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Missing the Real Message in Nobel Prize?

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The big story today is that the Nobel Peace Prize recognizes the climate crisis as a genuine threat to humanity. It now has official standing along with the proliferation of nuclear weapons, conflict in the Middle East, landmines, and poverty as something that causes harm to people within and beyond conflict zones.

This story, that the climate crisis poses a threat and humankind is struggling to address it, is presented effectively on the BBC website.

Wait a minute. Isn't the "real" story about what winning this prize means for Al Gore? Shouldn't we be talking about his prospects for the '08 Presidency? A quick scan of major news sources shows that this is the main focus of discourse here in the U.S.

The New York Times has a lead story titled "Gore and U.N. Panel Win Peace Prize for Climate Work," that weaves life histories of Gore's climate activism and the superb research of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). While these are laudable stories to tell, the New York Times neglects to tell the real story - that the climate crisis is a genuine threat.

CNN International opens their story, "Gore Shares Prize with U.N. Panel," by acknowledging the work Gore has done. Then it quickly digresses into a discussion of a campaign urging him to run for president. The Washington Post parrots this message in their cover story, "Gore, U.N. Body Win Nobel Peace Prize," giving prominence to the person of Gore by quoting the Norwegian Nobel Committee that he is "the single individual who has done most."

The Fox News article, "With Nobel in Tow, Will Gore Run?", skips past the climate crisis entirely. Many progressive bloggers, in a rare moment of harmony with Fox News, are also focusing directly on the campaign bid. It is as if the most important news were the horse race for the presidency.

Al Gore and the IPCC winning the Nobel Prize is important news. The problem is that these reports do not go on to talk about the significance of the climate crisis, opting instead to shift the discussion toward Gore's political life.

Personally, I am glad to see the climate crisis getting the recognition it deserves. Having studied climate science, I have known about the dire consequences of inaction for several years. In many ways, it is the ultimate security threat we face. It is global in scale. People everywhere will face greater risk as global warming goes on unchecked. And it exacerbates the problems that arise with poverty, regional conflicts, terrorism, and international trade.

In my article, "Shifting the Climate of Security," I argued that the climate crisis requires us to reconsider the meaning of security in light of the new kinds of threats that emerge in this web of threats. (Sign up to keep informed about our work at the Rockridge Institute on framing the climate crisis.) With the climate crisis having official standing as a global threat, we should take this opportunity to urge our leaders once again to grant the climate crisis the seriousness it deserves.