`Ozone Man'

October 14, 2007

The first President Bush belittled Al Gore as "Ozone Man" for his early warning about the damage to the environment caused by human behavior. A decade later, the second President Bush sought to undermine a growing consensus that Mr. Gore's alarm should be heeded. Mr. Bush called instead for "sound science."

There was no sign of gloating Friday, though, when the former vice president was awarded a most prestigious sign of vindication - a Nobel Peace Prize that affirmed not only the legitimacy of his views on global warming but also the threat that rapid climate change poses to world peace and security.

In fact, Mr. Gore's tone at a press conference was somber, reflecting perhaps the ambivalence at being right about what he calls a "planetary emergency." Even President Bush agrees now that human activity is contributing to the melting ice caps, rising sea levels, fires, floods and droughts that come with global warming.

Some of the initial reaction to the prize, which Mr. Gore shared with a group of international scientists who have conducted much of the research on climate change, dealt with speculation that he would return to presidential politics. But, as the award suggests, he is now involved in a more important campaign to "elevate the global consciousness" and persuade the international community to make the sacrifices necessary to at least minimize the ecological damage.

This has been a long crusade for Mr. Gore, who honed his environmental views as a member of Congress, senator and presidential candidate in 1988 and 1992. He published a best-selling book on the topic, Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit, in 1992, which earned him the nickname from George H. W. Bush.

After eight years in the White House as President Bill Clinton's second-in-command, Mr. Gore lost the 2000 court-settled contest to the younger Mr. Bush and turned to environmental advocacy full time. An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary about his work on global warming, won an Academy Award this year.

Naysayers haven't disappeared completely, of course, and there remains much disagreement about whether environmental protection is worth the economic cost.

"This is just the beginning," Mr. Gore said, describing a task no less daunting than "trying to change the way people think."

But it's a very impressive start.

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