A Prize for Mr. Gore and Science
Published: October 13, 2007
One can generate a lot of heartburn thinking about all of the things that would be better about this country and the world if the Supreme Court had done the right thing and ruled for Al Gore instead of George W. Bush in 2000. Mr. Gore certainly hasn’t let his disappointment stop him from putting the time since to very good use.
Yesterday, the Nobel committee celebrated that persistence and awarded the Peace Prize to Mr. Gore and a panel of United Nations scientists for their efforts to raise awareness of the clear and present danger of global warming.
The committee said that the former vice president “is probably the single individual who has done most” to create worldwide understanding of what needs to be done to halt the damage caused by greenhouse gas emissions. It credited the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for creating “an ever-broader informed consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming.”
What the citation didn’t mention but needs to be said is that it shouldn’t have to be left to a private citizen — even one so well known as Mr. Gore — or a panel of scientists to raise that alarm or prove what is now clearly an undeniable link or champion solutions to a problem that endangers the entire planet.
That should be, and must be the job of governments. And governments — above all the Bush administration — have failed miserably.
There will be skeptics who ask what the Peace Prize has to do with global warming. The committee answered that unhesitatingly with its warning that climate change, if unchecked, could unleash massive migrations, violent competitions for resources and, ultimately, threaten the “security of mankind.”
There will also be those who complain that this prize — like the committee’s earlier awards to Jimmy Carter and the chief United Nations nuclear inspector, Mohamed ElBaradei — is an intentional slap at President Bush. It should be. We only wish that it would finally wake up the president.
While other leaders are beginning to recognize the urgency of climate change and the need for ambitious and costly solutions, Mr. Bush and his administration still drag behind: conceding the obvious only when there is no remaining choice, boycotting any initiative that is not their own and rejecting any action that might cut into the immediate profits of industry.
All this was on depressing display last month at Mr. Bush’s summit on global warming, where he again refused to accept the necessity of obligatory targets for reducing greenhouse emissions. His refusal to lead has made it far easier for China and others to refuse to act.
Having squandered the last seven years, Mr. Bush is unlikely to change. Mr. Gore and the United Nations panel of scientists have shown how much citizens with courage and determination can do.
Now it’s up to Congress, the presidential candidates and other world leaders to take up their challenge and the challenge of the Nobel committee. We cannot afford to squander any more time.