Although most headlines today will read the other way around, it’s importantly not to overlook that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been central to coalescing the “scientific consensus,” or what the public would recognize as the “scientific consensus.” (Hear Climate Expert Richard Moss’s assessment of the IPCC working group I report.) It’s hard to image that we’d even be where are now without such effort.
The Nobel Committee said as much in its announcement:
Through the scientific reports it has issued over the past two decades, the IPCC has created an ever-broader informed consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming. Thousands of scientists and officials from over one hundred countries have collaborated to achieve greater certainty as to the scale of the warming. Whereas in the 1980s global warming seemed to be merely an interesting hypothesis, the 1990s produced firmer evidence in its support. In the last few years, the connections have become even clearer and the consequences still more apparent.
As did Gore:
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 — a group whose members have worked tirelessly and selflessly for many years.
This isn’t to shortchange Gore. As everyone has said, he’s had an amazing year. David Roberts has already posted — despite living on the west coast! — a thorough analysis of what this means vis-a-vis the presidential race. Though he might very well be correct in what would happen to Gore were he to choose to throw his hat in the ring, I disagree that “there’s no reason to think that winning the prize would have any positive effect on Gore’s chances if he did run.” Being lumped in the same category as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., UNHCR, UNICEF, Nelson Mandela, and Aung San Suu Kyi, necessarily imbues one with a certain level of gravitas, which voters will respond to. Sure, the Nobel Committee has made missteps over the years, but most only remember the highlight reel, which Gore is now on.
Climate change in general also has a new feather in its cap. As 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohammad Yunus said during his Nobel Lecture last year:
By giving us this prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has given important support to the proposition that peace is inextricably linked to poverty. Poverty is a threat to peace.
They have now made the same statement about climate change — a similar one to that made by the UK and other nations earlier this year in the Security Council.