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Africa Environmentalists Welcome Nobel Peace Award to Climate Activists

Environmentalists in Africa are welcoming the announcement that the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and a United Nations Panel on climate change. They say the well known award will focus more attention on a phenomenon that is having an especially serious impact in Africa. Correspondent Scott Bobb reports from our Southern Africa bureau in Johannesburg.

The fact that the Nobel Prize for Peace was awarded to a group of environmentalists surprised some people. But experts on climate change, like Guy Midgley of the South African National Biodiversity Institute, say it is relevant because global warming could affect peace and stability in many parts of the world.

"The relevance is the highlighting of the potential for increasing conflict induced by climatic change, and the resulting limitation of resources across borders," he said.

In addition to former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, the peace prize was awarded to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The prize was for their work in promoting awareness about man-made climate change and the need to address it. Gore's motion picture on climate change, An Inconvenient Truth, received an Academy Award earlier this year.

The IPCC, formed 20 years ago, issued a report in April that said global warming is likely to affect countries in Africa more than any other continent.

Experts say global warming is causing severe drought in some parts of Africa and extensive flooding in others. They warn that if the trend continues, it could lead to intense competition for food, water and other resources, which are already scarce in many areas.

Midgley says Africa is doubly affected, because it does not have the resources to address climate change.

"Africa's ability to adapt and to protect itself against the difficulties induced by climate change is limited because of low levels of wealth," he said. "That's the one side of the coin. The other side is that because of the particular climate conditions in much of Africa, where water is extremely limiting, any changes in those resources are really magnified in many ways."

Midgley said the Nobel Peace Prize will give added legitimacy to the work of Al Gore and especially the IPCC.

He says he hopes the prize will encourage people to further study the extensive documentation on what has been called one of the greatest challenges to humanity in modern times.