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Al Gore deserves Nobel prize - and much more

Breaking News Editorial
Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore speaks at a news conference in Palo Alto, California, October 12, 2007 after winning the Nobel Peace Prize along with the U.N. climate panel. REUTERS/Kimberly White

Al Gore has done more than anyone in the past five years to try to restore America's standing in the eyes of the world. He is deserving of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize he will share with an international network of scientists for spreading awareness of the global climate crisis.

The award should be viewed as all the more remarkable because of the depths to which the former vice president fell after his failed bid for the presidency in 2000. History may yet record that his loss to President Bush was the world's gain.

Gore has been fighting criticism on this issue ever since he came out with his book, "Earth in the Balance," in the late 1980s. The immediate flap following the Nobel committee's announcement should not be a surprise. They include those still in denial about climate change, those who view the choice as a misguided political statement and those who ask what Gore's work has to do with promoting world peace

Gore made his share of mistakes in his Academy Award winning documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," but the thrust of his arguments is now recognized as backed by an overwhelming amount of evidence from the most respected scientists in the world.


Science backs Gore's premise

Most of the remaining doubts some scientists harbored about the impact of human activity on global temperatures have disappeared in the last few years. Gore's recital of climate facts in his movie "An Inconvenient Truth" contains some flaws, but most experts agree he is correct on the biggest point: The earth is on a path toward a perilously warm climate and the release of greenhouse gases is playing a key role.

The research behind that conclusion has been coming for decades, but some of the most dramatic findings emerged only in the last few years.

Many scientists give Gore high marks for alerting the public to the reality of global warming, but the praise is not universal. A British judge this week cited nine "scientific errors" in "An Inconvenient Truth," though the judge said the movie is "broadly accurate" and can be shown in British schools so long as teachers provide additional scientific context.

The increasingly clear message of research on climate change began to emerge in the 1970s. The conclusions solidified as scientists gathered more data on prehistoric levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that help warm the earth. That research shows pollution from sources such as power plants and automobiles is causing a spike in greenhouse gases, unprecedented in the 500,000-year record preserved within the ice of Antarctica.

"There's a lot of science in there that people have a hard time refuting," said Jerry Melillo, director of the ecosystems center at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts, who helped author past Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports.
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