Gore and the IPCC take it


The chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Ole Danbolt Mjoes, in his Norwegian hobbit house. Mjoes holds a copy of the cover art for Gore’s new album, Don’t Call It a Comeback.

First, a hearty congratulations to Gore and the IPCC.

And now to the bigger question: what does the Nobel Prize mean? Some thoughts, in no particular order.

Practically, I expect Gore to use his heightened visibility to focus more heavily on solutions. This is already the direction he is headed in. He’s got a book due in the near future that will provide a solution-oriented counterpart to An Inconvenient Truth. He’s outlined various ten-point plans for addressing climate change (all good plans involve round numbers). To the extent that his megaphone just got that much larger, expect Gore to be spreading the gospel of clean energy, efficiency, and the low carbon economy.

Symbolically, I’m hoping that this most recent honor for Gore really does presage a new chapter for the climate change issue, one that mirrors Gore’s remarkable personal journey over the past few years. Remember that as recently as 2002, Gore was invisible. He walked off the national stage and into relative obscurity. Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, five years ago also felt like a low ebb for climate change advocates. And, now? Well, I don’t take anything for granted, but the momentum is undeniable.

Politically, my guess is that this news is not that big a deal. I’m in the camp that thinks Gore has no plans to run for president. There are a lot of reasons for this, but the main one is: why would he run for president? He’s already cast a long shadow over the race that can be seen in the various energy plans on offer from the current crop of candidates. And he’s enjoying more success now as a policy and issue advocate than he ever could as a politician. Of course, I reserve the right to retract this prediction when it is proven utterly wrong.

Finally, I’m intrigued by the IPCC angle of this. Gore is understandably getting most of the attention (it’s hard to hog limelight when you’re a faceless international organization made up mostly of not-very-sexy scientists). But personally I’ve always found the IPCC to be a rather remarkable endeavor. If you had told me ahead of time that you planned to convene a panel of thousands of experts working at the forefront of an actively developing area of scientific inquiry, and that you further planned to distill their collective knowledge into a consensus document that would be both comprehensible and a useful guide to policymakers…well, I might have suggested that you were a silly person engaged in silliness. But the IPCC did it.

So, again, congratulations to all. A great day for everyone who cares about this issue. A great day for the world.

Update: a nice interview with Prof. Michael Oppenheimer, a member of the IPCC, on the nature of that organization and the reasons for its effectiveness. Contrary to my earlier comment, Oppenheimer is fairly sexy in a late Sean Connery kind of way.

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  1. parrish rhodes - October 17, 2007

    I’m always excited when I get this Newsletter -I love your humour and wide variety of topics that you give us the chance to peruse. Thank you for the tremendous amount of work that must go into putting this out as often as you do –

  2. Holly - October 17, 2007

    I can’t understand the Hypocrisy of this Nation. Al Gore and his wife continue to travel on older Lear Jets. Are they buying Terra Pass each and every time Or is that not considered wasting.. It really bothers me to see this. Why don’t people start doing, instead of talking about it.

  3. Adam Stein - October 17, 2007

    You know what would really help us get on top of global warming? More complaining about other people’s hypocrisy. Yeah, that’s the ticket. More finger-pointing would be just the thing…

  4. Anonymous - October 19, 2007

    Holly wrote,
    “I can’t understand the Hypocrisy of this Nation. Al Gore and his wife continue to travel on older Lear Jets. Are they buying Terra Pass each and every time Or is that not considered wasting. It really bothers me to see this. Why don’t people start doing, instead of talking about it.”
    Holly stop thinking for your self and don’t DARE question the AL GORE! Don’t you see his picture in the article? Every American will soon be mandated by Federal Law to hang his portrait in each and every home.
    From reading many Terra Pass post, I’ve come to the conclusion, if you go along to get along, you can pretty much do what you’ve always done, but do not question or dare be a skeptic even if your heart is in the right place.
    Holly I’m with you, I’ve always tried to conserve by not wasting resources and energy, it hasn’t been easy or always convenient. What bothers me is the hypocrite deniers who run cover for people like Al Gore.
    Over 2,300 miles commuting by bike this year, how’d you do this year Adam?

  5. Adam Stein - October 20, 2007

    We’re almost there, people! Just a tiny bit more self-righteous indignation and we’ll have global warming beat! We can do it!

