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Gore Nobel Lecture: Time to Make Peace With the Planet

OSLO, Norway, December 10, 2007 (ENS) – Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore said today that there still is time to forestall the most disastrous impacts of climate change, but only if the world community unites and acts immediately.

In his lecture upon acceptance of the prize he shares with the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, Gore said, “It is time to make peace with the planet.”

“We must begin by making the common rescue of the global environment the central organizing principle of the world community,” said the former U.S. vice president at the awards ceremony held today at Oslo City Hall.
From left: Al Gore and Rachendra Pachauri display their shared Nobel Peace Prize. The video image is displayed at the UN climate conference in Bali, Indonesia. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)
Gore and the IPCC were jointly awarded the prestigous $1.5 million prize “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change,” the Nobel Prize jury said.

The awards ceremony comes as more than 180 nations that are Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change are meeting in Bali, Indonesia to negotiate a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol that requires 36 industrialized governments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions an average of 5.2 percent by the end of 2012.

“This week,” said Gore, “I will urge the delegates in Bali to adopt a bold mandate for a treaty that establishes a universal global cap on emissions and uses the market in emissions trading to efficiently allocate resources to the most effective opportunities for speedy reductions.”

“This treaty should be ratified and brought into effect everywhere in the world by the beginning of 2010 – two years sooner than presently contemplated,” he said. “The pace of our response must be accelerated to match the accelerating pace of the crisis itself.”

“Heads of state should meet early next year to review what was accomplished in Bali and take personal responsibility for addressing this crisis,” said Gore. “It is not unreasonable to ask, given the gravity of our circumstances, that these heads of state meet every three months until the treaty is completed.”

Gore also called for “a moratorium on the construction of any new generating facility that burns coal without the capacity to safely trap and store carbon dioxide.”

“And most important of all,” he said, “we need to put a price on carbon – with a CO2 tax that is then rebated back to the people, progressively, according to the laws of each nation, in ways that shift the burden of taxation from employment to pollution. This is by far the most effective and simplest way to accelerate solutions to this crisis.”

Gore is considered to be the leading public advocate of the need to take immediate action to reduce climate change caused by humans. His campaigning takes many forms, including the Academy Award-winning film “An Inconvenient Truth” and a book of the same name. He is the founder and chairman of the Alliance for Climate Change, an organization dedicated to persuading people of the urgency of responding to what it calls the “climate crisis.”

In his Nobel Peace Prize lecture today, IPCC Chairman Rachendra Pachauri of India said, “This award being given to the IPCC, we believe goes fundamentally beyond a concern for the impacts of climate change on peace.”

“Honoring the IPCC through the grant of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 in essence can be seen as a clarion call for the protection of the Earth as it faces the widespread impacts of climate change,” he said.

“Climate change is expected to exacerbate current stresses on water resources,” Pachauri warned, singling out semi-arid areas such as the Mediterranean Basin, western United States, southern Africa, and northeastern Brazil as areas that will suffer a decrease in water resources due to climate change.

“In Africa by 2020, between 75 and 250 million people are projected to be exposed to increased water stress due to climate change,” he said.

Agricultural production, including access to food, in many African countries is projected to be severely compromised, he said.

“The health status of millions of people is projected to be affected through, for example, increases in malnutrition; increased deaths, diseases, and injury due to extreme weather events; increased burden of diarrhoeal diseases; increased frequency of cardio-respiratory diseases due to higher concentrations of ground-level ozone in urban areas related to climate change; and the altered spatial distribution of some infectious diseases,” said Pachauri.

Climate change is likely to lead to some irreversible impacts on biodiversity. There is medium confidence that approximately 20 to 30 percent of species assessed so far are likely to be at increased risk of extinction if increases in global average warming exceed 1.5 to 2.5 ºCelsius, relative to 1980–99.

“As global average temperature exceeds about 3.5 ºC, model projections suggest significant extinctions – 40 percent to 70 percent of species assessed – around the globe. These changes, if they were to occur, would have serious effects on the sustainability of several ecosystems and the services they provide to human society,” said Pachauri.

As far as security of human settlements is concerned, vulnerabilities to climate change are generally greater in certain high-risk locations, particularly coastal and riverine areas, and areas whose economies are closely linked with climate-sensitive resources. Where extreme weather events become more intense or more frequent with climate change, the economic and social costs of those events will increase.

The Arctic, Africa, small islands and the Asian and African megadeltas, with their large populations and high exposure to sea level rise, storm surges, and river flooding, are most likely to be adversely affected by climate change, he said.

“How climate change will affect peace is for others to determine,” said Pachauri, “but we have provided scientific assessment of what could become a basis for conflict.”

The IPCC produces key scientific material that is of the highest relevance to policymaking, and is agreed word-by-word by all governments, from the most skeptical to the most confident. This difficult process is made possible by the tremendous strength of the underlying scientific and technical material included in the IPCC reports, Pachauri explained.

The IPCC was established by the United Nations Environmental Programme and the World Meteorological Organization in 1988 to provide policymakers with neutral summaries of the latest information related to human-induced climate change.

Run from offices in Geneva, but open to any of the nearly 200 member states belonging to the Un organizations, the IPCC functions through its working groups. There are currently three working groups, focusing on the science, impact and mitigation of climate change, and one task force charged with developing greenhouse gas inventories.

The findings of the IPCC are presented as Assessment reports, synthesizing the views of the working groups, which are produced approximately every five years. The most recent report was issued in November.

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