Al Gore, United Nations panel share Nobel Peace Prize for climate work

PALO ALTO, Calif. -- Former vice president Al Gore, newly named co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, said Friday he hopes the honor will "elevate global consciousness" about the challenges of global warming.

Gore, whose documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," won an Academy Award earlier this year, was awarded the prize earlier in the day along with an international network of scientists for spreading awareness of man-made climate change and laying the foundations for counteracting it.

"This is just the beginning," Gore told reporters at a meeting of the group. "Now is the time to elevate global consciousness about the challenges that we face."

Gore, who was an advocate of stemming climate change and global warning well before his eight years as vice president, called the award meaningful because of his co-winner, calling the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change the "world's pre-eminent scientific body devoted to improving our understanding of the climate crisis."

Gore plans to donate his half of the $1.5 million prize money to the Alliance for Climate Protection, a bipartisan not-for-profit organization that is devoted to changing public opinion worldwide about the urgency of solving the climate crisis.

The last American to win the prize, or share it, was former president Jimmy Carter, who won it 2002.

At the time, then-committee chairman Gunnar Berge called the prize "a kick in the leg" to the Bush administration for its threats of war against Iraq. In response, some members of the secretive committee criticized Berge for expressing personal views in the panel's name.

Mjoes, elected to succeed Berge a few months later, referred to that dispute on Friday, saying the committee "has never given a kick in the leg to anyone."

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.

Eighty-four percent in the U.S. believe world temperatures are rising, according to a poll last month by The Associated Press and Stanford University's Woods Institute for the Environment. Yet while about seven in 10 said they want strong public and private action to help the environment, fewer than one in 10 said they had seen such steps in the past year.

In its citation, the committee said that Gore "has for a long time been one of the world's leading environmentalist politicians" and cited his awareness at an early stage "of the climatic challenges the world is facing.

The committee cited the IPCC for its two decades of scientific reports that have "created an ever-broader informed consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming. Thousands of scientists and officials from over 100 countries have collaborated to achieve greater certainty as to the scale of the warming."

It went on to say that because of the panel's efforts, global warming has been increasingly recognized. In the 1980s it "seemed to be merely an interesting hypothesis, the 1990s produced firmer evidence in its support. In the last few years, the connections have become even clearer and the consequences still more apparent."

Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC chairman, said he and Gore really had 2,000 co-laureates -- each of the scientists in the U.N. panel's research network.

"This award also thrusts a new responsibility on our shoulders," Pachauri said. "We have to do more, and we have many more miles to go."

But some questioned the prize decision.

"Awarding it to Al Gore cannot be seen as anything other than a political statement. Awarding it to the IPCC is well-founded," said Bjorn Lomborg, author of "The Skeptical Environmentalist.

He criticized Gore's film as having "some very obvious mistakes, like the argument that we're going to see six meters of sea-level rise," he said.

"They (Nobel committee) have a unique platform in getting people's attention on this issue, and I regret they have used it to make a political statement."

In his 1895 will creating the prize, the Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel said it should be awarded for efforts toward peacemaking and disarmament, and the award now often also recognizes human rights, democracy, elimination of poverty, sharing resources and the environment. Last year, for example, it went to the Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank for pioneering the use of microcredit to spur creation of small businesses in poor nations.

Jan Egeland, a Norwegian peace mediator and former senior U.N. official 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.

Associated Press Writers Doug Mellgren and Matt Moore contributed to this report from Oslo, Norway, and Ron Fournier contributed to this report from Washington.

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