A green Nobel Peace Prize next week? Or one too many?

September 30, 2009

Will the guardians of the Nobel Peace Prize make another green award in 2009 to encourage sluggish talks on new U.N. climate treaty due to be agreed in Copenhagen?

Or is it too early after environmental prizes in both 2004 and 2007?

The five-member Nobel panel likes to make topical awards to try to influence the world — a prize announcement on Oct. 9 linked to climate change could hardly be better timed since 190 nations will meet in Copenhagen in December to agree a new pact for fighting global warming.

And the Nobel prize will be formally handed over at a ceremony in Oslo on Dec. 10 — the anniversary of the death of founder Alfred Nobel — giving any winner a global loudspeaker during the the Dec. 7-18 meeting in Copenhagen.

But any would-be green laureate has a big problem — former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore and the U.N. Climate Panel shared the 2007 prize and Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai won in 2004 for her campaign to plant trees across Africa.

Three prizes so fast might well be one too many.

Bookmakers don’t rate green candidates very highly this year — one has Chinese dissident Hu Jia at 5-1 followed by Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai at 11/2. Greenpeace is an outsider at 40/1.

And the environment is still a controversial new area for the committee — some critics said that it had nothing to do with peace when Maathai won.

Geir Lundestad, the director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, defends the green choices and says there’s no rotation of themes for peace — disarmament one year, human rights the next, etc.

“When the ice melts in the Arctic, new territorial issues arise. When the waters rise in Bangladesh, hundreds of thousands of people flee to India, creating difficulties. And when the desert spreads in the Sahara it leads to new difficult issues,” he said.

“There will be many different roads to peace and there is no rotation (of themes), as there is no rotation as far as geography is concerned,” he told Reuters.

Even if there is no green prize from a record field of 205 candidates in 2009, maybe concern about the environment could indirectly influence the choice in other ways?

Lundestad said several years ago that the committee should speak out sooner rather than later this century about the lack of democracy in China  — so far it hasn’t done so. But the committee might not want to irritate Beijing, for instance by awarding the prize a prize to a dissident, just when China is offering to do more to rein in its greenhouse gas emissions.

((Pictures – top: A large iceberg is seen on the edge of a morning fog over Frobisher Bay, Nunavut in the Canadian Arctic August 21, 2009. The picture was taken from a Canadian Forces Aurora patrol aircraft flying south of Iqaluit and taking part in military manoeuvers in the Canadian north. REUTERS/Andy Clark. Right: The Nobel Peace Prize medal awarded to South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s Soweto in 1984, recovered a few days after thieves broke into his home in June 2007. REUTERS/Stringer))


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I don’t think the Nobel Peace Prize is the right forum for this at all, nor is it sufficient. They should create a completely independent, new Nobel Prize for the Environment. It should include research and science, activism, writing and other media, individuals or organizations, whatever the case may be. It’s a global fight, the prize should reflect that.
And it would be nice if the decisions for it were less (well, not at all) politicized, as is the case for the peace prize, unfortunately.

Posted by Laz | Report as abusive

The Noble Prize for Climate:

“Awarded to a professional academic, who assists in the development of further knowledge into the causes and effects of climate change”

Examples include:
– Proving a concrete causal link between human emissions and climate change, beyond the mere data correlation currently used.

-Actually determining the probable effects of future climate change, as opposed to the possible effects.

-Development of a model to accurately show the relationship between emissions and future climate change.

-A workable plan to assist in the reversal of climate change, or alternatively a means to prepare for a post global warming world.

I think it will be years, even decades, before such examples will be met by the scientific community. Few people seem to think these things are important.

So how about we just give it to whoever manages to get on the pulpit and scare the most people? That seems to be the limits of climate science at the moment.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

Perhaps your headline should have said “A Nobel Green Prize”?
It’s as good an idea as a “Nobel Equal Opportunities Prize” or a “Nobel Good Neighbour Prize”. The “green” industry is getting plenty of coverage without such a prize on top of it… so much coverage they are in danger of green-fatigue, especially if the temperatures drop!
Perhaps the Nobel committee is trying to raise their profile?

Posted by Peter H | Report as abusive

You guys speak of it as if it’s an issue of latest fashion…

For the first time in history we now have to worry about the survival of the planet, I think that qualifies the attention.

Posted by brian | Report as abusive

Brian. Global warming may have a variety of possible effects on the planet’s climate.

The experts agree that certain areas are likely to become inhospitable, and food is likely to increase in price.

But they do not agree by how much, or when, or even if these effects will happen. Let alone model the likely effects in any realistic manner.

It is unlikely these effects will endanger the survival of the planet, or for that matter the survival of humanity.

Rather it is a climate process, now impossible to stop or reverse in the short (50 year) term. And we are still uncertain as to what the effects will be.

Scientists need to sit down and actually discover new things about climate change and its effects. At the moment all they are doing is frightening people with correlations, because they don’t want to do the hard research.

Until they do that, any nobel prize for climate change would be rewarding bad behavior.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

I agree with Brian. If you want to play the sport of cynicism, look for a frivolous tabloid.

Posted by Julie | Report as abusive

Wow. Anon, I am not sure how old you are, but you certainly haven’t done much reading. Do your part please and inform yourself before assuming that “fairness” role. You can start by reading why the peace prize was awarded to those three candidates. The research is there.

Posted by Julie | Report as abusive

Good one(s) Julie! BTW, have you guys noticed the blog about Chicago not getting the Olympics has, to date, 28(!) comments? And the blog was posted the day after this one. Sad, very sad. (Just for the record, I like the Olympics. Then again, I kinda like to breath too =)

Posted by Laz | Report as abusive

“Wow. Anon, I am not sure how old you are, but you certainly haven’t done much reading. Do your part please and inform yourself before assuming that “fairness” role.”

If you are going to make aspersions on a person’s age, education, or knowledge that says volumes about your quality as a person.

By the way, is there a reliable climate model for future climate change yet? Or a conclusive finding on exactly what the climate will be in a decade and to what point climate change will effect it? Or a concrete finding as to whether climate change will cause our extinction as a species?

Or is this something only stupid, uneducated people ask for? And all smart scientists know better then to waste time researching?

Don’t expect a response. And learn some civility.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive