Knowledge brokers get the Nobel

2007-10-12

in Daily updates, Politics, Science, The environment

Meaghan Beattie and Milan Ilnyckyj

The hot news today is that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Al Gore (though not Sheila Watt-Cloutier) have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. While some have questioned the appropriateness of awarding the prize on the basis of achievements not directly related to armed conflict, it does seem that the conflict potential connected with migration, water scarcity, and so forth makes this less of a stretch than some previous awards.

What is most notable about all this, for me, is that neither Gore nor the IPCC have actually contributed to climatic science. The IPCC exists to review the published academic literature on climatic science and agree upon a consensus position; Gore has acted as an effective advocate and representative, though his overall contribution has been far more in the area of information transmission than the area of information generation.

What this shows is how vitally important the layer between scientists and policy-makers or the general public is. Scientists are looking (with great skill and detail) at the individual elements that make up the climatic system. Translating that into a comprehensive understanding of relationships and risks – of the sort that can guide policy development – is critical and challenging. As such, these Nobel prizes are well earned.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous October 12, 2007 at 10:16 am

Al Gore wins Nobel Peace Prize
Former U.S. vice-president shares award with UN climate change panel

CBC Newsworld Host Andrew Nichols: Sheila Watt-Cloutier joins me from Iqaluit. What did you think when you heard that Al Gore and the IPCC have won the Noble Peace Prize this year.

Sheila Watt-Cloutier: Well, knowing the hard work that both the organization of IPCC and what Al Gore has done to advance this issue which is so important; I was very pleased that they had won. There is no doubt about that. Because for me, the issue has won. And in fact, our own planet earth is a winner in all of this.

Andrew Nichols: I have to ask you though you were also considered a favourite to win this prize, perhaps in conjunction with Al Gore were you a little bit disappointed that you yourself had not won?

Sheila Watt-Cloutier: Well, I was a little bit surprised to be honest because we had jointly been nominated by two Norwegian Parliamentarians so it was more of a surprise than of great disappoint because I don’t try to put too much expectation on things that are external to my own life, but it certainly would have helped and in that sense, I think to continue to put the issue on the map in terms of the Arctic issues and the human dimension to it, in that respect I have to admit I was a little bit disappointed.

Andrew Nichols: What do you think is behind that if in fact you were coupled Al Gore why wouldn’t you have won alongside of him. Do you have any sense of that?

Sheila Watt-Cloutier: I think it would be speculation, but I suspect because the IPCC is such a very important scientific body that brings together about 2000 scientists and because they have made so much headway recently with some of their very strong reports on climate change and in particularly with the Arctic clauses, that it would be a good time probably I’m just trying to put myself into the minds of the Norwegians who decided this, and the conference of the parties coming up on climate change issues in — they thought perhaps it was more strategic to have ipcc there rather than myself.

Andrew Nichols: What do you think that this win means for the whole issue of global warming?

Sheila Watt-Cloutier: Oh I think it’s huge. I think there is a paradigm shift happening in the world today in terms of how climate change and environmental did he degradation is so much connected to peace and security. Even for us in the Arctic, you know, people, very few people understand that the issue of the ice being intact and it being cold up here is an issue of safety and security. Because we are hunting people who rely upon the well-being of our environment not only to survive but to of course thrive which we have for a millennium. So I think the linkages are being made in terms of the well-being of communities as a whole and that’s a good sign.

. October 12, 2007 at 10:36 am

Let me be clear. If Al Gore gets into the presidential race, I’ll eat my copy of An Inconvenient Truth. (The paperback, not the DVD.) I’ve spent a good deal of time with Gore this year, while writing a TIME cover story about him. I think he’s staying out of the race — and I think I know why.

Time Magazine

R.K. October 12, 2007 at 11:11 am

Gristmill has commentary:

“There’s no reason to think that winning the prize would have any positive effect on Gore’s chances if he did run. Does the American public care about the Nobel, a prize awarded by a bunch of … foreigners? Wouldn’t winning a “peace” prize brand Gore as weak on national security? Doesn’t it show that he thinks he’s better than us? Who would want to get a beer with a Nobel Peace Prize winner? Wait, did he just sigh?

