his 1895 will. The prize now often also recognizes human rights, democracy, elimination of poverty, sharing resources and the environment.
Two of the past three prizes have been untraditional, with the 2004 award to Kenya environmentalist Wangari Maathai and last year's award to Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank, which makes to micro-loans to the country's poor.
Jan Egeland, a Norwegian peace mediator and former U.N. undersecretary for humanitarian affairs, called climate change more than an environmental issue.
"It is a question of war and peace," said Egeland, now director of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs in Oslo. "We're already seeing the first climate wars, in the Sahel belt of Africa." He said nomads and herders are in conflict with farmers because the changing climate has brought drought and a shortage of fertile lands.