The Nobel Peace Prize award to Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change left me a little uncomfortable. I have no problem with the IPCC, obviously, but singling out Gore seemed a little too Hollywood to me. I may well be naive, but I have a hard time buying the idea of Al Gore as the harbinger or champion of an alternative way of organizing our society so as to minimize its toxic impact on the environment. So I approached an environmentalist I know has little time for Gore’s vision for comment. My friend Joel Kovel, most recently author of Overcoming Zionism, is a SUNY professor of psychiatry and a Green Party activist who ran against Hillary Clinton for the Senate. He has set out a more systematic critique of Gore’s vision in a documentary titled A Really Inconvenient Truth. Essentially, he’s arguing that Gore represents the same corporate-driven politics that created the problem in the first place — despite having Gore as its environmental point man, the Clinton Administration’s tenure saw a massive spike in U.S. carbon gas outputs. So read and discuss among yourselves. Next week, on the same topic, we’ll hear from another frequent Rootless Cosmopolitan correspondent, the scientist V. Balaji, on how the perspectives of the developing world are overlooked and ignored in much of the discussion over climate change remedies, and what the global south has to say about how to fix the problem
Al Gore’s Nobel Peace Prize: A Comment
By Joel Kovel
While the Nobel Peace Prize given to Al Gore (and the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) does not sink to the same depths of moral squalor as, for example, that awarded to Henry Kissinger, it nonetheless belongs in the same category, as a prize given by the establishment to itself in proof that The System Works. In truth, Gore’s achievement has been no more then a
first step, and its sole virtue is to raise the level of awareness about an impending disaster. The problem, however, is that the step he proposes is taken in the wrong direction. If we do not appreciate this–and people are less likely to do so to the degree that the former Vice President is elevated to heroic status–then whatever good Gore has done will be nullified.
The wrong direction is this: that Gore proposes moral uplift and technological fixes to bring down the carbon load on the atmosphere, and in so doing, deliberately ignores the real causes of climate change in the workings of our capitalist industrial system and the society it serves. There is of course no mystery as to why he would do so: Al Gore is and has
been a proven and well-rewarded servant of that system; indeed, as Vice President of the United States from 1993 to 2001 he presided over the greatest increase of carbon emissions in the history of the world and did absolutely nothing effective to check them. Nor has he shown any awareness since of learning from the experience. Gore is simply an untrustworthy guide to getting beyond the crisis he has played so substantial a role in causing; and the best award he could be given would be rejection of the path he now proposes. At least then we would have a chance of still having a civilization to commemorate his worthy warning.