WASHINGTON – Former Vice President Al Gore completed a remarkable political renaissance Friday when he won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his relentless and sometimes controversial crusade against global warming.
Sharing one of the world’s most coveted prizes with a United Nations-sponsored scientific group on climate change, the loser of 2000’s razor-thin presidential election suddenly gained new stature, sparking speculation that he might use the award as a springboard to take another run at the White House.
Gore avoided that question at a press conference in California, but his spokeswoman, Kalee Kreider, said in an e-mail that he “has no intention of running for president in 2008. He is involved in a campaign of a different kind, to educate people about the climate crisis and what they can do to solve it. That’s what today is about.”
Gore said he would try to use the award and recognition to speed awareness of the dangers of climate change. “It truly is a planetary emergency. We have to respond quickly.”
Still, he did not rule out getting into the race.
The former vice president said he would donate his half of the $1.5 million prize to the Alliance for Climate Protection, an advocacy group he helped found. The Norwegian Nobel Committee also said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UN-sponsored group of about 2,500 scientists from around the world, would share the prize with Gore.
In various reports this year, the IPCC concluded it is 90 percent certain that global warming is caused by human activity and that it could cause catastrophic results in the 21st century.
The Nobel committee cited Gore’s political activity, films and books, and concluded “he is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted.”
With Friday’s announcement of the prize in Oslo, Norway, skeptics also stepped up their criticism of the former vice president and the IPCC, saying they have exaggerated the future risks of a general rise in world temperatures in recent years.
“The decision by the Nobel Foundation to award this year’s prize to Albert Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is very disappointing,” said Joseph Bast, president of the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based research group. “Neither deserves this recognition.”
A White House spokesman, Tony Fratto, said President Bush was “happy” Gore and the IPCC were chosen. “Obviously, it’s an important recognition, and we’re sure the vice president is thrilled,” Fratto said. Democratic presidential candidates praised Gore, as did Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who supports a plan to curb “greenhouse gas” emissions that contribute to climate change.
Gore, 59, who narrated “An Inconvenient Truth” and also won an Emmy award, would face a major challenge if he decided to get into the presidential race. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., is far ahead in the polls for the Democratic nomination and has raised millions of dollars. And Gore has conceded that he is “not very good” at politics.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee said the prize was awarded to Gore and the IPCC 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.”
Some saw this statement as an indirect slap at Bush, who has rejected mandatory steps to control carbon dioxide emissions that get trapped in the atmosphere and contribute to global warming.
But at a press conference in New Delhi, Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC, said he did not read any “such implications” in the Nobel committee’s announcement.