19. 10. 2007

Climate change and peace

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Al Gore has finally (finally?!) declared that he’s absolutely not going to put himself forward as the Democratic presidential candidate. Thank God for that. The thought of Al reverting to his rather wooden, very risk-averse, not particularly friendly pre-2000 persona was an absolute nightmare. If he had failed (either at the first or the second hurdle), his stature would have been substantially diminished – as in “Nobel Peace Prize Winner and failed Presidential candidate twice over”. If he’d won, he’d have had a few other things on his plate other than climate change – and I suspect we would have lost him as the undisputed world leader in this area at the moment.

But hats off to the Nobel Prize Committee. By explicitly linking the worsening impacts of climate change with threats to peace and security (particularly through displaced people and growing numbers of environmental refugees), it reinforces the message that climate change is not an environmental issue, but much more to do with security and economics.

There’s been a predictable spate of hostile comments from Gore-haters and climate contrarians, questioning the sanity/ideology of the Nobel Prize Committee, just as there was a couple of years ago when Wangari Maathai, Founder of the Green Belt Movement in Kenya and redoubtable environmental campaigner, also won the prize. “What has planting trees got to do with promoting a more peaceful world?” This was a common-place response from these lame-brains.

But the Committee didn’t just honour Gore. The joint winner was the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an unprecedented honouring of one little cog in the monolithic machinery of the United Nations. And such a good decision. Even if you believe (like me) that the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report significantly underestimates both the speed of climate change and its severity, the sheer grinding slog of establishing a scientific consensus across all UN countries, and then getting countries like Saudi Arabia and the United States to buy into that consensus (even when that’s absolutely the last thing they want to do in the world) beggars belief.

The IPCC is a unique scientific body which has had a quite unique impact on the global debate.

And what a powerful way of telling critics of the IPCC like Bjørn Lomborg to bog off.

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