Tag Archives: nobel prize

Al Gore raising hopes as leaders prepare for climate change summit

After decades of raising alarms about global warming, former Vice President Al Gore is now raising hopes.

As a top-level international climate summit starts later this month in Paris, Gore – who helped negotiate the 1997 climate treaty that didn’t control the problem — is sure this time will be different.

“I’m optimistic,” Gore said in a sit-down interview this week with The Associated Press. “We’re going to win this. We need to win it faster because a lot of damage is being done day by day. We continue to put 110 million tons of global warming pollution into the atmosphere every 24 hours as if it’s an open sewer.”

In 35 minutes, Gore — portrayed by critics as a preacher of doom and gloom — uses versions of the words “optimistic” or “hopeful” or “positive” at least 16 times.

Even when he ticks off the alarming impacts of global warming, he finishes with a note of confidence.

“The number of extremely hot days has multiplied dramatically,” Gore said. “The large downpours, floods, mudslides, the deeper and longer droughts, rising sea levels from the melting ice, forest fires, there’s a long list of events that people can see and feel viscerally now. Every night on the television news is like a nature hike through the Book of Revelation. “

But he added: “Increasingly people are connecting those dots. And even if they don’t use the phrase climate crisis or global warming, more and more people are feeling that this is going to have to be addressed.”

On Friday, Gore will take his mixed message of alarm and hope to Paris, a bit ahead of world leaders. He will host a 24-hour-telethon of sorts from the Eiffel Tower to raise awareness about global warming, featuring Elton John, French President Francois Hollande, actor Jared Leto, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, former United Nations chief Kofi Annan, actor Ryan Reynolds and California Gov. Jerry Brown.

But he said it’s no longer just about convincing people to act – it now makes sense economically, too. He says solar and wind energy is dirt cheap – even free in Texas at certain hours. Businesses and developing countries are taking climate change seriously, he said.

“There really is a wave in corporate America moving rapidly toward a low carbon economy,” Gore said.

Unlike the Kyoto treaty in 1997, which mandated emission cuts for rich nations but not poor, what’s likely out of Paris won’t require ratification by the U.S. Senate and is based on countries setting their own goals. And that, Gore insisted, is “more productive.”

But is Gore, himself?

Dana Fisher, director of the Program for Society and the Environment at the University of Maryland, said Gore’s “role is limited at this point. There was a moment in time when he was pushing a wave of attention.” But now, she says, she didn’t even know that Gore was organizing his Paris telethon.

“I never thought of him as central person in the climate movement,” Fisher said.

Gore insists that he is. He said he’s trained “many thousands” of activists and still consults with leaders in the U.S. and other governments at all levels. He plans to be at the Paris climate talks “until the last dog dies.”

Some experts suggest Gore’s stint as the public face of climate change activism — especially with his 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth — may have turned off some people because the messenger was so associated with Democratic politics.

“Climate change science is demonized because of Al Gore,” said Erik Conway, a NASA historian who co-wrote the book “Merchants of Doubt.” Conway doesn’t fault Gore, but said, “If John McCain had become the titular leader of the climate change movement instead of Al Gore, we might have a different world.”

But Naomi Oreskes, a Harvard historian who is a co-author of the book with Conway, disagrees. “He’s become demonized because he is effective,” she said.

For his part, Gore said, “Whoever becomes highly visible as a spokesman for change gets the slings and arrows and all of the anger directed at the messenger to try to get at the message.”

In addition to his Climate Reality Project, his main advocacy group (which is co-producing the telethon), Gore is chairman of Generation Investment Management, a boutique investment managing firm. He is on Apple’s board of directors and is a senior partner at a Kleiner Parkins Caufield & Byers, a major Silicon Valley venture capital fund.

Fifteen years later, the 67-year-old Gore claims he doesn’t dwell on 2000 election, when he won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College: “I started moving forward the day after the Supreme Court decision and I’m excited about the future.”

So was losing the presidency was all for the best?

“No, I wouldn’t say that,” Gore said, laughing. “I don’t think there’s any position with as much potential to create positive change as much as president of the U.S., but that was not to be. I feel very fortunate other ways to make a positive difference.”

Then he returned to the subject of his telethon. Hozier will be among the performers; Gore whips out his iPhone to play the singer’s 2014 hit, “Take Me to Church.”

He closed his eyes and listened. The song’s final verse: “In the madness and soil of that sad earthly scene, only then I am human, only then I am clean.”

