Award echoes global `alarm'

Nobelist Gore vows to increase efforts on climate concerns

October 13, 2007|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,Sun reporter

WASHINGTON -- Former Vice President Al Gore won a share of the Nobel Peace Prize yesterday for his work on global climate change, and he pledged to use the recognition to increase attention to what he called "the most dangerous challenge we have ever faced."

With some supporters stepping up efforts to enlist Gore in the 2008 presidential contest, the former Democratic nominee avoided talk of a political comeback as he discussed the Nobel, saying he was "deeply honored" by the selection.

"Alarm bells are going off in the scientific community," Gore said, adding that he would use the "honor and recognition" of the prize to continue to raise awareness of a looming environmental crisis.

Gore promised to donate his portion of the $1.56 million prize, which he shared with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to a nonprofit organization that he chairs, the Alliance for Climate Protection.

After learning of the award while watching the televised announcement from Norway early yesterday morning, Gore delivered brief remarks at the California headquarters of the alliance. He and his wife, Tipper, took no questions - ignoring reporters who shouted after him whether he was interested in running for office.

To many Democrats, Gore remains a touchstone for resentment over the 2000 presidential contest, won by George W. Bush when the Supreme Court ended ballot challenges in Florida and effectively awarded the state's decisive electoral votes to Bush.

After conceding defeat, Gore gained weight, grew a beard and temporarily retreated from the public spotlight. But he climbed back, founding a cable television network that broadcasts viewer-provided content, joining the board of Apple Computer and becoming an adviser to Google.

None of those efforts, however, has received the attention of An Inconvenient Truth, Gore's Academy Award-winning documentary film and companion book, which illustrate the effects of greenhouse gas emissions on polar ice, sea levels and weather patterns.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee called Gore "one of the world's leading environmentalist politicians," and said he was "probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding" of climate change solutions.

"This is a great day for all those seeking to raise awareness about this climate crisis," said Adam Kolton, director of congressional affairs with the National Wildlife Federation, in a statement. "But it's just one step toward the biggest prize - real action to confront global warming."

Despite the accolades, the prize probably does not push Gore's career trajectory through the White House, several analysts said.

"Al Gore has done everything well in life except run for president of the United States. He wanted to run for president in the worst way, and he did," said Stephen Hess, a fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution. "This is a big business, running for president. By this time, everybody is committed to somebody else."

Hess and others said it might be too late for Gore to get in. The filing deadline for the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary is three weeks away. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has shown no signs of relinquishing her double-digit lead in national polls of Democratic voters. Major donors are committed.

Gore "hasn't given any indication to date" that he is interested in entering the contest, said Wayne L. Rogers, a businessman and fundraiser who was chairman of Gore's campaign in Maryland in 2000 and who supports Hillary Clinton.

Politics can be dirty and bruising, and with yesterday's announcement, Gore moves to a higher stratum from which to pursue his environmental objectives. As an advocate, he can concentrate on one issue; as a president or candidate, he would need to address many more - diluting attention to climate change, Hess and others said.

"People say you are successful in your life when you find something you are passionate about," said Rogers. Gore "can now become a global ambassador even more than he is. I don't see why he would want to give up that to get back into politics."

Gore's endorsement of a presidential candidate, however, will carry more cachet. The former vice president under Bill Clinton has given no indication of whom he might back.

Democrats and Republicans heaped praise on Gore yesterday.

The home page of Hillary Clinton's campaign Web site offered congratulations and said his "dedication and tireless work have been instrumental" in raising awareness of global warming.

A White House spokesman said President Bush was "happy" that Gore had won "important recognition."

The prize announcement came during a week when efforts to draw Gore into the presidential contest grew more pronounced. A group called Draft Gore paid about $65,000 for a full-page advertisement in The New York Times, and said it has gathered more than 130,000 signatures on an online petition.

Gore has said in the past that he has "no plans" to run.

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