The Nobel Peace Prize for 2007
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 is to be shared, in two equal parts, between the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Albert Arnold (Al) Gore Jr. 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.
Indications of changes in the earth's future climate must be treated with the utmost seriousness, and with the precautionary principle uppermost in our minds. Extensive climate changes may alter and threaten the living conditions of much of mankind. They may induce large-scale migration and lead to greater competition for the earth's resources. Such changes will place particularly heavy burdens on the world's most vulnerable countries. There may be increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and between states. Nobel Institute
The bait and switch has been a political tool for millennia- the earliest example that springs to my mind is Themistocles' use of a potential conflict with Aegina as public rationale for building a fleet of Triremes that were actually intended to be used against the Persians in the 5th Century BC. And who knows, perhaps the idea of preparing for another battle with the Persians would have been too ominous a shadow under which to work.
As I consider the reasons given for awarding the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize to Al Gore and the IPCC, I wonder if this too is a bait and switch- a means to induce a behavioral change with repect to petroleum. Before you judge me crazier than you had already assumed, (if that is possible), consider that the award wasn't given for raising awareness about climate change per se, but rather man made climate change, and by man made they mean made by the burning of fossil fuels. So, the thinking behind closed doors might be going, if people won't believe Peak Oil, or minimally that conflict for oil is becoming a serious problem for man, BUT they seem to believe in Global Warming, let's use that faith as fulcrum for changing behavior on petroleum.
Hmmm, you might be thinking, does he think Global Warming is a total scam? No, I'm not in that camp. The research I have read leads me to the view that the Arctic ice cap has been melting year on year for some decades now, lately at an apparently accelerating rate, which suggests that in general the atmosphere is warming.
Of course, a read of the few thousand years of recorded human history informs me that climate change, both local and global, is part of life on earth. Floods, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, ice ages and warm periods are all a part of recorded human history, long before, mind you, we started extracting the potential energy stored in petroleum and other fossil fuels. Going further, to the extent we can extrapolate backwards through time using the geologic record, climate change has been going on for billions of years, long before man is assumed to have evolved.
It seems to me to fly in the face of the scientific method to assume that a regularly occurring phenomenon is caused by something which was only evident in the current cycle. At best I could entertain an argument that human actions are accelerating a regularly occurring phenomenon. Of course, when phrased that way, the impetus to stop burning fossil fuels to stop global warming diminishes appreciably, which is not meant in any way to argue that there aren't other valid reasons to adjust our behavior on petroleum.
As I noted above, perhaps this is the most effective means to get people to change. In my limited experience of trying to warn people of impending, but regularly occurring danger, say from an overvalued equity market, few are willing to change behavior until its too late based solely on a read (or listen) of economic theory and history. Perhaps I should have warned of an eternity burning in hell, or some other nasty hyperbole if the person in question didn't dump his CMGI. Of course, this path creates all sorts of new tangles down the road so I'll stick to my less effective but less tangled approach.
To the extent this award is part of some sort of bait and switch, the thing I find disturbing, even though I'm in favor of the aimed effect, is that I can't see much difference between this and the WMD rationale for going into Iraq. Neither rationale creates conditions for an honest debate of the issues but rather inspires impetuous action, recalling a scene from the film Waterworld, when, after regaling his men with tales of dry land, The Deacon (played by Dennis Hopper) privately remarks, they'll row for a month before they figure out I'm fakin' it.
Maybe longer than a month.
p.s. another worry I have is that a focus on stopping global warming may well stop people from preparing for its eventuality. People in NYC will be a bit miffed if the city goes green but still ends up underwater. I wonder if a large percentage of the Minoans tried to stop Santorini from erupting, rather than moving. I'd like to think I would have been one of those who moved.