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    Gore’s Nobel Win: Good for Peace, Bad for Science

    In a somewhat controversial move, the Norwegian Nobel Committee selected former US Vice-President Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as the recipient for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. Al Gore now joins the likes of great peacekeepers such as Elie Wiesel, Jimmy Carter, and Mother Theresa, along with many others.

    What’s different about this year’s prize was that, instead of the Committee’s usual interpretation of peace – people who have created peace treaties and campaigned for human rights ‘- it has decided that campaigning for the health of the planet is a worthy enough cause for perhaps the most prestigious international awards.

    This is a good and bad thing. For one, climatologists have determined, no matter what you might have heard, that global warming is real and is happening right now. Most of the trustworthy scientific evidence points to human activities as being a significant motivator of global warming. So, the fact that Al Gore has brought so much attention to this serious global threat is good. If a movie and press attention can be influential to bring about cultural change (which will be necessary to stop man’s contribution to global warming) then Gore’s win is a positive outcome because it will bring even more attention to this important issue.

    What I do not like, though, is the alarmism associated with global warming. If Gore’s win adds more fuel to the fire of the doomsayers then the Nobel Committee would have erred in their judgment. While Al Gore has been good in promoting awareness about global warming, he hasn’t been that good at staying honest about the facts.

    A high court judge in London recently ruled that, in consensus with current scientific research, there were nine points that Al Gore made in his Oscar-winning film, ‘An Inconvenient Truth,’ that were inaccurate, exaggerated, or without any scientific backing whatsoever.

    The ruling was made because there has been controversy in England whether the film should allowed to be shown in public classrooms. Permission was granted, tentatively, as long teachers make students aware about the controversy surrounding the issue.

    This is fine for British students, but everyone else doesn’t necessarily have a teacher guiding us through the movie. For example, when watching this movie, the viewers might actually believe Gore’s postulate that sea levels could rise 20 feet ‘in the near future.’

    Unless Gore’s definition of the ‘near future’ is in the range of a millennia, the scientific consensus doesn’t agree with him. He even clashed on points with the IPCC, who say that the deep ocean conveyor system is unlikely to shut down, as Al Gore claims.

    Any science student could easily spot his most grievous faux pas; he mistakes correlation for causation when he points to global warming as the cause of melting snows on Mt. Kilimanjaro, the evaporation of Lake Chad and Hurricane Katrina. Gore’s error of intellectual judgment is a cause of concern for me, especially in light of his recent Nobel Prize win.

    Even though the area of the prize wasn’t science, if the Nobel Committee is going to consider science-based issues, such as global warming, in their Peace Prize, then the least they can do is hold the prize to the same intellectual standards as other, science categories. What they have done is empowered Gore’s work, which is not backed up by scientific rigor, so that alarmists and conspiracy theorists have the stamp of approval from a major, and until this point, scientifically credible organization.

    I won’t say that this recent development will affect the dynamics of the debate much. The pros may push a little harder and the cons may resist a little more, but in the end, it will come down to the raw science.

    We are still a far cry from settling the issue, and who knows how much time we really have before it’s actually ‘too late’ to change our carbon-emitting ways. What I do know, is that in order to retain the principles of science that govern the research of the debate, we must be skeptical without ignoring the evidence, but not alarmists who exaggerate it. I do hope, however, that when we finally figure out what’s going on with our little planet of ours, it won’t be too late to do something about it.

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