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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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