  6. Rob - October 21, 2007

    Steve, why aren’t you preaching? If everybody who does it doesn’t preach, it’s only going to be left to the people who don’t do it to preach.
    I don’t take Adam’s stance — I think it’s worth watching high-profile activists like Gore and calling him on things. But I don’t think that his jetting around is the right thing to call him on. I sincerely believe his travel is vastly, vastly carbon negative. I crunched the numbers once, and it came out to something like “If you give Al Gore for 1% of the credit for the province of Ontario banning incandescent bulbs a year earlier than they otherwise would have, he gets 300 ’round-the-world flights.”
    It was a rough calculation, but the orders of magnitude here are worth remember. Al’s flights are incredibly leveraged.
    His infamous home power gluttony, on the other hand, leaves something to be desired. Again, though, it’s not exactly the highest return on his time in terms of global carbon footprint reduction, given the leverage the man has.

  7. Adam Stein - October 21, 2007

    It’s a nice try, Rob, but it’s time to stop making excuses for Gluttonous Al. He may be carbon negative, but think how much *more* carbon negative he would be if he flew commercial airlines instead of zooming around in his fancy Lear jet. Burn him! Burn him!

  8. MNWalleye - October 22, 2007

    Adam, it’s not really just about Al Gore, it’s a whole host of so called environmentalist who say one thing but do another. Nancy( I need a bigger jet) Pelosi is another example along with Ted (hey your not putting windmills in my backyard) Kennedy that really just smacks of an arrogance that we’re really not in this altogether.
    Go ahead and call me self righteous, I’ve been called worse.
    I’ve always been intrigued by the freedom of movement without motors. I had my glider rating long before I had my driver’s license. I don’t get a chance to fly full size sailplanes much anymore but I fondly remember as a teenager relying on your own wits, searching for thermal currents and sometimes with the help of birds of prey, find them and stay aloft for hours. Your whole purpose of staying aloft is about as close to nature as you can get. Every time I see any bird soaring, I stop and marvel at what they’re doing.
    I don’t need a Al Gore McMansion to keep me happy. I’m fine with a 1,500 sq ft home, leave my car in the garage and ride my bike to work as much as I can. It’s really kind of a fun challenge to see how little energy you can comfortably get by with. The environment is bigger then just your co2 output, it’s about conservation and leaving some resources’ to future generations.
    Think of the more powerful statement it would show if Al Gore and the rest of these environmentalist would be if they if actually measured and cut back on their energy and co2 and then shared that information with the rest of us.
    Adam if you have contact with the Al Gore people, I’d love to talk to them. I’ve tried,
    but haven’t been very successful. What are they afraid of?
    Keep riding your bike,

  9. Adam Stein - October 22, 2007

    Hi MNWalleye,
    Ah, that’s a more reasonable statement. Look, there are many reasons why I don’t think it’s worth a lot of time to engage in these sorts of carbon witch hunts, but you’ve inadvertently demonstrated one of the main ones: usually these sorts of complaints are hyped and sometimes even manufactured by partisans who don’t give care one whit about climate change. The Pelosi story is a perfect example: it was a lie from top to bottom, pumped up by her political enemies, and reported by a braindead press. There are numerous debunkings online.
    Of course, that doesn’t mean that all of these stories are false — they’re not — but eventually you have to decide where to devote your energy. I’m often accused (incorrectly) of “defending” Al Gore, but I never defend anyone. I just can’t bring myself to care about this topic, because it doesn’t ultimately affect the bigger picture.
    The Cape Wind issue, on the other hand, is a different matter entirely. That has nothing to do with a politician’s personal behavior. It’s just a disgrace, plain and simple, and is an extremely worthwhile issue to press publicly.

  10. MNWalleye - October 24, 2007

    Adam, you mean Nancy Pelosi never requested a larger jet?
    I know exactly what you mean about the “braindead press”. Why in fact not one of them that has interviewed Al Gore has asked to see how he calculates his “carbon neutral” claim.
    We could get past this whole issue if Al Gore simply said, this is how much energy I use and this is how many offsets I purchase. I mean why wouldn’t he? I’m not afraid of showing anyone my utility bill. In fact without measuring it, how do you know if you’re making progress in reducing it?
    If Terra Pass didn’t open it’s books, wouldn’t people question your credibility?
    Something’s not adding up here.
    Take care,

  11. Laura - November 27, 2007

    Adam, I’m laughing out loud at your responses – I love the humor in the midst of reading posts that make my brain hurt! But I slog on…
    I do get very, very tired of “he doesn’t, I do…why don’t they just…i ride my bike…blah blah blah”. I try, I work, I recycle, I talk to my friends until they roll their eyes, etc. But I think Al Gore has gone much, much further than I ever will in his work to raise awareness of our fragile environment. Period. We all have things we can do better and things we do better than others. I drive an hour to work and then another home every day and I’m daily distressed by this carbon reality, but without going into details, it’s just my reality. So keep on blogging and responding and letting us be a part of moving forward.