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Friday, October 12, 2007

The Nobel Prize for "Peace"?

From the Norwegian Nobel Institute concerning the 2007 Peace Prize award:
Al Gore has for a long time been one of the world’s leading environmentalist politicians. He became aware at an early stage of the climatic challenges the world is facing. His strong commitment, reflected in political activity, lectures, films and books, has strengthened the struggle against climate change. He is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted.

By awarding the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 to the IPCC and Al Gore, the Norwegian Nobel Committee is 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. Action is necessary now, before climate change moves beyond man's control.
The last sentence of the first paragraph is important; what "measures" exactly? Most of the "measures" I have seen promulgated are certain governments telling other governments what to do and those governments, in turn, telling individuals what they can and can't do.

The second paragraph is also telling. What "decisions [which] appear to be necessary" are the Institute alluding to? Most of the decisions that seem necessary require multi-national agreements in which the wealthy countries cut back on production/consumption (at least in the short run) while the poorer, but more polluting countries, are not subjected to the same restrictions. The only way to accomplish this is through some form of authoritarianism, whether through quantity or price controls. How else is it possible to make hundreds of millions of citizens in the developed world to stop consuming (the developed world already has authoritarianism in many instances and already does not consume)?

I applaud Al Gore for his passion but his message of governmental (and extra-governmental) controls for the sake of solving the "commons problem" of climate change seems contradictory to the spirit in which the Peace Prize has been offered in the past.

Just my two cents...

Interesting comments at Digg.com

Does it strike you as unusual that the Nobel committee awarded the Peace Prize for an advocate of policies to thwart global warming even before one of the Nobel science prizes has gone to someone confirming the science behind global warming?
I was more struck by the final sentence, “Action is necessary now, before climate change moves beyond man's control.” This is a frightening statement. Since when does man control global climate? Even if human beings are causing global warming, I think that is a far cry from controlling global climate change. This would imply that there is some conscious choice being made collectively by humanity to continue to increase the temperature of the Earth and that humanity could just as easily collectively choose to decrease the temperature of the Earth. This represents a gross misunderstanding of the problem.

As has been represented here before, the majority of greenhouse gasses and other pollutants are currently produced by developing countries like China and India. Enforcing authoritarian pollution legislation on developing countries would not only cause more poor people to starve but would also hinder technological development (due to an income effect). The goal should rather be to allow those countries to develop as fast as possible so that they can afford cleaner technology as soon as possible.
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