If he entered the race, Gore would run headlong into the same dim-bulb, theatrics-obsessed political press that did him so much harm in the 2000 race. He’d also run into Hillary Clinton’s political machine. He would own the climate change issue, so other candidates would have to start attacking him on it and distancing themselves from it. He’d be forced to spend his time discussing one piece of frenzied ephemera after another, instead of focusing on his animating passion. He’d end up in a bruising, demeaning battle, and winning some peace prize wouldn’t shield him. The process of electing a president, like so many things in the U.S. today, has become small and petty. It shrinks, cheapens, simplifies, and plasticizes those who take part in it, and Gore has already learned.”

R.K. October 12, 2007 at 11:14 am

Why Al Gore deserves the Nobel Peace Prize
Gore’s effort to focus attention on climate change supports the goal of preventing wars
Posted by Grist at 8:00 PM on 11 Oct 2007

Sean October 12, 2007 at 1:44 pm

I dont think he should run. His role in raising the issue of climate change is arguably his greatest political achievement.

I feel that those who question the award as it is not directly related to armed conflcit are astonishingly myopic. The way we have ruined our planet has the potential to contribute to conflict over resources, access to something as basic as water and climate refugees.

Random bloke October 13, 2007 at 1:14 pm

“Sheila Watt-Cloutier: I think it would be speculation, but I suspect because the IPCC is such a very important scientific body that brings together about 2000 scientists and because they have made so much headway recently with some of their very strong reports on climate change and in particularly with the Arctic clauses, that it would be a good time probably I’m just trying to put myself into the minds of the Norwegians who decided this, and the conference of the parties coming up on climate change issues in — they thought perhaps it was more strategic to have ipcc there rather than myself.” – That’s extraordinarily passive-aggressive of her.

Milan October 13, 2007 at 2:02 pm

Emily has a post on this: Al Gore – You Win!

Anon October 15, 2007 at 9:50 am

What the citation didn’t mention but needs to be said is that it shouldn’t have to be left to a private citizen — even one so well known as Mr. Gore — or a panel of scientists to raise that alarm or prove what is now clearly an undeniable link or champion solutions to a problem that endangers the entire planet.

That should be, and must be the job of governments. And governments — above all the Bush administration — have failed miserably.

There will be skeptics who ask what the Peace Prize has to do with global warming. The committee answered that unhesitatingly with its warning that climate change, if unchecked, could unleash massive migrations, violent competitions for resources and, ultimately, threaten the “security of mankind.”

There will also be those who complain that this prize — like the committee’s earlier awards to Jimmy Carter and the chief United Nations nuclear inspector, Mohamed ElBaradei — is an intentional slap at President Bush. It should be. We only wish that it would finally wake up the president.

Anon October 15, 2007 at 10:13 am

The worst thing about Mr. Gore, from the conservative point of view, is that he keeps being right. In 1992, George H. W. Bush mocked him as the “ozone man,” but three years later the scientists who discovered the threat to the ozone layer won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. In 2002 he warned that if we invaded Iraq, “the resulting chaos could easily pose a far greater danger to the United States than we presently face from Saddam.” And so it has proved.

Anon October 15, 2007 at 10:25 am

Last April 27, Mr. Gore, author of the award-winning book and documentary An Inconvenient Truth, criticized the Harper-Baird climate change plan, released a few days earlier. At the time, Mr. Gore blasted the Conservatives’ new policy as a “complete and total fraud…. designed to mislead the Canadian people” and urged Canadians to increase pressure on their government. The Harper-Baird plan was the source of additional outcry internationally. “International recognition for Mr. Gore and the IPCC only brings the inadequacies of the Harper-Baird plan into starker relief, underscoring the bankruptcy of their schemes and petty politics, which are undermining public interest and confidence.”

Anonymous October 18, 2007 at 1:09 pm

Gore the pure

Oct 18th 2007
From The Economist print edition

Nobel laureate Al Gore is unlikely to run again. His ideas are catching on, but people still don’t want to pay for them

THE last eco-warrior to win the Nobel peace prize, Wangari Maathai (a tree-planting conservationist who won in 2004), was barely known outside her native Kenya. Al Gore is a flashier shade of green. His trophy cabinet is already bulging—the Nobel medal will have to jostle for space with an Oscar and an Emmy, all won this year. His political career has probably attracted more attention than that of any other living non-president. Billions watched the drama of Bush v Gore unfold in 2000. So last week’s announcement in Norway has naturally ignited speculation that Mr Gore will mount another bid for the White House.

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