PALO ALTO, Calif. — For years, former Vice President Al Gore and a host of climate scientists were belittled and, worst of all, ignored, for their message about how dire global warming is.
On Friday, they were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their warnings about what Gore calls “a planetary emergency.”
Gore shared the prize with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations network of scientists. This scientific panel has explained the dry details of global warming in thousands of pages of footnoted reports every six years or so since 1990.
Gore, fresh from a near miss at winning the U.S. presidency in 2000, translated the numbers and jargon-laden reports into something people could understand. He made a slide show and went Hollywood.
His documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” won two Academy Awards and has been credited with changing the debate in America about global warming.
For Gore, it was all about the message.
“This is a chance to elevate global consciousness about the challenges that we face now,” he said Friday at the offices of the Alliance For Climate Protection, a nonprofit he founded. “The alarm bells are going off in the scientific community.”
Despite a live global stage, Gore did not take questions from reporters, avoiding the issue of a potential 2008 presidential run. His aides repeatedly say he won’t enter the race. Gore donated his share of the $1.5 million prize to the nonprofit.
“For my part, I will be doing everything I can to try to understand how to best use the honor and the recognition from this award as a way of speeding up the change in awareness and the change in urgency,” Gore said in brief remarks. “It is a planetary emergency and we have to act quickly.”
In announcing the award earlier in the day in Oslo, Norway, Nobel committee chairman Ole Danbolt Mjoes said the prize was not a slap at the Bush administration’s current policies. Instead, he said it was about encouraging all countries “to think again and to say what can they do to conquer global warming.”
Gore is the first former vice president to win the Peace Prize since 1906 when Theodore Roosevelt, who by that time had become president, was awarded. Sitting Vice President Charles Gates Dawes won the prize in 1925. Former president Jimmy Carter won it in 2002 and Woodrow Wilson in 1919.
Gore, who learned of his award from watching the live TV announcement — hearing his name amid the Norwegian — was not celebratory Friday. His tone was somber. He spoke beside his wife, Tipper, and four Stanford University climate scientists who were co-authors of the international climate report. Outside the building, schoolchildren held a sign saying, “Thank you Al.”
For years, there was little thanks.
From the late 1980s with his book “Earth in the Balance,” Gore championed the issue of global warming. He had monthly science seminars on it as vice president and helped negotiate the 1997 Kyoto Protocol that called for cuts in greenhouse gases.
“When he first started really working on the climate change issue, I remember he was ridiculed in the press and certainly by political opponents as some kind of kook out there in la-la land,” said federal climate scientist Tom Peterson, an IPCC co-author. “It’s delightful that he’s sharing this and he deserves it well. And it’s nice to have his work being vindicated.”
Since his loss to George W. Bush in 2000, Gore put aside political aspirations and became a global warming evangelical. He traveled to more than 50 countries. He presented his slide show on global warming more than 1,000 times.