Monday, October 15, 2007

Nobel Peace Prize shared by IPCC and Al Gore

The Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change credited the hundreds of scientists that contributed to the reports, which represent a consensus view of the state of the climate, and which won a Nobel Peace Prize, together with Al Gore.

“This is an honor that goes to all the scientists and authors who have contributed to the work of the IPCC, which alone has resulted in enormous prestige for this organization and the remarkable effectiveness of the message that it contains,” said R.K. Pachauri, chairman of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The fourth IPCC report came out in three installments this year. The reports spelled out the scientific consensus on how the climate works, how climate change is affecting life on earth and how the world can adapt to and mitigate those changes. Next month, the IPCC will release a synthesis report, that combines elements of each. In December, the U.N. meets in Bali to begin discussions on a world strategy for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

Two U.S. scientists involved in the IPCC reports said the Nobel Peace Prize should help build additional hard-won credibility for the IPCC among any lingering skeptics, and that it should show the public at large that global warming “isn’t just some kind of scientific phenomenon and help people and society as a hole that climate change really has the potential to disrupt how the society operates,” as Catherine O’Reilly put it.

O’Reilly, a professor at Bard College in New York, studies climate change and other factors affecting the fish and African fishing cultures of Lake Tanganyika, one of the world’s largest lakes. She was a contributing author of the IPCC report on how the world’s environment is changing, and will continue to change, due to global warming.

“The IPCC report is itself a widely respected body of scientific literature that really summarizes how the world is responding to climate. But just knowing all that information doesn’t really make anything change. In order for any kind of adaptations to occur, society has to recognize the fact that climate change has the potential to affect our lives, and other people’s lives,” O’Reilly said. “Without society’s acknowledging that climate change is more than some kind of increase in temperature, I don’t think changes are going to be made.”

She is optimistic that the Nobel Peace Prize will help convince people of that, and that the Bali discussions will produce positive results. So is Gavin Schmidt, a NASA scientist who reviewed the IPCC’s latest report on the physical science basis of climate change. His work involves developing computer models to simulate various aspects of climate.

“I think people have learned a lot of lessons from Kyoto,” Schmidt said. “There were a lot of missteps at the beginning because this is such a new approach, and so hopefully lessons have been learned and the next phase will go forward with a little more expertise as to how to get things done.”


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