The buzz on Gore's Nobel Peace Prize
While it ruffles the feathers of his detractors, studies continue to support Gore's position.
That sound of grinding teeth you hear this week is coming from global-warming skeptics and their fans in the blogosphere.
The reason? Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize, awarded for his work on climate change.
Mr. Gore's detractors have spent recent days fulminating about the former vice president's award, renewing their dare that he should "debate" prominent skeptics Dennis Avery and Fred Singer. They've also gleefully noted that a British court finds that the Academy Award-winning film "An Inconvenient Truth," which features Gore, contains several scientific errors.
The British court's ruling came on a challenge from a school official who did not want to show the film to students. High Court Judge Michael Burton said that the film is "substantially founded upon scientific research and fact" but that errors were made in "the context of alarmism and exaggeration," according to an ABC News online report. It adds:
"Burton found that screening the film in British secondary schools violated laws barring the promotion of partisan political views in the classroom. But he allowed the film to be shown on the condition that it is accompanied by guidance notes to balance Gore's 'one-sided' views, saying that the film's 'apocalyptic vision' was not an impartial analysis of climate change."
In the British online journal Spiked, editor Brendan O'Neill says this reveals an environmental campaign that is "political and moralistic ... based on misanthropic ideas about human activity and on demands for ... the rewiring of people's expectations and desires." The Gore critic adds:
"Environmentalists have a narrow view indeed of what constitutes 'the truth'. They treat truth as something which is revealed to the public by scientists in a laboratory, which apparently green activists are allowed to exaggerate every now and then. "
In National Review online, American Enterprise Institute scholar Steven Hayward says, "Parson Al winning the Nobel Peace Prize ... represents the final debasement of a once-prestigious award." He continues:
"The Nobel will be one more quiver in Gore's arsenal of intransigent moral authority by which he refuses to debate any aspect of the subject and declares the entire matter 'settled.' It is ... problematic to suggest that climate change is not a political issue, but a moral issue, but then to demand massive political interventions in the economy to fix the problem."
But liberal analysts are pushing back.
"What is it about Mr. Gore that drives right-wingers insane?" asks New York Times columnist Paul Krugman.
"Partly it's a reaction to what happened in 2000, when the American people chose Mr. Gore but his opponent somehow ended up in the White House. Both the personality cult the right tried to build around President Bush and the often hysterical denigration of Mr. Gore were, I believe, largely motivated by the desire to expunge the stain of illegitimacy from the Bush administration."
Writing online for The Atlantic Monthly, James Fallows likens the criticism of Gore's Nobel Prize to the heat the Nobel committee took when it awarded the Peace Prize to civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964. Mr. Fallows explains:
"... in retrospect the criticisms of [Dr.] King look very small, and – without equating the stature of the two men – I think something similar will be true regarding Gore. Like him or not, he has turned his efforts to an important cause, under historical and political circumstances that would have tempted many people to drown themselves in drink or move to Bhutan."
But why did an environmental activist win the world's most prestigious peace prize? In an online article for Slate, Stephan Faris argues that peace has a lot to do with global warming:
"... [A] look back through the last thousand years shows how quickly even a mild, natural shift in the climate can produce a period of cataclysmic violence."
That's just what a prominent group of retired generals and admirals warned of earlier this year in the report "National Security and the Threat of Climate Change." That report concludes:
"Projected climate change will seriously exacerbate already marginal living standards in many Asian, African, and Middle Eastern nations, causing widespread political instability and the likelihood of failed states.... The chaos that results can be an incubator of civil strife, genocide, and the growth of terrorism."
A new study by University of Maryland researchers, meanwhile, buttresses Gore's position that dire economic effects of climate change warrant quick action. It warns that "the range of climatic changes anticipated in the United States ... will have real impacts on the ... environment as well as human-made infrastructures and their ability to contribute to economic activity and quality of life." It concludes:
"... climate change will directly or indirectly affect all economic sectors and regions of the country ... the costs of climate change rapidly exceed benefits and place major strains on public sector budgets, personal income, and job security."