Nobel Prize – What Happened to Peace?

The Nobel Committee is out of their element. And the decision to award this year’s peace prize to Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is, in my opinion, off the mark.

Mixing the climate debate into one about peace and security seems flawed, and an imbalanced priority. Many other causes seem much more worthwhile. What about the Burmese monks, for instance? The Nobel Committee states that they are “seeking to contribute to a sharper focus on the processes and decisions that appear to be necessary to protect the world’s future climate, and thereby to reduce the threat to the security of mankind.”

The connection between climate and security is tentative, at best. Environmentalists (including Gore) talk very rarely of security issues. Even if we assume that human activity contributes partly to global warming, we cannot know if anything we do now can change that. The climate has never been stable, and an attempt to roll back the Earth to a perfect state i.e., the way things were 200 years ago (!)  seems naïve.

Bjørn LomborgThe climate debate seriously needs more perspective, and more people like Bjørn Lomborg (incidentally, my old lecturer in statistics) who dare say: We probably can’t make the world perfect, so if we have to choose, where do our efforts make most of a difference? If the climate is indeed changing, we should rather be working to adapt to these changes who are we to control the weather?

Nobel Prizes have been controversial before, of course. Awarding it to Jimmy Carter in 2002 for his work for peaceful solutions to international conflicts was arguably a slap in the face for George W. Bush and his policies.

This year’s peace prize has nothing to do with peace. Al Gore is a politician, pursuing a certain cause vigorously. Which is all fine but the Nobel Committee aught to know better than play along on the whim of the moment. They should stick to their cause: promoting peace, freedom, liberty and justice for all. Those truths are still self-evident and still all too inconvenient.


Author: Kenneth Mollerup Birch

Living north of Copenhagen, Denmark. MA in Information Science. Interests include communication, internet, sociology, language, politics, religion, theology, travel, music, and food.

9 thoughts on “Nobel Prize – What Happened to Peace?”

  1. On the other hand the committee might have been very astute… I listened to a series on the BBC World Service recently which travelled to various hotspots around the world where conflict and violence were being fueled by climate change (causing problems with access to water, farming land, food, access to resources and migration). Environmentalists might not be highlighting these issues, but security commentators are increasingly doing so. One of the reasons that this has not been given prominence is the fact that most campaigners are still trying to persuade a large number of people about the validity of climate change science!

    Their decision was a brave one- it recognized almost 20 years of scientific study by the IPCC- and then highlighted an issue which is not yet on most people’s radar. They may be accused of “crying wolf”, or they may open our eyes to an issue we weren’t fully aware of.

  2. maybe there is a reason he is one of few people who talks against what most scientist say. Maybe its because we really need to do something about it before its to late, and Bjørn Lomborg is just trying to close his eyes to the cold facts. I dont know… but its stupid just to listen to him because it is easier to live life, without responsibilitees (someone help me with my spelling) if he is right.
    But well, as a christian i dont really care that much about this earth anyways, God has promised to make us a new earth, so why do so much to save this sinfull one.

  3. @Andrew: That may be correct. But – correct me if I’m wrong – Al Gore is not exactly highlighting security issues, is he?

    @Stian: If you actually listen to Lomborg (and not just his critics), he doesn’t tell us to close our eyes. What he tries is to put some perspective into the debate. We should take responsibility, sure. But since we cannot change everything, why not sit down and figure out how our efforts are best put to use, instead of just blindly following the environmentalits’s lead?

    And this still has nothing to do with the Nobel Peace Prize.

  4. No he isn’t, but the prize is split between him and the IPCC who have talked about the effect it is having on migration, etc.

    I agree Al Gore is just concentrating on the environmental side- trying to convince a skeptical audience that there is a problem (and I’m not going to bow at the alter of Gore either- I’ve pointed out the problems of beatifying him on my old blog last year!). The IPCC have almost 20 years of research and are the ones who are beginning to point out the other effects of climate change.

    You are right that this opens up the debate about what the prize is “all about”. It has in the past recognized not only peace and reconciliation but also human rights campaigners. I suppose that if it can be argued that climate change is causing (and will continue to do so) insecurity and violence, and human rights includes freedom from violence and conflict, then campaigning to remove the cause of conflict is part of the struggle for human rights… tenuous? Maybe. Were there other more worthy possible recipients of this years prize? Maybe.

    It is interesting that this debate didn’t take place last year when the peace prize went to Muhammad Yunus and The Grameen Bank for “for advancing economic and social opportunities for the poor, especially women, through their pioneering microcredit work” in Bangladesh. So maybe this year’s prize is not without precedent.

    Anyway thanks for letting me take up the space on your blog and for the polite way you disagree with me- It’s a change from some blogs I know!

  5. @Stian: I think you should be careful about labeling your “don’t care about earth anyway”-view a Christian perspective. As Christians, don’t we believe in Genesis (Creation)? and don’t we believe that Adam was placed on earth to take care of it and its creatures? By his mistake, Earth was cursed – but as Christians we try not to continue his mistakes, don’t we? If you don’t, it’s quite alright. I’m just saying, it’s not necessarily a Christian perspective you’re presenting.

  6. @Andrew: Thank you for your interesting comments. I think I may agree with you that IPCC do a much better (i.e., unbiased) job than Gore in this matter.

    A more healthy way of looking at it is, for instance, the very interesting special report in Newsweek’s April 16, 2007 issue, “Living With Global Warming”. Accepting the predictions of IPCC, the don’t try to roll back everything, but rather focus on the results from a change that may be inevitable. Touching themes such as technology, fuel, property, and tourism, the articles in this issue paint a much more varied outlook than the endless “cut back on emissions” chatter.

    I don’t think the IPCC would object to this use of its data. Al Gore might call it defeatist, but to me he stands out as the gloomy one.

    @Stian, Lars: I agree with Lars – I think we as Christians should care about the Earth. In my understanding of eschatology, God will re-create the Earth, not eliminate it and get us all the hell out of here. The world is supposed to be a good place. Try reading Brian McLaren’s “The Story We Find Ourselves In” for some interesting perspectives on Creation, Evolution, and Man’s purpose on this planet.

  7. § 1 of the ‘Statutes of the Nobel Foundation’ refer to Mr. Nobel’s will which included this provision for a peace prize: “and one part [of my remaining …estate] to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

    § 10 makes clear that there is no appeal “against the decision of a prize-awarding body with regard to the award of a prize.”

    The Norwegian Nobel Committee, which awards the peace prize (see § 5), has therefore been given wide mandate and complete discretion.

    “Fraternity between nations” can, and should, in my opinion, be construed much wider than promotion of peace and security. Whether promoting the awareness of climate change, and arguing for political action, is “most or the best work for fraternity between nations” is of course questionable.

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