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Gore, U.N. climate panel win Nobel Peace Prize

By John Acher and Wojciech Moskwa (Reuters) - January 12, 2007

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and the U.N. climate panel won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for their part in galvanizing international action against global warming before it “moves beyond man’s control.”

The award seemed to be a snub to President George W. Bush, who has doubted the science of global warming and rejected caps on emissions of gases believed to cause it, but the White House said it was happy for the winners and praised their work.

Gore, who lost narrowly to Bush in the 2000 presidential election, and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were chosen to share the $1.5 million prize.

The committee awarded the prize from a near record field of 181 candidates for their efforts to draw attention to mankind’s impact on the climate and measures needed to address it.

“Action is necessary now, before climate change moves beyond man’s control,” the committee said.

It warned that climate change — linked to droughts, floods and rising seas — could threaten living conditions across the world, prompt mass migrations and increase the risk of wars.

“We wish to put world climate on the agenda in connection with peace,” committee chairman Ole Danbolt Mjoes said.

Since leaving office in 2001, Gore has lectured extensively on the threat of global warming and last year starred in his own Oscar-winning documentary film “An Inconvenient Truth” to warn of the dangers and urge action against it.

“He is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted,” the Nobel committee said. “The IPCC has created an ever-broader informed consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming.”

PRESSURE

The award was seen raising pressure on the world to agree a new deal to combat global warming at a U.N. climate conference in Bali, Indonesia in December. Gore and the IPCC will collect their prize in Oslo on December 10, while it is underway.

Congratulations poured in from world leaders, including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but Gore’s critics said the award was wrong.

“Al Gore doesn’t understand the science behind climate change or he deliberately misrepresents it,” said Joseph Bast, whose Chicago-based Heartland Institute has run newspaper ads challenging Gore to debates on global warming.

Czech President Vaclav Klaus was surprised at the award because the relationship between Gore’s work and world peace was “unclear and indistinct,” his spokesman said.

It was the second Nobel peace prize for a leading U.S. Democrat during the presidency of Republican Bush, who rejected the 1997 Kyoto Protocol setting limits on industrial nations’ greenhouse gas emissions.

The 2002 prize went to former President Jimmy Carter, which the Nobel committee head at the time called a “kick in the legs” to the U.S. administration over preparations to invade Iraq.

Mjoes said the peace prize, the first to go to climate campaigners, was not meant as criticism of Bush.

HONORED

Gore, 59, said he was deeply honored and would donate his share of the prize money to the Alliance for Climate Protection.

“This award is even more meaningful because I have the honor of sharing it with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — the world’s pre-eminent scientific body devoted to improving our understanding of the climate crisis,” he said.

IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri said he was overwhelmed and felt privileged to share the prize with Gore.

“This recognition…thrusts a new responsibility on our shoulders. We have to do more and we have many more miles to go,” Pachauri said in New Delhi.

The IPCC groups 2,500 researchers from more than 130 nations and issued reports this year blaming human activities for climate change ranging from more heat waves to floods. It was set up in 1988 by the United Nations to help guide governments.

Ahead of the announcement, speculation that Gore could win the prize prompted questions about whether he might join the 2008 race for the White House. He has shown no sign of interest.

Monica Friedlander of the group www.draftgore.com pushing Gore to run said it would “be very difficult for him to say no.”

British bookmakers once put 100-to-1 odds on Gore winning an Oscar, a Nobel prize and the presidency. They cut the odds to 8/1 from 10/1 on Friday after he completed the second step.

The scope of the prize established by the 1895 will of Swedish philanthropist and inventor of dynamite Alfred Nobel has expanded from its roots in peacemaking and disarmament to human rights, work for the environment and the fight against poverty.

The prize is worth 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.54 million).