On the Web…

Al Gore’s Live Earth: 24 Hours of Reality: https://www.climaterealityproject.org/24hoursofreality

Canadian writer Alice Munro wins Nobel for literature

The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2013 was awarded today (Oct. 10) to the Canadian author Alice Munro, called a “master of the contemporary short story.”

Munro grew up in Ontario, where her mother was a teacher and her father was a fox farmer. She studied journalism and English at the University of Western Ontario. She married in 1951 and settled with her husband in Victoria, British Columbia, where they opened a bookstore.

Munro began writing stories in her teens and published her first book-length work in 1968.

She is primarily known for her short stories, including some LGBT-themed pieces, and has published many collections over the years. Her works include “Who Do You Think You Are?” (1978), “The Moons of Jupiter” (1982), “Runaway” (2004), “The View from Castle Rock” (2006) and “Too Much Happiness” (2009). The collection “Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage” (2001) became the basis of the film “Away from Her” from 2006, directed by Sarah Polley. Her most recent collection is “Dear Life” (2012).

Munro, according to the biography from the Nobel prize committee, is “acclaimed for her finely tuned storytelling, which is characterized by clarity and psychological realism. Some critics consider her a Canadian Chekhov. Her stories are often set in small town environments, where the struggle for a socially acceptable existence often results in strained relationships and moral conflicts – problems that stem from generational differences and colliding life ambitions. Her texts often feature depictions of everyday but decisive events, epiphanies of a kind, that illuminate the surrounding story and let existential questions appear in a flash of lightning.”

Alice Munro currently resides in Clinton, near her childhood home in southwestern Ontario.

On the Web…

A link to an Alice Munro story in The New Yorker, 


Law allowing teaching of creationism in school science classes to stay

A Louisiana law that allows public school science teachers to use supplemental materials in their classrooms will remain on the books, despite criticism that it’s a back-door way to teach creationism.

The Senate Education Committee voted 3-2 this week against a proposal by Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, to repeal the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act, in what has become an annual debate before the panel.

More than 70 Nobel Prize-winning scientists have urged the scrapping of the 2008 law. The repeal effort is led by Zack Kopplin, a Rice University student from Baton Rouge who has drummed up support from scientists around the country.

“This law is about going back into the Dark Ages, not moving forward into the 21st century,” Kopplin said. “Louisiana students deserve to be taught sound science and that means the theory of evolution, not creationism.”

Gov. Bobby Jindal and Christian conservatives are among those who oppose the repeal, saying the law promotes critical thinking and strengthens education. Some opponents of Peterson’s bill also challenged evolution as a scientific fact.

“If we can’t think critically, then we might as well throw out the scientific method,” said Mary Passman, a home-schooled 14-year-old from Baton Rouge. She said critics of the law oppose it “because they don’t want you to know that evolution has some serious problems.”

The law still requires science teachers to use approved textbooks. However, it allows use of supplemental materials on science subjects including evolution, cloning and global warming. 

Guidelines adopted by the state education board banned promotion of a religious doctrine in the supplemental materials and required that information presented by teachers be “scientifically sound and supported by empirical evidence.” The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education didn’t include a specific ban on the teaching of creationism, however.

BESE can prohibit supplemental materials it deems inappropriate, but teachers and local school boards don’t need its prior approval to introduce supplemental material.  

“The act is written very cleverly to create a loophole to allow (creationism) to be snuck in,” Kopplin said.

Sen. Elbert Guillory, D-Opelousas, said he worried that repealing the law could shut out debate of differing ideas and concepts. Other lawmakers opposing repeal said they’ve heard no instances where the law was used to introduce religion into science classrooms.

Education Committee Chairman Conrad Appel and Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, questioned whether any complaints had ever been filed about creationism being taught in schools since the law was passed.

Kopplin acknowledged no complaint has ever been lodged.

“I don’t want the message out there that we’re teaching bad science,” Appel, R-Metairie, said.

Jim Dugan, an anthropology instructor at Tulane University, called it “faint praise” to support the law simply because no one has reported a problem yet.

“Louisiana deserves national ridicule for having this act,” he said.

Senators supporting repeal said the law has created a view of Louisiana as anti-science.

“I think science would continue to be taught without this act, and I do think that it’s a problem for the national perception,” said Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, who supported the repeal.

Voting against the repeal were Guillory, Walsworth and Sen. Mack “Bodi” White, R-Denham Springs. Voting for the repeal were Claitor and Sen. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte. Appel didn’t vote.